Allison's Book Bag

Author Vaunda Micheaux Nelson

Posted on: April 3, 2012

Welcome to my second week of reviewing multicultural Golden Sowers!

Today’s featured author is Vaunda Micheaux Nelson. This Pennsylvanian native has taught English and writing at the secondary and university levels. She has also been a reporter and a bookseller. Currently, she works as the young adult librarian at a public library in New Mexico, where she lives with her husband and two cats.

Growing up in 1950’s, Nelson feels she had a great childhood. Even though her family was the first African-American family that went to their elementary school, she says that she didn’t spend a lot of time thinking about race and being different. However, she did try to blend in with her classmates. According to a School Library Journal interview with her, that feat wasn’t easy. She was tall, the only black student in her class, and her name was Vaunda Micheaux. She wanted to be Jane or Mary. Although Nelson faced some issues, such as name-calling at school, her parents gave her the strength to deal with that.

During her childhood, her parents both introduced Nelson to literature. Her mom read the classics like Bobbsey Twins, Tom Sawyer, and Uncle Wiggily stories, because at the time there was not a whole lot of children’s literature available. Her father loved poetry, recited story poems from memory, and even wrote ones poems himself. Because of them, she became a librarian and an author.

In her School Library Journal interview, Nelson describes her writing as “faction,” because it’s based on fact and fiction. Much of Nelson’s work is based on family history and experiences that she had as a child. “But it’s not so much just telling about something that happened to me; it’s more about facing questions I still have about those times and exploring and trying to figure them out and find the answers. I hope when I finish a book that I’ve come to a different place myself.”

As with all my author notes, the above information I compiled from mostly from online biographies. I encourage you to also check a Brown Bookshelf interview with Nelson. Among the many new interesting facts I learned from it about Nelson is that she co-authored a book with her husband. Her editor asked her to writing a book on Juneteenth, as part of their On My Own Holidays series. Nelson wanted to do it, but worried about the short deadline.  Her husband, who loves history and to write, offered to work on it with her. Nelson says that he is her first editor anyway, but having him more closely involved in the writing process was a true gift.

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