What a month January was for me, my co-author Jo Ann Allen Boyce, and our new book about her experience desegregating a Tennessee high school in 1956, This Promise of Change. First, we visited schools in the Washington, DC area–thanks to An Open Book Foundation and East City Bookshop–and had our East Coast book launch at Politics & Prose Bookstore. (Those are cookies you see in the photo.) Expectations were exceeded all around.
Jo Ann traveled east from Los Angeles, where she lives, and she came with family. We planned months in advance to visit the National Museum of African American History and Culture, jumping on the Internet early one morning way back when to grab tickets for our crew. But then: the shutdown. So disappointing for these out-of-towners, who haven’t yet been to this amazing museum. But a friend at the Supreme Court Historical Society came to the rescue and took us on a fabulous tour of the Court–including the basketball court on the top floor, also known as “the highest court in the land.” Also thrilling for all was meeting Gary Kemp, deputy clerk of the Supreme Court. Like Jo Ann, he’s from the South, and they had some stories to trade.
Then, later in January, it was time for our book’s West Coast launch–or, rather, launches, as we were hosted first by LA’s Children’s Book World and then by Pasadena’s Vroman’s Bookstore. Both are outstanding places for anyone who loves, or even just likes, books. We met warm, interested, interesting people. We simply loved it all. And I can tell you that anyone who heard Jo Ann speak of her experience and her refusal to give in to hatred and resentment came away enriched. I know I do every time we speak.
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Last summer–as in, the summer of 2017–I excitedly shared news of a book I was working on:
How the months roll by! The book is now in page proofs, with a new title: This Promise of Change: One Girl’s Story in the Fight for School Equality. And it has a gorgeous cover with artwork by the talented, award-winning Ekua Holmes. I love it so much I am setting it out here as big as I can make it. At the front of the line of teenagers pictured here is co-author Jo Ann Allen Boyce. Her eleven classmates (together they were known as the Clinton 12) are there, too; notably, her best friend from high school–and still her friend today, now that they are in their 70s–Gail Ann Upton Epps, in the pink sleeveless blouse, wearing glasses. I can’t wait for you to meet them on the page when the book is released on January 8, 2019.
Working on this book has been so rewarding. I’ve learned even more about Justice Ginsburg’s life, work, and essential RBGoodness, and also learned the challenges and pleasures of writing in the graphic novel format. I had an excuse for indulging one of my guilty pleasures–listening to audio files of Supreme Court oral arguments, from the 1970s to today.
And Justice Ginsburg generously sat down with me last August for a wide-ranging interview which, yes, was a life highlight.
The manuscript is done–written, revised dozens of times, edited and re-edited, and then edited some more–and now I look forward to watching Whitney Gardner animate it with her vibrant art. Based on the sketches she produced last year, I know I will not be disappointed, and neither will readers.
But illustrating the panels for a graphic-novel-style book of 200+ pages takes time. So here’s something to tide you over: the terrific documentary film called, simply, RBG. (I had nothing to do with the movie! I just really like it.) Take the kids, the students, the parents, the grandparents! Enjoy. And please mark your to-be-read calendars: Becoming RBG: Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s Journey to Justice, coming August 2019.
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