It is always a wonderful surprise when an author or illustrator visits the Children’s Department. The other day Elizabeth Fitzgerald Howard and her husband just happened to be in search of material for a presentation she was planning. Her books are in our circulating collection and also as reference copies in the Pittsburgh Author section of the Children’s Department Special Collections. The Howards were very gracious when we approached them to talk.
Elizabeth Fitzgerald Howard has written many stories drawn from her own family’s history. She blends the importance of heritage with the reality of being Black at various times in our country’s past. Everyday moments take on beauty and are celebrated through her words and stories.
“As I have continued writing stories based on people in my family–and reading similar stories by other authors–I have come to believe that the ‘family story’–whether based on more recent memory or handed down over generations–might be considered a genre of children’s literature similar to the folktale genre. . . . Doesn’t the family story pass along memories and traditions, values and expectations, just as the folktale does? And the truth that stories connect us is attested to by audience members when I talk about my writing. When I conclude a presentation for adults, I often stress the real fact that all our families are rich with stories, and that our stories from different ethnic or racial or religious traditions have so much in common.”
“This is a time of great richness in children’s books by and about African Americans, but there is so much still to be told. . . . There is still a need for more and more books so that children of all colors may discover more and more about growing up black in America–what is different and what is familiar, and how we are all connected.”
Elizabeth Fitzgerald Howard writes about family from her heart and what it is like to be Black from that perspective. This is her experience, and fortunately for us she shares her beautiful stories with us.
Quotes are from “Elizabeth Fitzgerald Howard.” Contemporary Authors Online. Detroit: Gale, 2003.
Blog post written by Debbie E. and Debbie P.