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FREEDOM SUMMER - Deborah Wiles/Jerome Lagarrigue
FREEDOM SUMMER tells the life-affirming story of two young boys, one black and one white, who defy racism during and after the turbulent passage of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. Discovering that laws do not necessarily change people or their prejudices, the boys find that friendship and loyalty can make a difference.
Jerome Lagarrigue, is the award-winning illustrator of Freedom Summer.
Deborah Wiles Biography
Freedom Summer is the first published work of children's author Deborah Wiles. Born in Alabama into an Air Force family, she spent her childhood in a small Mississippi town with an extended family full of Southern personalities. Today, she writes about them and they live on in her stories, including the recently published Love, Ruby Lavender. She has worked as a journalist, radio commentator and creative writing teacher.
Deborah currently teaches writing and oral history workshops for children, as well as writes her own books. She and her family live in Frederick, Maryland.
Jerome Lagarrigue Biography
Lending a special visual resonance to the story of FREEDOM SUMMER are the illustrations of Jerome Lagarrigue. Born and raised in Paris, France, in a family of artists, the award-winning Lagarrigue is also the illustrator of the picture book, My Man Blue by Nikki Grimes (NY:Dial Books,1999), and his work has also appeared in The New Yorker and on the cover of The New York Times Book Review. A graduate of the Rhode Island School of Design, he currently teaches drawing and painting at the Parsons School of Design, and lives in Brooklyn, New York.
"In the early 1960s, the American South had long been a place where black Americans could not drink from the same drinking fountain as whites, attend the same schools, or enjoy the same public areas. Then the Civil Rights Act of 1964 became law, stating that: 'All persons shall be entitled to the full and equal enjoyment of any public place, regardless of race, color, religion, or national origin.'
"I was born a white child in Mobile, Alabama, and spent summers visiting my beloved Mississippi relatives. When the Civil Rights Act was passed, the town pool closed. So did the roller rink and the ice cream parlor. Rather than lawfully giving blacks the same rights and freedoms as whites, many southern businesses chose to shut their doors in protest. Some of them closed forever.
"Also in the summer of 1964, civil rights workers in Mississippi organized 'Freedom Summer,' a movement to register black Americans to vote. It was a time of great racial violence and change. That was the summer I began to pay attention: I noticed that black Americans used back doors, were waited on only after every white had been helped. They were treated poorly, all because of the color of their skinand no matter what any law said. I realized that a white person openly having a black friend, and vice versa, could be a dangerous thing.
"I couldn't get these images out of my mind, and I wondered what it must be like to be a black child my age. I dreamed about changing things, and yet I wondered what any child - black or white - could do.
"This story grew out of my feelings surrounding that time. It is fiction, but based on real events."
What attracted you to writing children's literature?
In your opinion, what elements and values are the essential ingredients of quality children's fiction?
The story is set during the Civil Rights era. How would you relate that setting to present day events in the eyes of children?
What makes literature such an effective medium for influencing social change and attitudes?
In this age of multi-media distractions, how do books play a role in children's lives?
Name a work of fiction that made a lasting impression on you as a child and as an adult.
What does winning the 2002 Once Upon A World Children's Book Award mean to you?
Are you working on a new book at the moment and if so, what is the subject?
The purpose of the Once Upon A World Children's Book Award is to promote issues of tolerance and understanding among children. Do you ever envision a time when such an award will no longer be necessary?