And, this is an amazing book. It tells a story that should be in our schools but isn't. For those of you who don't know about the book, here is part of the review I posted on GoodReads and Amazon:
“Henry wants nothing more than to make it through the end of the school year and play baseball. But he finds himself saddled with taking care of his sister at home in Greenwood, Oklahoma. Greenwood is adjacent to Tulsa, a black community beside the segregated city. Henry knows that when he goes into Tulsa with his parents, it is a different world—a world where he must be not just polite but subservient, a world where he must keep his eyes on the ground while simultaneously avoiding physical contact with anyone who is white.
“Then an acquaintance, 19 year-old Dick Rowland is accused of assaulting a white female elevator operator. When the sheriff refuses to hand Dick over to a white crowd, Henry hopes the worst of the trouble is over but it is only beginning.”
Sioux joined us to share her insights into creating this book.
About the author:
For more information, visit her website: siouxroslawski.com.
(Interview by Sue Bradford Edwards.)
WOW: When a writer creates a book, it is important for them to find a story that has never been told. How did you learn about this episode in history?
Sioux: I went to a teachers' conference about 10 years ago. Linda Christensen, an author and nationally-known public speaker on social justice issues, led a whole banquet hall of educators through an activity about the Tulsa Race Massacre. Nobody in the hall had ever heard of the tragedy. It was life-changing.
WOW: You teach young readers who are the same age as those in the book. What about your teaching experience convinced you that this story needed to be told for this age group?
Sioux: Children who are in the fourth grade are not too young to hear the truth, to be exposed to the "bigger picture" of the historical landscape. They're not too young to have their eyes opened to social justice lessons. Also, there were no novels published on this topic for middle-grade readers. I thought it was time there was.
WOW: It's one thing to publish books on topics like this; but it's another to see that they make their way into the classroom. Why is it important for Black students to find books like this in the curriculum?
Sioux: For one, too many history lessons are told from the white man's perspective. Too often, the white culture is the one that's in the right. The Tulsa Race Massacre is a true story that is not told in history books and where the white men were the villains. Black students need to have their history validated and have it told truthfully. Also, as a white teacher, I need my students to see that I will unflinchingly share stories where Blacks were mistreated, abused, massacred and lynched... and where whites were the ones mistreating, abusing, massacring and lynching.
WOW: What about their white counterparts? Why should they read Henry’s Story?
Sioux: Change will never come unless we're willing to have difficult conversations. It's not acceptable to allow white students to continue learning a "white-washed" version of history, a history where they were the main explorers, the main innovators, the main pioneers—where they were the "good guys" who came charging in on a white horse and saved the people of color. All children should be learning the unvarnished truth, so perhaps the playing field will be evened out a bit.
WOW: That is such an empowering way to look at it. Now, let’s bring this back to you. Why was this an important story for you personally to tell? What did you bring to it that no one else could bring?
Sioux: Initially, I was only writing the story because the story wasn't being told. After writing a horrible first draft, I started a second draft from scratch, and Henry emerged as the storyteller, not me. It was as if I were only the scribe, not the author. I guess the thing I brought was a willingness to listen and let go—to listen intently to Henry's story, and let go of my desire to create the plot.
WOW: Listen and let go. That's definitely an important lesson for all of us as we seek to create stories that will touch readers. Thank you so much for joining us to discuss your book. Now, on to an opportunity for our readers to win a copy.
***** GREENWOOD GONE GIVEAWAY *****
Enter the Rafflecopter form below for your chance to win a copy of Greenwood Gone: Henry's Story by Sioux Roslawski. Giveaway ends July 9th at 11:59pm CT. Winner will be announced the next day in the Rafflecopter form and we will follow up via email.
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