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Josephine: The Dazzling Life of Josephine Baker

My Writing and Reading Life:
Patricia Hruby Powell

Patricia Hruby Powell (c) Liz Gilson Aaron

Patricia Hruby Powell
Image (c) Liz Gilson Aaron

Patricia Hruby Powell danced throughout the Americas and Europe with her dance company, One Plus One, before becoming a writer of children’s books. She is the author of  Josephine: The Dazzling Life of Josephine Baker, an extraordinary portrait of the passionate performer and civil rights advocate Josephine Baker written in exuberant verse.  She lives in Champaign, Illinois. You can visit her online at talesforallages.com.

Josephine: The Dazzling Life of Josephine BakerLatest published book …

Josephine: The Dazzling Life of Josephine Baker

You wrote it because …

I work as a substitute librarian at The Urbana Free Library’s Children’s Department. Back in the summer of 2005, we had a slew of pre-teen African American girls who came daily and behaved badly. They seemed to need focus—a mentor or a model—I decided Josephine was perfect. Josephine Baker was fearless, lively, spirited, creative, did anything she set her mind to. As I researched, I discovered that she was a civil rights pioneer, adopted 12 children of different religions and ethnicities, worked for the French Resistance. And she’s a dancer. So am I.

Best moment …

“Writing” Josephine’s heel-chopping Charleston—sort of a choreography of words:

“Knees squeeze, now fly/ heels flap and chop/ arms scissor and splay/ eyes swivel and pop”

and other various dance moments.

Josephine: The Dazzling Life of Josephine Baker Illustration

Josephine: The Dazzling Life of Josephine Baker, Illustration ©

Your special place to write …

At the dining room table. I have an office upstairs, but I usually just use it as a filing area. It’s so chaotic up there, I needed a clear space to work.

Necessary writing/creativity tool …

Moving, I guess. I’m better able to think when I’m in motion. Not necessarily dancing. Dancing is it’s own thing. But walking, skating, swimming, running (very short distances). Okay, it’s the walking in between the running that’s the working tool. Then back to my laptop.

Favorite bookshop …

We used to have Pages For All Ages in Champaign-Urbana. Alas, it closed. Jane Addams Bookstore is an interesting second hand bookstore that helps sell books of local authors.

Currently reading …

Postcards from Nam by the Vietnamese writer, Uyen Nicole Duong, a novel about a 15 year old girl who fled Vietnam in 1975 when Saigon fell. I read adult, young adult, middle grade books. And picture books. Fiction. Nonfiction.

CharlottesWebAll-time favorite children’s book you didn’t write …

E.B. White’s Charlotte’s Web.

An author you idol …

Deceased? Emily Dickinson. Living? How can I pick only one? YA: John Green, Meg Rosoff. Adult? Toni Morrison, oh my gosh, there are so many, Jesmyn Ward, Dave Eggers, Jeanette Winterson. M.T. Anderson is remarkable. But I idolize Emily Dickinson.

Favorite illustrator …

Christian Robinson. Of course.

A literary character to vacation with …

What a great question. A hard one. I don’t know if I read a lot of books about people I’d want to vacation with. I think, the main character in NoViolet Bulawayo’s book We Need New Names—is essentially herself, the author. The character is named Darling. She escapes a rough life in Zimbabwe as a child and lives her teen years in America. Seeing America through her eyes is extraordinary. 

More Patricia Hruby Powell …

Website: talesforallages.com

Twitter: @rootatootoot




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