I’m a teacher. For close to forty years I’ve happily spent my days in classrooms with children. Their interest and excitement inspire me today as much as it did when I started out.
I’m a mentor. I’ve been honored to support colleagues at my school and others farther off through articles, books, blog posts, and talks about my work as an educator.
I’m a critic. I’ve reviewed books for the New York Times, Horn Book magazine, and other publications.
I’m a writer. For a long time I would not have said this—an unfortunate experience in high school convinced me I couldn’t write, and so I didn’t until well into adulthood. Happily, that is all behind me and I am the proud creator of several books for teachers and now my first for children.
The journey leading to the publication of Africa Is My Home began in 1974 when I went to Sierra Leone and spent two wonderful years there as a Peace Corps Volunteer. Upon my return I completed a degree in international education and advocated for more nuanced teaching about Africa, for lessons that went beyond wild animals and exotic people. Sadly, I found that the horrific reports of atrocities in conflicts like the one that erupted in Sierra Leone in the late 1990s made Americans’ view of the continent even more limited. And so it was that upon discovering there had been children on the Amistad, I became determined to tell their story, one that is about both Sierra Leone and the United States.
In 2011 I returned to Sierra Leone to celebrate the return of the Peace Corps. It was a moving and wonderful experience, and I was heartened to see that the country is making its way back from a terrible time. One day I hope that Sarah Margru Kinson, that child of the Amistad, will again go home to Sierra Leone by way of my book ——her story needs to be known there as much as anywhere.
Three Things You Might Not Know About Me:
1. I was born in Greensboro, North Carolina, and went to eight different schools all over the U.S. and
Germany before graduating from high school.
2. I’m a lapsed illustrator. During my second year in Sierra Leone and for some years after returning to the U.S., I illustrated books and training materials for various NGOs and unsuccessfully attempted to break into the children’s book world.
3. A member of a track club in the 1980s, I completed two New York City marathons in under four hours and placed in my age group in a few shorter races. (Now I still run . . . er . . . jog every day.)