Tuesday, October 23, 2018

THINK QUICK Interview with Author Alice Faye Duncan

Hi Alice! Congrats on your new picture book, MEMPHIS, MARTIN, AND THE MOUNTAINTOP, and your Kirkus starred review!

Our country needs this book right now, as well as a united front to stand up for what is fair for all people. All of the THINK QUICK themes below appear in your book.  Let’s see which way you lean.  Remember, THINK QUICK!

On Standing Up for What is Right:

Speak alone or speak united?

Speak UNITED…Books frequently show Dr. King as a singular force of tenacity and strength. He was courageous. However, as a writer for young readers, I am committed to revealing a Dr. King, who was an effective leader because he marched in accord with an army of determined men, women and children.  The success of the American Civil Rights Movement and the Memphis Strike was due to united forces that included many racial identities and people of various religious beliefs. Specifically, the Memphis Strike of 1968 was a successful protest bolstered by Dr. King and a community of poor Black laborers.  Write alone, perhaps.  Raise your voice with others.  

On the Child’s Present-Day Protest Role:
Partner with purpose or stay home?

Partner with PURPOSE…Young readers should snatch a page from Dr. King’s playbook.  He helped to integrate city buses in Alabama, when he aligned himself with the Montgomery Improvement Association (MIA) founded by Jo Ann Robinson. Dr. King helped to lead a successful “March on Washington,” when he partnered with labor leader, A. Philip Randolph.  And when he heard Marian Wright Edelman describe the plight of Black laborers earning starvation pay in Mississippi, Dr. King partnered with her during his last stand for justice—The Poor People’s Campaign. Dr. King seldom initiated a protest. Most times he was the galvanizing force. He would join the ranks of others, while his keen articulation on a matter and his voice served like a wind that propelled the protest forward. Partner with people and get it done.

On Approaching Stubborn Leadership:
Calm discussion or demonstration?

I say DEMONSTRATE...The squeaking wheel gets the grease.  Show UP!  Speak OUT! March ON!

On Singing:
With purpose or from the heart?

PURPOSE AND HEART…The two cannot be separated. If you are singing with purpose, it is from the heart. No matter what—SING. Throughout the American Civil Rights Movement and during the Memphis Sanitation Strike, participants sang in protest rallies to keep themselves encouraged. A freedom song, a spiritual, or a gospel hymn—each one can serve as a balm in trying times. Introduce young readers to music by Fannie Lou Hamer, Bernice Reagon and the Albany Singers, Sweet Honey in the Rock, Nina Simone, and don’t forget the Staple Singers. Music inspires forward motion.

On Trouble:
No trouble too difficult to overcome or chart a new course?

Chart a NEW COURSE…Visionaries pave a new road that leads to freedom and justice for all. On the day he was killed in Memphis, Dr. King had BIG plans. He was headed for Washington to propose an economic Bill of Rights for America.  He was seeking a living wage for all Americans.  His vision was beyond race and religion in 1968. He saw a new America in his dream. It was one where every adult would earn a decent wage and no American child would be subjected to poverty, substandard housing or an inferior education. While his plan was revolutionary, it was not impossible. A new army of visionaries must make it so.  

On Literacy:
Read a lot or read what you can?

Read A LOT...This is my advice to young readers. Choose the books you want to read.  Read all the time.  Read aloud to your pet gerbil. Read aloud to your grandmother.  Learn to love the sound of your voice reciting a poem. Sit alone in silence and learn to love the sound of turning pages.  Learn to love words and reading—just like you love potato chips, pizza and Pronto Pups from the county fair. Reading A LOT of everything will fill your heart with wonderment, serve you wisdom, and make you ready to rally for justice.   

On Justice:
Persist or practice patience?

PERSIST…Here again is my advice to young people. Adults own calcified hearts and often deem a child as naïve or foolish, when they disagree with that child’s opinion. To the child I say—hold on to your ideals of justice and freedom.  Do not be swayed by any adult, who promotes the hatred and fear of others. Always follow the still small voice that guides your righteous thinking.   

On Sacrifice:
Commit ‘til the end or one day at a time?

Commit until THE END…Memphis sanitation workers gave us this example.  When Dr. King was murdered on the balcony of the Lorraine Motel, 1,300 Black laborers did not stop the strike.  With broken hearts, the men marched until they received a pay increase with the promise of safe work conditions.  Dreamers don’t quit until dreams come true.

On Books:
Memphis, Martin and the Mountaintop OR Memphis, Martin, and the Mountaintop?

MEMPHIS, MARTIN AND THE MOUNTAINTOP! While WILLIE JEROME was my very first picture book, the book went out of print in 1998. The spirit of my writing remains the same, but my facility with words is refined. They say the latest book is always the greatest book. I hope you will agree!

Alice Faye Duncan writes picture books. HONEY BABY SUGAR CHILD is a mother's love song to her baby. MEMPHIS, MARTIN AND THE MOUNTAINTOP is a lyrical combination of poetry and prose that explores Dr. King's assassination and his last stand for justice.12 DAYS OF CHRISTMAS IN TENNESSEE is a child's travel guide. Two cousins in ugly holiday sweaters visit famous landmarks throughout the state. A SONG FOR GWENDOLYN BROOKS will debut in January 2019. It is the first picture book biography to explore the life and times of Pulitzer Prize poet—Gwendolyn Brooks. And do you know the name, Pinkney? Alice's book, JUST LIKE A MAMA, will make its debut on Mother's Day (2019). The illustrator is Charnelle Pinkney Barlow. Her grand father is Caldecott illustrator, Jerry Pinkney. Get ready to be charmed with impressive images and a lyrical text. Alice Faye Duncan lives in Memphis.


  1. Thank you! Carrie Charley Brown! This interview was great fun! Write ON!

  2. Inspiring interview! So glad that you & Alice Faye Duncan joined together to sing about this new #PB and the importance of working together to achieve social progress.

  3. Great post! Another great book, I'm sure, written and illustrated by Pickney family members. Always inspiring!

  4. Wonderful interview - so much in here! Thank you, Alice, for this book and for sharing your wisdom.

  5. Thank you, Carrie and Alice, for this inspiring post. "Do not be swayed by any adult, who promotes the hatred and fear of others." I'm thankful for my family. They taught me to love and embrace others. We are one family on this beautiful Blue Marble. My spirits are lifted.

  6. Ditto to what Charlotte said. An important and inspiring book! Will suggest this to our school librarian, if it's not already on her list. Thank you for featuring Alice's work!

  7. Great interview, Carrie! Really looking forward to this one. Love R. Gregory Christie's art!!

  8. Great interview Alice! I had the honor of learning the history behind this important book during a panel we attended, and I have to say, I was BLOWN AWAY! Thanks for your enduring message about the importance of speaking united and standing up for what's fair for ALL, not some.

  9. Congratulations on the Kirkus starred review. It deserves it. I look forward to reading it.

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