Between the Lines
with Carole Boston Weatherford
I first heard Holiday as a tyke and got hooked on her as a teen after seeing the film Lady Sings the Blues. Billie became my muse sometime around 1980. She made cameos in my earlier works and eventually prodded me to pen her memoir. But I was afraid that young adults might not relate to a long-gone jazz legend. Then, an eighth grader admiring the singer’s likeness at Baltimore’s Great Blacks in Wax Museum unknowingly convinced me that Billie never ceases to be hip.
Before writing a word, I listened to her early recordings, and read bios and interviews. Lady was not just singing the blues; she was singing her life. As I researched, Billie whispered in my ear, and as I wrote, she hummed in the background. Thus, the collection’s 97 poems are titled after Holiday’s songs and narrated by the singer herself. Her voice is sassy, soulful, and sophisticated. Becoming Billie Holiday leaves 25-year-old Lady Day at the peak of her fame, singing “Strange Fruit.” That’s how I think Billie would want to be remembered.
New York Times best-selling author Carole Boston Weatherford has 32 books, including Moses: When Harriet Tubman Led Her People to Freedom, winner of an NAACP Image Award, Caldecott Honor Medal and Coretta Scott King Award for Illustration. Birmingham, 1963 won the Jefferson Cup, Lee Bennett Hopkins Poetry Award, and a Jane Addams Children’s Literature Honor. Winner of the Carter G. Woodson Award from National Council for the Social Studies and the Ragan-Rubin Award from the North Carolina English Teachers Association, Weatherford teaches at Fayetteville State University. A Baltimore native, she earned advanced degrees from the University of Baltimore and the University of North Carolina-Greensboro. She lives in High Point, North Carolina.
Behind the Easel
with Floyd Cooper
I love Billie Holliday and I can’t help it. The wistful strains of her soulful sound have a way of tugging insistently at my own past, calling me home. The surprising thing is, just like her music, working on this book took me back home in that same figurative way.
I created the art with a subtractive technique, using erasers to make shapes from a ground of paint. I then enhanced the shapes with mixed media, mostly oil based, layered in a dry brush fashion. Think “smoke”– atmospheric–perhaps looking backward in time through a “gauze” of spent time.
Floyd Cooper has illustrated more than 60 books for children, includingGrandpa’s Face by Eloise Greenfield, Meet Danitra Brown by Nikki Grimes, I Have Heard of a Land by Joyce Carol Thomas,Tough Boy Sonatas by Curtis L. Crisler, Miss Crandall’s School for Young Ladies & Little Misses of Color by Elizabeth Alexander and Marilyn Nelson, and Coming Home: From the Life of Langston Hughes, which he wrote. He is the recipient of three Coretta Scott King Honors, ten American Library Association Notables, and an NAACP Image Award. A native of Tulsa, Oklahoma, Cooper lives in Easton, Pennsylvania.