As the author research moderator for the Diverse Books Club, I’ve compiled some information on our amazing authors of our September picks. Check it out!
DBC pick: The Underground Railroad
Where he comes from & where he is now: Whitehead was born, raised, and currently lives in New York City.
Where he studied: Whitehead graduated from Harvard University in ‘91. While there, he knew he wanted to be an author, but “I applied to a creative writing workshop twice and I was turned down both times, which was depressing but also good training for the rejection you get as a writer.” – Whitehead
You might know him from: Whitehead is the author of six novels. The Underground Railroad has been the recipient of numerous awards, including the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction 2017, the National Book Award for Fiction 2016, the Carnegie Medal for Excellence in Fiction 2017, and has been longlisted for the 2017 Man Booker Award. As if that wasn’t impressive enough, Whitehead was a winner of the 2002 MacArthur “Genius Grant” Fellowship.
When’s he’s not writing: Whitehead is an avid reader; he’s a fan of crime fiction and reads comic books along with his daughter, who is a big comic book fan. He’s also taught at a number of universities, including University of Houston, Columbia University, Brooklyn College, Hunter College, New York University, Princeton University, Wesleyan University, and been a Writer-in-Residence at Vassar College, the University of Richmond, and the University of Wyoming.
Whitehead on writing: “You have to do your own thing, right? [Toni] Morrison already wrote Beloved; you’re not going to compete with that. I have to write the book that makes sense to me, that’s entirely my own vision.” – Whitehead
There’s so much more to know: Harvard Magazine published an in depth interview with Whitehead after the release of The Underground Railroad. Read it here.
DBC pick: The Hate U Give
Where she comes from & where she is now: Thomas was born and still resides in Jackson, Mississippi.
Where she studied: Thomas has a BFA in Creative Writing from Belhaven University (“and an unofficial degree in Hip Hop.”)
You might know her from: The Hate U Give is Thomas’s debut novel, but she was an inaugural winner of the Walter Dean Myers Grant 2015, awarded by We Need Diverse Books. This grant is not affiliated with the DBC but is unbelievably cool: it’s awarded to diverse applicants who are unpublished writers or illustrators pursuing a career as a children’s author and/or illustrator.
When’s she’s not writing: Before she was a published author, Thomas was a teen rapper. She’s still got skills, check them out.
Thomas on writing: “I wanted to make sure that I gave Starr’s story as authentically as possible, and this is probably gonna sound odd, but I looked at Harry Potter. One of the things JK Rowling does beautifully is that every person in Harry’s life, no matter their role, you can tell that they are the main character of their own story.” –Thomas
There’s so much more to know: Loved The Hate U Give and not ready to let go of these characters? Me too. Luckily, there’s a movie version of this story currently in development with Fox 2000. To follow along with Thomas, check out her Twitter account.
DBC pick: Stella By Starlight
Where she comes from & where she is now: Draper was born in Cleveland, OH and now lives with her family in Cincinnati, Ohio.
Where she studied: Draper studied at Pepperdine University and has since been recognized with their Distinguished Alumnus Award.
You might know her from: Draper is the author of an incredible number of books, ranging from stand-alone novels to series to nonfiction to poetry. She’s also been recognized for her achievements in literature and education many times over. She is the five time winner of the Coretta Scott King Award, awarded for books about the African-American experience that are written for a youth audience (high school or elementary). She was also the recipient of the Margaret A. Edwards award in 2015, which recognizes one author and their particular body of work for having a significant and lasting contribution to young adult literature, citing six of Draper’s novels.
When’s she’s not writing: Draper is also an educator. She was the 1997 national teacher of the year and has won a number of additional education awards.
Draper on writing: “I love to write; words flow easily from my fingertips, and my heart beats rapidly with excitement as an idea becomes a reality on the paper in front of me. I smile often, laugh easily, and I weep at pain and cruelty. I’m a learner and a seeker of knowledge, and I try to take my readers along on my journey. I am passionate about what I do.” –Draper
There’s so much more to know: Draper is maybe the most highly awarded author I’ve ever encountered. While the highlights are above, if you’re interested in knowing more, check out her website.