My Hands Sing the Blues

Romare Bearden's
Childhood Journey

This post is part of Nonfiction Monday 
hosted today by Playing By The Book
(pub. 9.1.2011)  40 pages 
A True Tale with A Cherry On Top

A uthor: Jeanne Walker Harvey
     and Illustrator:  Elizabeth Zunon

C haracter: Romare Bearden
O verview from the jacket flap: 

         "As a young boy growing up in North Carolina, Romare Bearden listened to his great-grandmother's Cherokee stories and the whistles of trains steaming through town.
     When Romare's family, faced with Jim Crow laws, decided to head north, tears stung Romare's eyes as he watched the world whiz by out the train window.  Later he captured his childhood memories in a famous painting, Watching the Good Trains Go By.  Using that painting as inspiration and creating a text influenced by the blues and jazz that Bearden loved, Jeanne Walker Harvey has created a story of Bearden's childhood.  She describes the patchwork of daily southern life that he saw from the train's window and the story of his arrival in shimmering New York City." 
T antalizing taste: 

     " I snip a patch of color and add a cut-out face.
      Oh! I glue on jazzy blue for sky and add another face.
      People walk into my work as if it's always been their place.

      My hands sing the blues when I paint and cut and paste.
      I never know what I’ll create when I paint and cut and paste.
      I use paper, fabrics, photos, and nothing goes to waste.”

and something more:   At first I hesitated to write this post about my own book, My Hands Sing the Blues - Romare Bearden's Childhood Journey, which was released this week!  But then I decided I wanted to sing about it from the rooftops (and my blog) -- it's such an exciting event for me.  A dream come true! 
        I first had the idea to write this book in 2004 when, as a docent at the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, I gave tours to school groups of an incredible Bearden exhibit organized by The National Gallery (Ruth Fine, curator and author of the comprehensive The Art of Romare Bearden which I studied).  During my tours at SFMOMA, I could barely move the students to the next painting because they were so fascinated by Romare Bearden's huge collages and the stories they told. 
         So many people have been part of this book journey with me.  I dedicated the book to my mom -- "For my mother, June, who always inspires me to put a beat of color on an empty canvas." It's true -- she embodies creativity and instilled a love of it (and modern art) in me.  My dear husband and my wonderful sons have always been my biggest supporters and early readers of my drafts.  And I also owe heartfelt thanks to my dad, my family and wonderful friends who always encourage me, the San Francisco Docent Program that inspired me to write this book, my writer mentors (including Uma Krishnaswami who kept my writing spark lit when I was doubting myself, and Anastasia Suen whose courses kept me focused and inspired, and Amy Novesky who has included me in the warmth of her writing groups), and Margery Cuyler, an amazing editor at Marshall Cavendish (and author of many children's books also), who artfully guided me to rethink the text in just the right spots, and the incredibly talented artist Elizabeth Zunon, who is truly the best illustrator I can imagine for this book, and Lucy, my 11 year old black Lab who patiently listened as I read my many drafts aloud over and over and over again.  Thank you to all!

            "When I put a beat of color on an empty canvas,
                  I never know what's coming down the track." 

1 comment:

Anastasia Suen said...

Thanks so much for sharing your new book on my blog this week, Jeanne!