Sunday, July 30, 2023

Q&A with Jasmine A. Stirling


Photo by Anne-Elise Lansdown




Jasmine A. Stirling is the author of the new children's picture book biography Dare to Question: Carrie Chapman Catt's Voice for the Vote. She also has written the picture book biography A Most Clever Girl. She lives in San Francisco.



Q: Why did you decide to write a children's picture book biography about suffragist Carrie Chapman Catt (1859-1947)?


A: After hearing the remarkable story about the tie-breaking vote that enfranchised 27 million women, I became intrigued with Carrie Chapman Catt’s life and legacy. The more I learned, the more I wanted to share who she was with young readers.


Although Carrie was the most famous woman of her time, we seem to have completely forgotten about her and her legacy. Hopefully, my book will help us remember. Carrie was one of the most inspirational leaders in American history; her story deserves to be told.


Q: How was the book’s title chosen, and what does it signify for you?


A: My editor, Tracey Keevan, selected the title. It became a unifying force throughout the book, and I re-wrote many key moments to anchor around the concept. It fits Carrie perfectly. Carrie was not a rebel, she was a thinker. A questioner. A logician. A strategist.

Q: How did you research her life, and did you learn anything that especially surprised you?


A: I did a great deal of primary research into Carrie’s life, from delving into archives at the Library of Congress and the Brooke Russell Astor Reading Room at the NYPL, getting access to special collections in Nashville, slogging through hundreds of newspaper articles from 1915-1920, and interviewing a living descendant of [Tennessee politician] Harry T. Burn.


I was surprised at how lively and edgy the lives of the suffragists were, how close-knit their community was, and how many of them were openly involved in same-sex relationships.


Q: What do you hope kids take away from her story, and what do you see as her legacy today?


A: I hope that young people get the sense of the celebratory nature of the suffrage movement; that the suffs in their long dresses and big hats don’t seem boring, dusty, and ancient.


I also hope that young people understand that there are many ways to create change and be an activist. Over the years, the suffragists tried a huge array of tactics. In their way, each strategy and attempt added something to the movement.


And in the end, one letter won the vote for American women. What if Febb hadn’t written that letter? If everyone did just one thing to make the world a better place, think about how much we could achieve.


Q: What are you working on now?


A: I have a book out in 2025 about the first woman who circumnavigated the world. She was a botanist, and she made the journey disguised as a man. She was also an entrepreneur. Her story is breathtaking.


Q: Anything else we should know?

A: You can buy signed copies of Dare to Question from my local indie,
here, or on Amazon, here. The book just got a starred review from Booklist! I hope you will check it out, tell your friends, and request it from your local library.


--Interview with Deborah Kalb. Here's a previous Q&A with Jasmine A. Stirling.