Tuesday, September 12, 2023

Q&A with Wade Hudson




Wade Hudson is the author of the new children's picture book Invincible: Fathers and Mothers of Black America. His many other books include the memoir Defiant. He also is the cofounder of Just Us Books.


Q: What inspired you to write Invincible?


A: Black America has a rich and enduring legacy. Little, however, is known about it, how and why it was established, who were the pioneers who established it.


Much is known about America in general. We know the origin story, who the founding fathers were, the tireless work they did to establish a new nation founded on democratic principles. We know the names. Washington. Jefferson. Franklin. Hamilton.


But what about Black America? What about Richard Allen? Prince Hall? Phillis Wheatley? James Forten? Very few know these names. They are among the founding fathers and mothers of Black America. I wanted to put them in their rightful place in history. I wanted to tell the origin story of Black America. It needed to be told, especially for young readers.


Q: What do you think E.B. Lewis’s illustrations add to the book?


A: Oh, my! E.B.’s powerful art is like the other slice of bread on a sandwich. Without it, the story would be woefully incomplete. As the story unfolds, so does E.B.’s art, unveiling the pain, anguish, strength and triumph that characterizes the Black American odyssey in America.


Although done to illustrate the book, the paintings are stand-alone works of art within themselves. I love the way he integrated the Sankofa Adinkra symbol throughout to emphasize looking back, honoring the past while moving forward to embrace the future.


E.B. and I have known each other for many years. We have always admired each other’s work and have talked about working together on a project. Invincible was the perfect vehicle.


Q: The Kirkus Review of the book says, in part, “Hudson’s text is lyrical and lively, and the unique focus on the early years of creating what is now known as Black America results in a welcome addition to children’s bookshelves.” What do you think of that description, and what do you hope kids take away from the book?


A: The reviewer gets it. The book begins with Africans being captured and enslaved during the very beginning of colonial America and ends with the year 1831. By 1831, Black America had been firmly established with its own communities, institutions, businesses, churches and Black consciousness. Not only did those founding fathers create Black America, but they also helped to build America. 

I hope those who read the book, especially young readers, will get a better understanding and appreciation for Black Americans and our history, our story. Understand how creative, inventive, strong and courageous those pioneers were who founded the institutions, businesses and communities necessary for their survival and growth. 


Often attacked and terrorized in “their world,” their place to be, they not only maintained that world, but they also grew it. One need only look at Black America today, even with all the challenges it continues to face, to appreciate the powerful legacy of those founding fathers and mothers. And I agree that the text is “lyrical and lively.”


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


A: It’s very interesting that you ask that. Invincible wasn’t the original title. You know, I don’t remember what the original title was. Whatever it was, E.B. and our editor, Carolyn Yoder, didn’t think it captured the soul, the essence of what we were creating. So, I went back to the drawing board.


Invincible, Fathers and Mothers of Black America was the result. The title truly reflects the unbounded spirit, determination and courage of those founding fathers and mothers who stared down all kinds of challenges to create their own WORLD to BE.


Q: What are you working on now?


A: Well, I have two books coming out in 2024. In January, a middle grade novel, The Reckoning, will be released by Crown Books. It examines race relations in a small Southern town through the eyes and experiences of 12-year-old Lamar who wants to be a filmmaker.


Later in the year, I have a picture book coming out based loosely on the first time my mother voted in the 1960s. The Day Madear Voted is illustrated by Don Tate and will be released by Nancy Paulsen Books.


Q: Anything else we should know?


A: It is so important that we tell the true and complete history of this country. So much has been left out and deliberately so. Over the decades, we have been given a Eurocentric version that has marginalized and victimized Black people and people of color.


Sharing all of our stories, all of our journeys, is essential in this diverse, multicultural world in which we live. I embrace this responsibility happily. There is so much richness across cultures and ethnicities.  And is so much for all of us to learn about each other. We all make up the family of humankind.    


--Interview with Deborah Kalb

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