In her profile of Rita Williams-Garcia, K. T. Horning discusses the mutual love she and Rita have for The Jackson 5 — a love Rita infuses into her 2014 CSK Author Award–winning novel P.S. Be Eleven. After all, as K. T. writes, “nothing defined the era during which we [and protagonist Delphine] were eleven better than the Jackson 5.”
1. We heard through the grapevine that you are an avid Jackson 5 fan, and that you have one of the largest collections of Jackson 5 memorabilia in the world. How did this start?
KH: Like Rita Williams-Garcia, I saw one of the Jackson 5’s first TV appearances, and became an instant fan. I was hungry for photos of them but because they were Black, they were not featured in teen magazines, even after they had four number one hits in a row. I scoured the universe for any mention or picture of the Jackson 5, and I treasured everything I found. I think that’s what turned me into a collector. I only collect the Jackson 5 Motown era from 1968-75.
2. Approximately how many pieces are in your collection? What are some standouts? Rarities?
KH: I’ve never counted but I have gotten to the point where there is hardly anything I don’t have, and when Motown needs a photo or a piece of information, they contact me. My favorite collectibles are the 45s from around the world, many of which have picture sleeves. I have an autographed LP cover from 1970 where young Michael Jackson drew horns and mustaches on his brothers. My rarest items are Motown-produced memorabilia that you had to send away for from an ad on the inner LP sleeve, such as Jermaine’s Soul-Mate Kit and an interview 45 called “Rappin’ with the Jackson 5.” Motown had to create these things in-house because no one else was creating Jackson 5 merchandise. They even created their own teen magazine devoted to the Jackson 5, which was a prototype for Right On! magazine.
3. Where do you keep everything?
KH: I have a room in my house devoted to my collection that we refer to as the Jackson 5 shrine. Since I’m a librarian, I have everything neatly organized and cataloged.
4. Have you had any firsthand encounters with a Jackson family member?
KH: I saw them in concert at the Iowa State Fair in 1971 — probably the best time to see them because they were at their J5 peak then. It was Michael’s 13th birthday and he sang a beautiful cover of “Yesterday” by the Beatles. I didn’t meet them in person, but my sister-in-law interviewed them for the Des Moines Register. She said they were a tough interview, and she was eager to get away from their scary dad who scowled at her the whole time. It may be odd but I actually have had no desire to meet any of them in person, even though at one time I was sure I would grow up to marry Jermaine. After all, we were Soul Mates.
5. Is your fandom mostly about the music? The personalities? Nostalgia for the times?
KH: It’s mostly about the music. Motown has hundreds of unreleased songs in their vaults and I would give up my entire collection to have those songs. I’m also very interested in the Jackson 5’s place in social history. As the first Black teen idols, they had a huge impact on popular culture. They integrated teen magazines in the early 1970s, and a little over decade later, Michael integrated MTV when “Billie Jean” became the first video they aired by a Black artist. They were so talented they couldn’t be ignored. And they were a great source of pride for kids, particularly Black kids. That’s the era Rita captured so well in P.S. Be Eleven.