Publishers' Preview: Debut Authors and Illustrators: Five Questions for Loveis Wise

This interview originally appeared in the July/August 2021 Horn Book Magazine as part of the Publishers’ Previews: Debut Authors and Illustrators, an advertising supplement that allows participating publishers a chance to each highlight a book from its current list. They choose the books; we ask the questions.

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Novelist Ibi Zoboi’s first picture book, The People Remember, explores the meaning of Kwanzaa through the lens of Black American history — centuries of it. Quite a challenge for debut illustrator Loveis Wise.

1. The timespan of The People Remember is hundreds of years. Was that intimidating?

Yes, initially. I needed a lot of time researching and gathering historical photographs in order to understand my approach. Then I realized how important it was to listen to the personal stories of my elders, friends, and family ­members to gain their perspectives on what it means to be Black in ­America. Next, I turned to art and found myself in books like Faith Ringgold’s Tar Beach; reading about the women of Gee’s Bend and their quilt masterpieces, which inspired the framework of the book; and visiting the Soul of a Nation: Art in the Age of Black Power exhibit to connect with how we used our creativity during times of turmoil.

2. There’s a lot of music in this book — did you listen while you worked?

Of course! I shifted between jazz, funk, hip-hop, and R & B, both new & old. I loved listening to Stevie Wonder, Alice Coltrane, Aretha Franklin, Donny Hathaway, Sweet Honey in the Rock, Minnie Riperton, and Erykah Badu, to name a few, to channel the feelings of Black joy, spirituality, and love.

3. A lot of colors, too, but what’s your favorite?

It’s so hard to choose, but I’m mostly in love with the color pink because of its ­curiousness and vibrancy! It has the ability to touch and soften a person’s heart, which is why I love working with it.

4. Do you celebrate Kwanzaa?

I haven’t celebrated Kwanzaa in its entirety yet, but this year I plan to make it a ­tradition with my loved ones.

5. What did Ibi Zoboi’s text teach you about Black history that you are most grateful to have learned?

I learned a lot about the importance of Kwanzaa and how we use it to celebrate, with intention, our ancestors, values, and identity as a collective. This book served as a call to action to honor our ancestors and remember our history, and for that I am thankful.

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From the July/August 2021 issue of The Horn Book Magazine.

Roger Sutton
Roger Sutton
Roger Sutton has been the editor in chief of The Horn Book, Inc, since 1996. He was previously editor of The Bulletin of the Center for Children's Books and a children's and young adult librarian. He received his M.A. in library science from the University of Chicago in 1982 and a B.A. from Pitzer College in 1978. Follow him on Twitter: @RogerReads.

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