Publishers’ Preview: Debut Authors: Five Questions for Kevin Noble Maillard

Publishers' Previews: Special advertising supplement in The Horn Book Magazine

This interview originally appeared in the July/August 2019 Horn Book Magazine as part of the Publishers’ Previews: Debut Authors, 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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Recipes, including delicious recipes for something like Fry Bread, come from a complex stew of resources, family, culture, and history, as this picture book reveals.

Photo courtesy of Chris Owyoung.

1. What’s your favorite occasion on which to eat fry bread?

I greedily and gleefully accept fry bread at any time, but I’d have to say that my favorite time to eat it is with my mother (who is almost ninety) in Oklahoma. Making fry bread is traditionally “women’s work,” and she is eternally surprised — every single time — that someone male can fry up. Envision a drawling voice that sounds half like Foghorn Leghorn and half like Aunt Bee happily cooing, “Oo-oo! Ohhh, my! Did you make thi-is?”

2. Best fry bread you’ve had that’s not your Aunt Fannie’s? 

The first rule of fry bread is that your family’s version is always, always the best. Everyone else’s is categorically wrong. But in actuality, I think that all kinds, shapes, sizes, and colors of fry bread are equally delicious and legitimate. It’s a matter of personal preference and cultural exposure. Unless it’s unheated fry bread, which completely dissolves all my food liberalism because cold fry bread is downright criminal.

3. Did you know the grim origin of fry bread as a child?

I knew it was about making the most of  limited resources, but not much else. I think most children believe everything from previous generations was harsh and pre-technological, and so different from their own situations. In some ways, the act of eating fry bread is like a communion because it commemorates the past. Fry bread connects us to an ongoing history of adaption and survival, and it reminds us that we have been, and still are, here.

4. Never mind the cornmeal question, how about fry bread versus frybread

Definitely fry bread. Two words.

5. You’re a law professor. How has writing a children’s book made you a better scholar? (Let us assume that the fact is in evidence.)

I’ve dedicated the entirety of my career to unearthing stories that “they” don’t want us to hear. These are the experiences of populations who have been systematically told that their realities were unimportant, did not matter, or did not even exist. Younger people hear these reasonings from grownups all the time. So for me, writing books for children just translates these universal struggles of being seen and heard to a new audience.  

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