Publishers' Preview: Diverse Voices: Five Questions for Lesa Cline-Ransome

Publishers' Previews: Special advertising supplement in The Horn Book Magazine
This interview originally appeared in the May/June 2018 Horn Book Magazine as part of the Publishers’ Previews: Diverse Voices, 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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Post–WWII Chicago’s Bronzeville neighborhood is a new address for eleven-year-old Langston, but will it ever feel like home? Finding Langston invites him into the library.

Photo: John Halpern.

1. Have you visited the Hall Branch of the Chicago Public Library? It’s beautiful.

My visits had to be virtual rather than in person, but there were moments when I almost felt I was there, browsing the shelves. I conducted extensive research about its visionary trustee and namesake, George Cleveland Hall; pored over photos; viewed selections online from the research collection of Chicago’s very first African American librarian, Vivian G. Harsh; and read about how the Hall Branch became a cultural institution where community members could engage with Chicago-based authors such as Gwendolyn Brooks, Richard Wright, and Zora Neale Hurston.

2. What did you discover at the library as a child?

Much of young Langston’s awe of the library is based on my own experience as a child. The library was — and is still — a place that inspires reverence.

3. How do you see our present diverse books moment in the context of the Harlem Renaissance, the Black Arts movement, and multiculturalism?

Each of these periods represents a moment in time that provided a platform for the many underrepresented voices in the arts. My hope is that the push for diverse books will have an effect not just on the books we read but on decision making and hiring in the publishing industry, so that all voices are heard in every stage of bookmaking.

4. Writing your first novel after many picture books and works of nonfiction — what was that like?

Terrifying. Exhilarating. Exhausting. I do feel that each picture book was preparation for this moment. It allowed me to find characters and periods in history I love and to build up a treasure trove of research and notes. It also allowed me to relax into my writing and trust my storytelling.

5. What one Langston Hughes poem do you want Horn Book readers to know by heart?

Just one? “I, Too.” It speaks honestly and unapologetically to the great inequities blacks in America face, yet celebrates our strength and resilience and maintains the hope that our contributions and culture will one day be fully recognized.

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