Saturday, October 12, 2019

Middle Grade Ninja Episode 45: Author Alicia D. Williams

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Alicia D. Williams and I talk about colorism and adolescent cruelty, which she explores brilliantly in her novel, GENESIS BEGINS AGAIN. She also takes us through her journey to become a writer, from her time as a stand-up comedian to an actress to a flight attendant and a whole lot of interesting stops along the way. We have a long chat about creating compelling characters and the differences in approaches to writing to reach a common goal.



What's there to know about Alicia D? Well, that depends on who you ask.

If you ask kindergartners, they'd tell you:

1. She likes chunky guacamole.

2. She likes shiny things.

3. She tells good stories.

​If you ask her middle schoolers, they'd surely say:

1. She gets us.

2. She makes us laugh with all her jokes.

3. She is Da BOMB.

​While all of these may be true, there are a few more points to add . . . Alicia D. is a teacher in Charlotte, NC. She is the proud mother of a brilliant college student. Her love for education stems from conducting school residencies as a Master Teaching Artist of arts-integration. Alicia D infuses her love for drama, movement, and storytelling to inspire students to write.

Did we say drama? Why yes, Alicia graduated from the American Musical and Dramatic Academy in New York. She's performed in commercials, off-off Broadway, and even Charlotte's very own children's theater.

And like other great storytellers, she made the leap into writing--and well, her story continues. Alicia D loves laughing, traveling, and Wonder Woman.


Have you ever felt like you weren't good enough?

Genesis does. And, if she can change those traits that make her unloveable, then her family will be whole.

Thirteen year-old Genesis Anderson hates her dark skin shade and kinky, coily hair. She prays every night for one thing—to be beautiful. If she's beautiful like her lighter Mama, then Grandma will love her more, the ruthless taunts at school will end, and most importantly, Dad will stop drinking.

Dad’s drinking, however, only escalates, and Genesis becomes all the more determined to transform herself, to change the color of her skin.  She first tries lemon juice and scrub brushes, and when they show no results, she resorts to methods more dangerous, especially after she uncovers devastating family traditions and secrets. 

Singing becomes her only solace, so when a school talent show is announced, she wonders if this might be her one true chance to win Dad’s approval and make her family whole again.   

But will she be able to get up on stage, as black as she is, and sing? Drawing strength from Billie Holliday, Ella Fitzgerald, and Etta James—their music and who they were—Genesis harnesses their power into finding her own voice.

Here's what the reviewers are saying:

With smooth and engrossing prose, debut novelist Williams takes readers through an emotional, painful, yet still hopeful adolescent journey. -Kirkus Starred Review

With its relatable and sympathetic protagonist, complex setting, and exceptional emotional range, this title is easy to recommend. -Publishers Weekly Starred Review

Through each character, readers come to understand the significance of how one’s story plays out in reactions and interactions with the people around them . . . A must for all collections.
-School Library Journal

Williams also does a good job of showing how parents look through their kids' eyes. Genesis' gradual understand ing of her parents' humanity is moving. -Common Sense Media 5  Review

. . . Stunning debut novel . . .the standout voice in this tinder and empowering novel--reminiscent of Toni Morrison's "The Bluest Eye," but more appropriate for a much younger audience. - New York Times

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