Readers Against Prejudice and Racism discussion

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Author Q&A Sessions > Author Q&A Session: Steve Chicoine

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 Danielle The Book Huntress (Wants to Read More) (gatadelafuente) | 101 comments We are glad to host a Q&A session for one of our authors, Steve Chicoine. We appreciate him taking the time to let us get to know him and to engage in discussion with him here on the Readers Against Prejudice and Racism group.

1. Please give us an introduction and tell us about yourself. What genre do you write books in? What books have you written in the areas of prejudice/racism/diversity issues?

I grew up in Illinois, went to school in Illinois and California (Stanford for graduate school) and lived in Texas before re-locating to Minnesota. BUZZ is my ninth book. I have a teen daughter who worked with me on BUZZ, offering insight and editing. At the beginning of my writing career, I published four nonfiction books for young readers. The subjects include the Holocaust and immigration. I have been involved with social justice for a number of years and my writing reflects that. I also have published scholarly books on the Civil War and World War II so I write across a pretty broad front. I am working on a thriller.


2. What are your favorite books and why?

I actually list my favorites books on my website www.freedomhistory.com. I read on about as broad a front as I write. Just off the top of my head, I thought Carl Hiaasen's Hoot was brilliant and I really liked Louis Sachar's Holes - enjoyable books with an environmental theme in an interesting setting. I like almost anything by Christopher Paul Curtis and Walter Dean Myers, because they convey messages that we, as Americans, need to hear. Esperanza Rising by Pam Munoz Ryan was also deeply moving and meaningful. I could write 50,000 words on this point, but I will not.


3. What encouraged you to start writing about issues of racial relations and prejudice? What is your goal when you write about these issues?

I grew up in a racially divided town and witnessed racial prejudice. My parents were great role models about having the courage to make a statement and a stand. I write in the hopes of opening the minds of those who perhaps have not had the "advantage" of first-hand experience to understand what racism is all about. Some of my personal experiences will eventually land in a book I intend to write. I have interviewed and compiled research noted for years on this. Some amazing stories.



4. How do you address these issues in your work and what is your approach? How do you handle subject matter that might be offensive to some of your readers, but necessary to fully express your thoughts on issues of ethnicity/race/diversity?


I am very cognizant of the reality that you can never please all of the people all of the time. Someone may be upset about some subtle aspect you did not cover or did not convey as he or she might have preferred. Or perhaps they feel you may have offered up a stereotype. I spend an inordinate amount of time making as much effort as possible to not offend anyone. And I am always open to hearing someone else's point of view. My Holocaust book for young readers got caught up in some politics. I remember being very concerned about one of my Civil War books as a number of my friends had Confederate ancestors from this particular area. At the same time, I was working in the inner-city with a number of good African American friends. I wove in a lot of aspects of race and racism into this book, which included the Reconstruction era and even the Jim Crow days that followed. In the end, my careful efforts paid off and everyone was unanimously overwhelming in their praise. But, to be clear, anytime you write about anything important - and that is, of course, why we write - someone may take issue. I remind myself that any publicity is good publicity when you are selling books.



5. Which books have you written about these subjects (in particular)?

I think BUZZ, my most recent book, is my most important book in this regard. Fiction allows you to really immerse the reader into the situation. But I also have written two books on immigrant families in America, one from Liberia and one from Tibet. I know both cultures fairly intimately. That genre allowed me utilize my photographs - I love photographing faces - and that was very effective in conveying the message. My book on the Holocaust, which I think still sells at the museum in DC, is quite moving and memorable.



6. Did you have to do research to better address these topics in your books, or did you draw from your own experiences?

I think it is fair to say that I always over-research. That is my reality, whether or not it is good or bad. It is critical for any writer to deliver an authentic setting and characters. And my research has always opened my eyes to aspects I had not previously considered or completely understood. I find research for writing to be exhilirating. It feeds my intellectual curiosity. I hope that my books stimulate intellectual curiosity in my readers



7. What message do you try to get across about racial/ethnic/diversity relations through your work?

I think the most important message is to SHOW (not tell) that there is really very little difference between us. The hope is that from this will spring love and respect for all. As a writer, you hope that you are able to immerse the reader into the experience. In so doing, the reader gains empathy for those in such a challenging situation. We all need to better understand each other and the challenges each of us face. Less judging, more empathy leads to a better world.




8. Who are your literary role models and how did they impact your writing?

My primary role model as a writer is my good friend and writing mentor Brent Ashabranner. He is getting up there in years now and no longer writing. He is a brilliant man and was a prolific writer of nonfiction books for young readers on social justice (look him up). An amazing man in every respect. I am blessed to have come to know him and am proud to call him friend and mentor.




9. In your opinion, what can each person do as an individual to help society to have better racial/ethnic/diversity relations?

Everyone should take an ACTIVE role in society. I have volunteered for years as a tutor and mentor and more. I have worked with inner city kids in some scary hoods. No one wants to be poor. Everyone has dreams. They need help learning how to set goals and set a realistic plan for their lives. I spent several years with undocumented young men from Central America. They all come to America for the same reason our ancestors did. And someone helped our ancestors.


10. In your opinion, is there a need for books that address a particular issue relating to diversity and prejudice issues?

As to a particular need, I just think there can never be enough books that show that we are really all related, all part of the same family and all citizens of the world. Our differences are less about the color of our skin than they are about what we read or what flavor of ice cream we prefer. We need for kids to learn this early on and, most importantly, not lose that sense. And we also need to encourage personal courage to stand up to those who would seek to divide us.


Thanks so much for your participation on our Q&A Series, and on our group, Steve. From here we will open up the floor for member questions.


message 2: by Ruth Madison (new)

Ruth Madison (Dev Love Press) (ruthmadison) | 20 comments Great interview!

"I think the most important message is to SHOW (not tell) that there is really very little difference between us. The hope is that from this will spring love and respect for all" I think that really is the perfect explanation for the place of literature about prejudice.

"I just think there can never be enough books that show that we are really all related, all part of the same family and all citizens of the world." I totally agree.


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