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“I love and fear words — their potential to uplift or tear down. My father taught me to respect that potential. Dad, a man of few words, wrote poetry and sketched. My mother made me love stories. She’d sit at the top of the stairs every night and create magic with a book. It was reader’s theater. If mommy couldn’t be there, she assigned the reading to whomever she’d deputized to watch us that night. But no one could do it like her. So much of the writer in me is my parents’ doing. I got really lucky with them.” — Vaunda Micheaux Nelson
It is no surprise that Nelson is New Mexico’s official Centennial Children’s Author. The author of 10 books, from a beginning reader, “Ready? Set. Raymond!” to her latest “documentary novel” for young adults and adults, Nelson simply and always with a touch of humor, tells tales that engage all ages.
Nelson will discuss her award-winning non-fiction book for ages 7-10, “Bad News for Outlaws: the Remarkable Life of Bass Reeves, Deputy U.S. Marshal,” at 7 p.m. Aug. 23 in the upstairs rotunda of Mesa Public Library, as part of the Authors Speak Series.
“Bad News for Outlaws” is the true story of a former slave turned peace officer and hero of the Old West, which won the prestigious Coretta Scott King Author Award. She also will introduce her new book, “No Crystal Stair: A Documentary Novel of the Life and Work of Lewis Michaux, Harlem Bookseller” (Carolrhoda Lab, 2012).
Told from multiple perspectives, this young adult/adult book is the story of the author’s great uncle and his rise from a troubled youth, to influential voice in the black community. His National Memorial African Bookstore became a destination for writers, artists, scholars and activists from the 1940s until the store’s closing in 1975.
Currently, the Youth Services librarian at Rio Rancho Public Library, Nelson has been a teacher, newspaper reporter, bookseller, school librarian and has served on the Newbery and Caldecott award committees.
She holds master’s degrees from The Bread Loaf School of English at Middlebury College (Vermont), and from the University of Pittsburgh School of Library and Information Science.
Some of Nelson’s other book titles include: “Mayfield Crossing Beyond Mayfield,” 1999, which won the Parents’ Choice Gold Award; “Juneteenth,” “Almost to Freedom,” and “Who Will I Be, Lord?”
The Authors Speak Series is a monthly event featuring local and statewide authors speaking about their writing on a variety of subjects, such as local and state history, travel, outdoor activities, New Mexico fiction, Native American history and culture, poetry and more.
The Friends of Mesa Public Library funds the series. The talks are free and begin at 7 p.m., followed by the opportunity to meet the authors and enjoy refreshments. Some authors may participate with book sales and signings.
For more information about the Coretta Scott King Book Award, visit ala.og/emiert/cskbookawards.about.