19 Sep

Why must I wait for What Do You Do…?

We’re six days away from the September 25 publication of What Do You Do with a Voice Like That? The Story of Extraordinary Congresswoman Barbara Jordan (Beach Lane Books/Simon & Schuster). And I know that, given that this book has been in the works for more than five years, a few more days should barely register as a blip.

But I’m so excited about this book, and for this book, and for all the readers who will be getting reacquainted with Barbara Jordan, or getting better acquainted, or learning about her for the first time, that the wait for next Tuesday just seems to go on and on.

Last week helped. I visited half a dozen elementary schools in San Antonio and read What Do You Do with a Voice Like That? to student audiences at each of them. Would it make me a little self-conscious to tell you that reading my text aloud — in the context of Ekua Holmes’ artwork, and of the video clips of Barbara Jordan included in my presentation, and of the historical moment we find ourselves in — gave me goosebumps?

Yes, it would. But y’all…

It gave me goosebumps.

So, that’s been my reaction to this book. Here’s what some other folks have been saying about What Do You Do with a Voice Like That?:

Publishers Weekly called the book “a timely, lyrical celebration of Congresswoman Barbara Jordan.”

The book’s editor, Andrea Welch, said:

This book is a story of tenacity — Barbara ran and lost twice before being elected to the Texas Senate. It’s a story of helping those with less power — she fought for better pay for farmers and for the voting rights of Mexican Americans. A story of finding common ground—Barbara was known for befriending colleagues on both sides of the political aisle so that they could find a way to work together. Barbara Jordan passed away in 1996, but the things she fought for and the way she fought for them are more relevant than ever.

Educator Alyson Beecher said:

Ekua Holmes’ artwork is absolutely stunning. The more I see of her work the more I am blown away. Holmes captures the spirit and emotions of Barbara Jordan’s life and work on each page.

In his review, teacher Gary Anderson concluded:

Is Barbara Jordan still relevant? Oh, yes. Thanks to Chris Barton, Ekua Holmes, and this book, she will now speak to a new generation

At A Year of Reading, Franki Sibberson added:

This is an incredible biography for several reasons. The writing makes the story very engaging for readers who don’t know. Barbara Jordan. The focus on her work and the power her voice had works well and the illustrations are unbelievable.

Michele Knott included What Do You Do with a Voice Like That? on her “2019 Mock Sibert list… so far!

And librarian Barbara Moon made my day when she wrote:

This exceptional picture book is a treat for the mind, heart, and eyes. What a fitting tribute to a remarkable woman. Well done, Mr. Barton and Ms. Holmes.

Finally, I’d also like to point out that the beauty created by Ekua Holmes this year isn’t limited to our book. In fact, it’s not limited to books at all.

06 Sep

Bringing back Grandpa Patten: the story of my favorite illustration in What Do You Do with a Voice Like That? (Featured post and giveaway for September 2018)

Welcome to the featured post for the September edition of my Bartography Express newsletter (which you can sign up for here)!

Instead of a two-question Q&A with another author, this month I’m focusing on What Do You Do with a Voice Like That? The Story of Extraordinary Congresswoman Barbara Jordan, written by me, illustrated by Ekua Holmes, and coming September 25 from Beach Lane Books/Simon & Schuster.

Kirkus has given a starred review to this book, which it calls “a moving portrait of a true patriot who found ways to use her gift to work for change.”

I’m giving away five (!!!!!) signed copies of What Do You Do with a Voice Like That? If you’re a Bartography Express subscriber with a US mailing address and would like to be one of the winners, just let me know via email before midnight on September 30, and I’ll enter you in the drawing.

Now, let’s talk about Barbara Jordan’s grandfather.

The average time it takes one of my picture books to go from initial idea to publication is around five years, and sure enough it was five years ago this Saturday that I finished the first draft of what I was already calling What Do You Do with a Voice Like That?

Many parts of the text in the finished book — for instance, “The president, Barbara said, must go. The president went.” — were there from the very beginning. Some parts of the final text came later, as recently as the past few months.

And then there’s Grandpa Patten. Originally, he was right there in the opening paragraphs of the manuscript. On September 8, 2013, it began like this:

Growing up in the Fifth Ward of Houston, Texas, Barbara Jordan didn’t look like other kids — not even her own sisters.
She didn’t act like other kids, either. Her father insisted on that. Grandpa Patten did, too, in his way.
And she sure didn’t sound like other kids. Not with that voice of hers.

Grandpa Patten, Barbara’s maternal grandfather, was special to Barbara. She would go visit him each weekend. In fact, the first chapter in her 1979 autobiography was titled “Grandpa Patten.”

Here’s part of what she said about him in Barbara Jordan: A Self-Portrait, co-authored by Shelby Hearon:

When I knew him best, those years of my going there every Sunday, he was in the junk business. He had a very large wagon and two mules, which he kept in the heart of the old Fourth Ward, which is now downtown Houston. … Grandpa didn’t want me to be like the other kids. That came through loud and clear. He would say this very directly. There were kids who lived just behind my grandfather’s house in Fourth Ward that he did not want me to associate with because he said: “You don’t have to be like those others.” In relation to other kids he would say: “You just trot your own horse and don’t get into the same rut as everyone else.”

Over the years, the opening lines in What Do You Do with a Voice Like That? changed in a few key respects, one of which was that Grandpa Patten went away. To streamline the text and get to that first mention of Barbara’s voice more quickly, by the end of 2013 I had delayed the introduction of her father and cut the reference to her grandfather entirely.

In 2015 Beach Lane Books bought the manuscript and brought on Ekua Holmes to illustrate the book. In her own research for this project, Ekua came across the story of Grandpa Patten and asked if I might be open to including in the text a mention of Barbara’s relationship with him. She even had a specific spot in mind.

Ekua’s insight was a great one. The ideal place for Grandpa Patten was right where she had suggested:

Barbara was proud of herself, and proud of her voice.
It was laying a path for her.
But where would that path lead?
On Sunday evenings, Barbara would talk things over with Grandpa Patten.
Would she become a preacher like her father, and like her mother could have been?
Or a teacher, like those who encouraged her at Phillis Wheatley High?
Or perhaps she’d become a lawyer.

Not only was bringing back Grandpa Patten — the person in Barbara Jordan’s childhood to whom she was the closest — the absolute right thing to do for the text, but it also set the stage for Ekua to create what has become my absolute favorite illustration in this entire book:

Thank you, Grandpa Patten, for all that you did to shape Barbara Jordan. And thank you, Ekua Holmes, for all that you did — cover to cover — to shape What Do You Do with a Voice Like That?

01 Aug

A starred review from Kirkus for What Do You Do with a Voice Like That?

In its review, Kirkus says:

“Striking mixed-media illustrations capture the relationships between people and the influence of place. Barton’s narration is colloquial, appropriately relying on rhetorical devices… A moving portrait of a true patriot who found ways to use her gift to work for change.”

What Do You Do with a Voice Like That? The Story of Extraordinary Congresswoman Barbara Jordan (Beach Lane Books/Simon & Schuster), illustrated by Ekua Holmes, will be out on September 25.

22 Jul

#ILA18: Books & other resources mentioned in my speech this morning

The Literacy and Social Responsibility Special Interest Group of the International Literacy Association invited me to speak this morning at the ILA annual conference, which happens to be taking place in my home city of Austin.

For the occasion I put together a new keynote, “Getting Better All the Time,” and throughout I mentioned a few books and other resources that I thought the audience (and others not in the room) might want to be able to revisit.

So, here they are.

How to Diversify Your Kidlit-Related Lists (download a PDF version)

This Is an Uprising: How Nonviolent Revolt Is Shaping the Twenty-First Century, by Mark Engler and Paul Engler (published by Nation Books)
So You Want to Talk About Race, by Ijeoma Oluo (published by Seal Press)

BookPeople’s Modern First Library (details here)

What Do You Do with a Voice Like That? The Story of Extraordinary Congresswoman Barbara Jordan, by Chris Barton and Ekua Holmes (coming this September from Beach Lane Books)

16 Jun

Advance copies of What Do You Do with a Voice Like That?

What does an author do with (not-yet-bound and not-quite-finished) advance copies of his new book? In the case of me and my upcoming picture book of Texas Congresswoman Barbara Jordan (illustrated by Ekua Holmes), the answer yesterday was, “Tweet about them just as soon as they cross the threshold into my home!”

Thank you, thank you, THANK YOU to all of you who share my enthusiasm for this book, privately or publicly. It will be published this September 25 by Beach Lane Books/Simon & Schuster. I can’t wait for you to be able to see it.

28 May

Bibliography for What Do You Do With a Voice Like That?

The back matter for What Do You Do with a Voice Like That? The Story of Extraordinary Congresswoman Barbara Jordan will include a two-page timeline, my author’s note, Ekua Holmes’ illustrator’s note, and suggestions for viewing, listening, and further reading.

With all this material that Beach Lane Books/Simon & Schuster does include in those final pages, there wasn’t room to also include a bibliography of the sources I found most helpful in writing the text for the book.

So, I’m presenting them here, and the book includes the URL for the What Do You Do with a Voice Like That? page on my website, which in turn links to this post.

Ackerman, Todd. “TSU remembers famous alumna,” Houston Chronicle, January 18, 1996.

“Barbara Charline Jordan, February 21, 1936 – January 17, 1996,” Houston Chronicle, January 19, 1996.

“Barbara Jordan: American Hero”: Speech. Interview with Mary Beth Rogers. C-SPAN, January 24, 1999.

“Barbara Jordan wills her estate to sisters, friend and mother,” Jet, February 12, 1996.

Baxter, Norman. “Jordan to quit Congress,” Houston Chronicle, December 11, 1977.

Baxter, Norman. “Rep. Jordan expected to announce that she won’t run for re-election,” Houston Chronicle, December 9, 1977.

Bernstein, Alan. “Admirers share their many memories,” Houston Chronicle, January 21, 1996.

Bernstein, Alan. “Ethical ideas won respect,” Houston Chronicle, January 18, 1996.

Bernstein, Alan. “Supreme Court may undermine Jordan’s legacy,” Houston Chronicle, January 21, 1996.

Bowers, Molly. “Attorney Advocates Effective Use of Ballot,” The Houston Post, August 28, 1963.

Broyles, William. “The Making of Barbara Jordan,” Texas Monthly, October 1976.

Bryant, Ira B. Barbara Charline Jordan: From the Ghetto to the Capitol. Houston: D. Armstrong Co., Inc., 1977.

Burka, Paul. “Major Barbara,” Texas Monthly, March 1996.

“Camera Highlights from Phillis Wheatley High School, Houston, Texas,” The Texas Standard, March-April 1951.

Campbell, Brett. “More than a Voice: Barbara Jordan, the Teacher,” American Educator, Spring 1996.

Chaze, William L. “Barbara Jordan: A little dramatic, a little aloof, a lot of clout,” The Dallas Times Herald, July 11, 1976.

Clines, Francis X. “Barbara Jordan: Bold voice behind U.S. Constitution in Congress, classroom,” The New York Times, January 18, 1996.

Cox, Wayne. “Houston Liberal Legislator Visits,” San Antonio Express, October 6, 1966.

Dworin, Diana. “UT bids fond farewell to Jordan,” Austin American-Statesman, January 20, 1996.

Dyer, R.A. “The Fifth Ward: ‘We don’t get them like Barbara Jordan often,'” Houston Chronicle, January 21, 1996.

Eskenazi, Stuart. “Her inspiration reached far beyond native Texas,” Austin American-Statesman, January 18, 1996.

“Eulogy,” Houston Chronicle, January 18, 1996.

Fenno, Richard F. Going Home: Black Representatives and Their Constituents. Chicago: The University of Chicago Press, 2003.

Franks, Zarko. “Sen. Jordan: Even as Little Girl She Was One of the Rare Ones,” Houston Chronicle, November 30, 1969.

“From 5th Ward to 93rd Congress,” Houston Chronicle, January 18, 1996.

Harmon, Dave. “Jordan’s legacy gains and gives strength,” Austin American-Statesman, January 19, 1996.

Harmon, Dave. “Paying tribute amid the morning mist,” Austin American-Statesman, January 21, 1996.

Haskins, James. Barbara Jordan. New York: The Dial Press, 1977.

Hines, Cragg. “A voice for justice dies,” Houston Chronicle, January 18, 1996.

Herrera, Clara G. “City homeless to get a hand from Jordan,” Austin American-Statesman, January 25, 1988.

Hine, Darlene Clark, editor. Black Women in America. New York: Oxford University Press, 2005.

Hiott, Debbie. “Hundreds visit coffin, bid farewell to Jordan,” Austin American-Statesman, January 19, 1996.

Holmes, Barbara A. A Private Woman in Public Spaces: Barbara Jordan’s Speeches on Ethics, Public Religion, and Law. Harrisburg, Pennsylvania: Trinity Press International, 2000.

“In her own words,” Houston Chronicle, January 18, 1996.

Ivins, Molly. “A profile of Barbara Jordan,” The Texas Observer, November 3, 1972.

Jayson, Sharon. “Pupils told to reap rewards of education,” Austin American-Statesman, January 18, 1996.

Jones, Nancy Baker and Ruthe Winegarten. Capitol Women: Texas Female Legislators, 1923-1999. Austin: The University of Texas Press, 2000.

Jordan, Barbara. “Is the Necessity for a Higher Education More in Demand Today Than a Decade Ago?” Essay. 1952.

Jordan, Barbara and Shelby Hearon. Barbara Jordan: A Self-Portrait. Garden City, New York: Doubleday & Company, Inc., 1979.

“Jordan Discusses Re-Districting: Reapportionment Aids Liberals,” The Rice Thresher, October 14, 1965.

“Jordan recovering after near-drowning,” The Record, August 1, 1988.

Kelley, Mike. “Jordan’s legacy extolled by colleagues,” Austin American-Statesman, January 20, 1996.

Kleiner, Diana J. “Fifth Ward, Houston,” Handbook of Texas Online, Texas State Historical Association. Available at http://www.tshaonline.org/handbook/online/articles/hpfhk. Accessed May 28, 2018.

Laville, Helen, and Scott Lucas. “The American Way: Edith Sampson, the NAACP, and African American Identity in the Cold War,” Diplomatic History, October 1996.

Lee, Larry. “Black Houston,” The Texas Observer, May 13, 1966.

Lindell, Chuck. “For some blacks, Jordan leaves ambiguous legacy,” Austin American-Statesman, January 18, 1996.

Lum, Lydia. “Massive crowd honors woman ‘who made it,'” Houston Chronicle, January 20, 1996.

Lutz, Mike. “Jordan won’t seek 4th term in Congress,” The Denton Record-Chronicle, December 11, 1977.

Makeig, John, and Jerry Urban. “Fifth Ward full of memories, sad reminders,” Houston Chronicle, January 18, 1996.

Marcello, Ronald E. “Interview with Senator Barbara Jordan,” transcript of an oral history conducted on July 7, 1970, by Ronald E. Marcello, North Texas State University Oral History Collection.

Marshall, Thom. “The whole truth and nothing but,” Houston Chronicle, January 21, 1996.

Mathis, Nancy. “The White House: ‘She trotted her horse, made a path wide, deep,'” Houston Chronicle, January 21, 1996.

“Milestones,” Austin American-Statesman, January 18, 1996.

Miller, Char, editor. Fifty Years of the Texas Observer. San Antonio: Trinity University Press, 2004.

Milling, T.J. “She had ‘too short of a lifetime,'” Houston Chronicle, January 21, 1996.

Morris, Anne. “Jordan on Jordan,” Austin American-Statesman, January 18, 1996.

Moss, J. Jennings. “Barbara Jordan: The other life,” The Advocate, March 5, 1996.

“New Phillis Wheatley Senior High School to Open,” The Texas Standard, September-October 1950.

Nocera, Joseph. “The Failure of Barbara Jordan’s Success,” The Washington Monthly, March 1979.

“Overview: Texas Senate Districts 1846-1982,” Texas Legislative Council. Available at http://www.tlc.state.tx.us/redist/history/overview.html. Accessed May 28, 2018.

Palomo, Juan R. “Barbara Jordan honored by a president, the people,” Austin American-Statesman, January 21, 1996.

Palomo, Juan R., and David Harmon. “Houston’s Fifth Ward, Texas Southern feel loss in special way,” Austin American-Statesman, January 18, 1996.

Palomo, Juan R. “Jordan remembered as woman who practiced what she preached,” Austin American-Statesman, January 19, 1996.

Pando, Patricia. “In the Nickel, Houston’s Fifth Ward,” Houston History. Available at http://houstonhistorymagazine.org/wp-content/uploads/2011/07/Fifth-Ward.pdf. Accessed May 28, 2018.

Phelan, Charlotte. “State Sen Barbara Jordan wins her battles through ‘the system,'” The Houston Post, May 24, 1970.

Pierce, Paula Jo. Let Me Tell You What I’ve Learned: Texas Wisewomen Speak. Austin: The University of Texas Press, 2002.

Rodriguez, Lori. “‘For all she meant to us,'” Houston Chronicle, January 20, 1996.

Rogers, Mary Beth. Barbara Jordan: American Hero. New York: Bantam Books, 1998.

Roser, Mary Ann. “Jordan lent spark to UT,” Austin American-Statesman, January 18, 1996.

Sherman, Max, editor. Barbara Jordan: Speaking the Truth with Eloquent Thunder. Austin: The University of Texas Press, 2007.

Tolson, Mike. “Praise and Prayer: Friends say farewell to Barbara Jordan,” Houston Chronicle, January 21, 1996.

“T.S.U. Debaters Beat Harvard,” The Houston Chronicle, April 5, 1956.

Turner, Allan. “Mourners recall woman who made difference,” Houston Chronicle, January 19, 1996.

Tutt, Bob. “Priceless gift: inspiration,” Houston Chronicle, January 18, 1996.

U.S. Congress, House of Representatives, Committee on the Judiciary, Societal and Legal Issues Surrounding Children Born in the United States to Illegal Alien Parents. Joint Hearing on H.R. 705, H.R. 363, H.J. Res. 56, H.J. Res 64, H.J. Res. 87, H.J. Res 88, and H.J. Res. 93 before the Subcommittee on Immigration and Claims and the Subcommittee on the Constitution of the Committee on the Judiciary, 104th Congress, 1st session, December 13, 1995.

Various items in Congresswoman Barbara Jordan Papers, Robert J. Terry Library, Texas Southern University.

Walls, Ellie A. “Executing the Guidance Program in a Large High School,” The Texas Standard, September-October 1949.

Walt, Kathy. “Blazing trails even in her death,” Houston Chronicle, January 21, 1996.

Walt, Kathy. “Justice, ethics Jordan embodied remain with students, colleagues,” Houston Chronicle, January 18, 1996.

West, Richard. “Only the Strong Survive,” Texas Monthly, February 1979.

Wheelock, Ernestine. “Dream Comes True For Young Senator,” Austin American-Statesman, January 22, 1967.

“When Barbara Jordan spoke to you, you knew you had been spoke at,” Austin American-Statesman, January 18, 1996.

Winegarten, Ruthe. Black Texas Women: 150 Years of Trial and Triumph. Austin: The University of Texas Press, 1995.

Woodfin, Max, Ben Barnes, and Rodney Ellis. “Three among many lives Jordan touched,” Austin American-Statesman, January 20, 1996.

Interviews
The Honorable Carlos H. Barrera, March 2, 2016.
Courtney Brown, March 14, 2016.
Dr. Thomas F. Freeman, December 2, 2015.
Rose Mary McGowan, December 2, 2015.
Karen Neuwald, February 24, 2016.
Amy Praskac, March 4, 2016.
Max Sherman, March 25, 2016.

25 May

Coming this September: What Do You Do with a Voice Like That? The Story of Extraordinary Congresswoman Barbara Jordan

“…Wonderful, Enjoyable, Exciting, Adventurous, Adorable, Unforgettable, Rapturous…”

That’s how Houston native Barbara Jordan described the train trip to Chicago that took her outside Texas for the first time in her life, for a high school oratorical contest. (She won, unsurprisingly.)

Those words are also an apt summation of how I feel about Ekua Holmes’ art for our upcoming picture book biography of Jordan, the legislator, teacher, and voice of public conscience who died in 1996.

You’ll be able to see that glorious art for yourself soon enough. What Do You Do with a Voice Like That? will be published this September 25 by Beach Lane Books. Today, I’m pleased to start by sharing with you the cover —

— as well as the publisher’s description:

“When Barbara Jordan talked, we listened.” — Former President of the United States, Bill Clinton

Congresswoman Barbara Jordan had a big, bold, confident voice — and she knew how to use it! Learn all about her amazing career in this illuminating and inspiring picture book biography of the lawyer, educator, politician, and civil rights leader.

Even as a child growing up in the Fifth Ward of Houston, Texas, Barbara Jordan stood out for her big, bold, booming, crisp, clear, confident voice. It was a voice that made people sit up, stand up, and take notice.

So what do you do with a voice like that?

Barbara took her voice to places few African American women had been in the 1960s: first law school, then the Texas state senate, then up to the United States congress. Throughout her career, she persevered through adversity to give voice to the voiceless and to fight for civil rights, equality, and justice.

New York Times bestselling author Chris Barton and Caldecott Honoree Ekua Holmes deliver a remarkable picture book biography about a woman whose struggles and mission continue to inspire today.

You can pre-order What Do You Do with a Voice Like That? here, and you can see more of the art here.