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.

Carlos Barrera, March 2, 2016.
Courtney Brown, March 14, 2016.
Thomas 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.

17 May

I’m visiting schools in the Mid-Atlantic states in 2018!

My largest school audience ever. I’m pretty good with smaller groups, too.

Details are still coming together, but I’m going to be making my first-ever author visits to schools in the Mid-Atlantic states in spring 2018. If you’re in Delaware, Maryland, eastern Pennsylvania, southern New Jersey, northeastern Virginia, and thereabouts and would be interested in booking me, I’d love to hear from you.

My Author Visits page has more information about my presentations. I can expand or condense my “Write What You’d Love to Learn” presentation to suit a wide range of audience ages and sizes, and I’ll be tailoring it for each of my upcoming books (Dazzle Ships, Book or Bell?, and What Do You Do with a Voice Like That?, my 2018 picture book biography of Barbara Jordan).

I’ve also got lots more photos of me in action at my school visits. Those all represent great memories for me, and I do my best to make that true for the schools I visit, too. How about if we make some more of those memories together?

08 Feb

A book about a girl, a book for a boy

Two exchanges I had with students last week in the booming town of Prosper, Texas, have remained on my mind back at home this week.

The first exchange was right before one of my elementary-school presentations, with a girl who handed me a letter that read in part:

I wonder if you have a book about a girl? If you don’t can you please make one? Sorry if I’m wasting your time. But I want you to please make a book about a girl. p.s. I have a french name.

The Texas girl with the French name was absolutely was not wasting my time.

I told her about my book coming out next year about a real girl from Texas, Barbara Jordan, who grew up to be a Congresswoman and teacher of ethics in public service. While we wait for What Do You Do with a Voice Like That?, I wish I could have told this student that I had more books with female lead characters. There have been manuscripts of mine that have focused on girls and women but which haven’t (yet!) gotten acquired by a publisher, and books of mine with a mix of male and female characters. But those aren’t of much use to a young reader who would like to read a book, right now, that’s primarily about a girl and written by the author visiting her school. This is something for me to work on.

I did ask the librarian to make sure the girl with the French name received one of the bookmarks I’d brought for Jennifer Ziegler‘s warm, funny series about the fictional Brewster Triplets, 11-year-old Texas sisters who aspire to be President, Chief Justice, and Speaker of the House, respectively. Especially for this girl, I signed my name and wrote Jennifer’s URL on the bookmark. I also asked the librarian to please emphasize that I was not delegating responsibility for writing female characters to my wife — it’s just that Jennifer’s books about girls already exist, and mine don’t yet. But I’m working on them, and I suspect I’ll be working harder at them from now on.

I mentioned two exchanges with students, and that was the first. The second was right after another of my sessions. Toward the end of my presentations, I share the cover of Jennifer’s first Brewster Triplets book and let my audience know that not only am I an author, but I’m married to one, too.

So, it was a few minutes after that revelation that a boy came up to me and asked, “What was the name of your wife’s book?”

“It’s called Revenge of the Flower Girls,” I told him. “I think you’d like it.”

15 Oct

Another weekend, another event with Don Tate (and, soon, another book!)

This Sunday at 3 p.m., attendees of the Texas Book Festival here in Austin can find Don and me sharing The Amazing Age of John Roy Lynch in the Read Me a Story tent.

It will be terrific seeing Don again, since we haven’t shared a stage since … well, last Saturday, when he and I participated in our home city stop of Don’s Freedom Tour at the George Washington Carver Museum and Cultural Center. We were joined by author Kelly Starling Lyons, visiting from North Carolina, for this celebration of Don’s book Poet; Kelly and Don’s book, Hope’s Gift; and my first collaboration with Don, The Amazing Age of John Roy Lynch.


There was a fantastic cake, depicting a scene from Poet, made by Akiko White:


We enjoyed readers’ theater for all three books, put on by students from St. Elmo Elementary; a panel discussion led by Michael Hurd of (among many other things) the Texas Black History Preservation Project; and a whole lot of good feeling among members of the reading and writing communities.

I also was glad to encounter tributes at the Carver to a couple of old acquaintances (and upcoming book subjects) of mine. As I mentioned recently, I’ve got a Barbara Jordan picture book on the way in 2018, and there was the great lady herself:


Arriving even sooner will be my biography of Lonnie Johnson.


Illustrated by, yes, Don Tate, Whoosh! Lonnie Johnson’s Super Stream of Ideas will be published next May by Charlesbridge — and followed soon after by more events with Don!