Katheryn Russell-Brown

Katheryn Russell-Brown alt2 largeKatheryn Russell-Brown knows how to make an entrance. Her debut picture book about jazz-great Melba Liston has received numerous well-deserved honors.But who says you have to have one career? In addition to being an amazing picture book author, she is also the Chesterfield Smith Professor of Law and the Director of the Center for the Study of Race and Race Relations at the University of Florida, Levin College of Law.

The last two weeks have been an especially devastating time for our country and for our Girls of Summer community as we continue to wrestle with questions of race, social justice, and the impact of violence on people’s lives. Books like Little Melba and her Big Trombone help even our youngest readers learn about the times when our society is unjust – and what we can do about it. How did Melba respond to injustice? And what is the role of a strong girl in a world that is unfair? Professor Brown has some thoughts for you…MM

1.Why do you think Melba Liston in Little Melba and her Big Trombone represents a strong girl? 

liston_melb_melbalist_101bLittle Melba is the epitome of a “strong girl.” She knew she had unique musical talents and continued to pursue her love of the trombone even though it was not considered an instrument for girls when she was coming up in the 1940s. Many people were envious of her amazing musical gifts and treated her poorly. She represents a strong girl because although she was deeply hurt by the bad treatment she received, she continued to let her musical star shine. She is strong because she believed in herself when others did not.

2. How did you first becoming interested in writing about the topic/character in your book?

In 2010, I heard a radio show about Melba Liston. It included interviews with jazz greats who were singing Liston’s praises. It also included snippets of an interview with Liston herself. Her voice and talent touched me and moved me to find out as much as I could about her and her music.

Monica Brown, Katheryn Russell Brown, and Meg at this year's Texas Book Festival in Austin.

Monica Brown, Katheryn Russell Brown, and Meg at this year’s Texas Book Festival in Austin.

3. What is the best advice you ever received about writing? 

To always remember that it takes work and time. And, to stop writing for the day at a point where you have resolved an issue of language or plot. It will be much easier to start writing again at a new place.

4. BONUS:  Finish this sentence please. “Strong girls  –

– grow strong children and a stronger, fairer world.