two protest songs by Woody Guthrie call out his landlord Fred Trump

It's amazing how songwriter and singer Woody Guthrie is still timely decades after his death. Names were so important to him, he often called people out by name in his songs -- either to praise or condemn them. In his 1941 tribute song, "The Sinking of the Reuben James," he originally included the names of all 86 victims of the Nazi torpedoes. Pete Seeger had to dissuade him, convincing him no one would be able to remember the lyrics. Woody settled for:

Tell me what were their names, tell me what were their names,
Did you have a friend on the good Reuben James?

While I was writing This Land Was Made for You and Me: the Life and Songs of Woody Guthrie I fell in love with his song, "Plane Wreck at Los Gatos," also know as "Deportee."

Goodbye to my Juan, goodbye, Rosalita,
Adios mis amigos, Jesus y Maria;
You won't have your names when you ride the big airplane,
All they will call you will be "deportees"

Woody wrote songs passionately, and prolifically. Many were never recorded, but he jotted down the lyrics. The random pieces of paper were saved by his wife, Marjorie Guthrie, and then his daughter, Nora Guthrie, and are now at the Woody Guthrie Center.

When Woody moved to Brooklyn, NY, he rented an apartment at a big housing development called Beach Haven -- owned and run by Fred Trump, Donald Trump's father. Thanks to Will Kaufman for his diligent research turning up two timely songs about "Old Man Trump" and Woody's outrage over Trump's rental policies.

Here's a great NPR interview with Will Kaufman.

 

JFK Library, AWP conference, bloody beating hearts, and Superman

I recently returned from a trip back east which had just about everything in it: two presentations, brainstorming with my publisher at Viking, Ken Wright, over lunch, NYC friends over breakfast, and a long visit with my granddaughter. Perfect!

Sam Rubin and his colleagues at the John F. Kennedy Library put together a cool program, Sources of Inspiration,  with Robert Burleigh, Bryan Collier, and me. The JFK folks did something really helpful: we all met together for dinner the night before and started talking. I was surprised how much it influenced our panel in the morning. We had plunged into a really interesting discussion about exactly what kind of freedoms you have with narrative nonfiction, and we got into more at the panel. Still way more exploration to do, as there are so many shades of opinion on this.

Here's a shot of Robert Burleigh, with the irresistible architecture by I. M. Pei.

Robert Burleigh, with I. M. Pei's amazing architecture. How would you like this to be the hallway you walk through at work?

Robert Burleigh, with I. M. Pei's amazing architecture. How would you like this to be the hallway you walk through at work?

At AWP (Association of Writers and Writing Programs) Marina Bhdhos, Marc Aronson, and I did a presentation on: YA Meets the Real: Young Adult Fiction and Nonfiction that Takes on the World. As  primarily a nonfiction writer, I was really interested in conveying how to make nonfiction as vivid and intense as it can be, while sticking strictly to the truth. My advice: grab the beating, bloody heart of your subject and squeeze with all you've got.

Marc Aronson and Marina Budhos

Marc Aronson and Marina Budhos

Ann Matzke, Tracy Maurer, and Carrie Pomeroy

Ann Matzke, Tracy Maurer, and Carrie Pomeroy

I can't finish up without showing you the great t-shirt we were given at JFK. The front had the serious presidential seal. On the back... Superman and a cool, real story about JFK and Superman.

Tom, looking presidential... or maybe Clark Kent-ish.

Tom, looking presidential... or maybe Clark Kent-ish.

Selma, the movie

My son Felix and I went to see Selma the night it opened. It's a powerful, intense film. We left the theater in tears, for different reasons.

Felix is 31 and didn't know much about the history of the civil rights movement. Watching the film in a packed theater, he was shocked by the brutality of the law enforcement, and awed by the bravery of the people. The personal struggle of Martin Luther King Jr. to carry the weight of the struggle was a new idea to him, as he'd only seen King as heroic, not as a man with a wife and children, and death threats a constant reality.

A few years ago I wrote a young adult book, Marching for Freedom, about Selma and the march to Montgomery. The process of writing the book was essentially a solo one, despite the amazing times I spent interviewing Selmians who'd been involved as kids during the protests, and the  encouragement of my editor, Catherine Frank at Viking. I had walked the streets of Selma, time-traveling in my mind to get back to 1965. I'd crossed the bridge with hundreds of others in a candle-lit vigil the night we were waiting for election returns for Obama. I'd gone to Brown Chapel where King spoke. But the months and months of writing were alone in my study.

But now here I was in the theater, with the whole story unfolding in front of my eyes, and ringing in my ears. It was beautiful and painful at the same time. I knew each twist, each murder that was coming, each moment of crisis for King. It was an overwhelming and deeply moving experience.

Thank you Ava DuVernay, and Oprah, and everyone who made this film come into being. I'm even grateful to Joseph Califano who wrote The movie 'Selma' has a glaring flaw for the Washington Post, kicking off a controversy over the relationship between King and President Johnson. It was a complex, difficult relationship between two men who needed one another politically. I disagree with Califano that the drive for the vote came from LBJ, but it sure has given the film a big boost. You can look up plenty about it online.

Director Ava DuVernay on the set of Selma.

Director Ava DuVernay on the set of Selma.

There is a fabulous interview with director DuVernay on Terry Gross. DuVernay talks in depth about her creative process, choices she had to make, difficulties she faced.

One of the very cool choices she made was to suddenly switch to archival footage of the actual five day march in 1965 from Selma to Montgomery. It's what Felix calls "ground truthing" in mapping: You are checking something out, not from a distance (i.e. fictionalized account) but up close, on the ground (i.e. documentary footage). It's amazingly beautiful and works so well.

Jerome Burg and I made a Google Lit Trip for Marching for Freedom, which uses Google Earth to track where events take place.  We mapped all the important sites in Selma and environs, but I am especially proud of the five days of the march. Archival photos, interviews, resource links, and questions for students to think about.

 

 

 

Who knew? Herbert Hoover Presidential Library and Museum

One of the amazing things about speaking is going to new places and learning new/ historic things. I recently worked with teachers on visual literacy at the Herbert Hoover Presidential Library, and gave a public talk on Dorothea Lange.

With Elizabeth Dinschel, Education Specialist at the Hoover. And yes, it is kind of bizarre to pose in front of Lange's famous image, White Angel Breadline. But irresistible.

What was amazing: the number of cool things I learned. I think my favorite was finding out about Lou Hoover, Herbert's wife.

Lou Henry on a burro, age 17.

Lou Henry on a burro, age 17.

I'd like to time travel and go back and hang out with her. She graduated from Stanford in 1898, and the day after she married Herbert, they headed for Shanghai and mined silver on old, formerly played-out  mines. She learned to speak Chinese proficiently. Did some amazing refugee work during WWI... headed up the Girl Scouts, invited Jesse DePriest, a black woman, to the White House for  tea (big unroar ensued). I admire this woman.

And the Hoover Library has a number of letters by Laura Ingalls Wilder and her daughter Rose. Here's a photo of Laura Ingalls Wilder and her husband Alonzo.

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And I loved this glimpse into Wilder's writing process:


Dorothea Lange, and my awesome VCFA students

I woke up with that delicious feeling of "something good's going to happen today." Then I realized actually several good things are happening today. Recently I was in Chicago to do  presentations on Dorothea Lange: Grab a Hunk of Lightning. Dyanna Taylor's film by the same name airs on PBS's American Masters on August 29, and she and I showed a preview at the Museum of Contemporary Photography (MoCP), as well as doing a presentation to 3rd and 5th graders. I  also was able to spend a half day talking about kid-friendly non-fiction writing techniques with an enthusiastic group of museum educators.

Today, Corinne Rose, Manager of Education at MoCP, and I are going to start working on curriculum for an overlooked and incredibly important group of Dorothea's photos: the Japanese American internment.

Children of the Moshida family, Hayward, CA. 1942 These children are waiting for an evacuation bus with the rest of their family. The tags are poignant: they are no longer a name, but a number. I also am always struck by the small packet clutched in the girl's left hand. It's a sandwich, wrapped in wax paper, given to her by a woman from the local church.

Children of the Moshida family, Hayward, CA. 1942 These children are waiting for an evacuation bus with the rest of their family. The tags are poignant: they are no longer a name, but a number. I also am always struck by the small packet clutched in the girl's left hand. It's a sandwich, wrapped in wax paper, given to her by a woman from the local church.

Vermont College: Early on in the residency, we schedule a time to meet with each of our students from the previous semester. I'm taking this coming semester off, so I've scheduled phone calls with my students today. These calls are a wonderful time to look at our work together, and really notice how much improvement there's been in the student's writing. A good time for last minute encouragements, exhortations, and questions! I have had a wonderful, hardworking group of students to turn over to their next semester advisors.


Radio interview tips

In the last few weeks I've done 18 or 20 radio interviews, everything from a tiny solar-powered NPR affiliate to world-wide Voice of America. I thought I'd share some tips for doing a compelling radio interview.

Some interviews are done with a studio-to-studio connection where you go into a local radio station. Some are done with the interviewer calling you on a land line. The interview can be live, or taped. They can be at crazy hours. I did one last week at 10 pm for a nighttime talk show, and did several at the crack of dawn for morning shows.

It quickly became obvious how hard these interviewers work. They are doing this day after day, week after week. They book time in their studio, and will call you on time to do the interview. Be sitting at your desk with a landline, ready to answer their questions.

I put the interviews in my Google calendar, and set up a half hour reminder to hit my email, and a ding to come through on my cell phone ten minutes before the interview, in case I was deep in my writing and needed to come out. This gets a little more tricky if you are traveling and jumping time zones. Make sure your calendar is set to alert you in the right time zone.

Notice how long you are booked for. Are they calling you for ten minutes? Or have they scheduled half an hour? The longer the time, the more complex your answers can be.

The support staff really varies for these shows. I sat on a corner couch one day at KQED and listened to two producers arranging interviews for the next day for one show. They were asking smart, informed questions and taking rapid fire notes for the host the next day. I'm sure he does plenty of prep, but with their help, he was going to be very smart and informed.

Others interviewers don't have that kind of support. And frankly, a few aren't that well prepared. I had one guy tell me he loved the book, and so did someone else who swiped it off his desk, and by the way what was the title again? Be ready to punt.  You might have to basically interview yourself.

Every interviewer will have different interests. Some wanted to know about Dorothea's life, her challenges. Others were more focused on her photography.

By the time the book comes out, it's been awhile since you wrote it. Can you still answer detailed questions about the book, or about writing it? Reread your book before you do the interviews so it's fresh in your mind. I like to have it next to me on the desk while I'm talking. I'm lousy at remembering dates, so I made a crib sheet of important dates in Dorothea's life. I keep it tucked into the front of the book, and put it on top when I am being interviewed.

Turn off your cell phone. All the way off. You don't want it doing a crazy buzz dance in your pocket as someone tries to get hold of you. Don't wear anything that makes lots of shurring noises while you talk.

Have a glass of water with you. It's nerve-wracking to try to suppress a coughing fit during a live interview.

At the end of the interview, they'll say thank you, you say thanks for having me, and they hang up. It seems abrupt, but they have another job ahead of them, editing the material. You're done till the next one.

Have a good time, and give every interview your best shot. Some interviewers will do a fantastic write-up in a blog post, and many of the interviews will be podcasted. Your words of wisdom are going to be around for a long time.

KPCC: http://www.scpr.org/programs/take-two/2013/12/24/35253/migrant-mother-and-beyond-dorothea-lange-s-lifetim/?slide=14

Voice of America: http://www.voanews.com/content/photographer-captured-iconic-depression-era-moments/1818778.html

Specific Gravity: http://specific-gravity.blogspot.com/2014/01/dorothea-lange-if-only-she-had-instagram.html

 

Road Trip part two

My seatmate was pretty unflappable.

My seatmate was pretty unflappable.

The Road Trip became the Classic Cross-Country Car Road Trip. Will and Han's household goods were packed into boxes, and the next day we took off, figuring on two long days between Minneapolis and Atlanta.

But the second day the weather really changed. We loved how it was getting warmer and warmer the further south we drove. Then it was suddenly incredibly rainy and windy and dark blue clouds hung low on the horizon, piling over and over themselves, chasing towards us. We were too naive to realize: we were in Indiana, right in the middle of a bunch of killer tornadoes. A semi a mile ahead of us on the freeway was flipped across the road by a hearty gust of wind, bringing traffic to a standstill. Amazingly, no one was hurt. But by the end of the day, we were road-weary warriors.

A last minute call to Robin Smith and Dean Schneider saved us. We pulled into their Nashville driveway in a pouring rain, and Robin came out of the house with a huge umbrella and escorted us in. We were fed pie, had  lovely chat about books, and were tucked into cozy beds. Hot coffee in the morning, last slices of pie, and off we went.

Robin and Lila have an early morning conversation.

Robin and Lila have an early morning conversation.

Road Trip part one: checking out the archives at UM

My road trip was fantastic! Not without difficult parts, but so amazing. I loved speaking at the WISE Women event in the Appoquinimink School District in Delaware. Great kids, parents, teachers, and librarians.

With Lisa Von Drasek down in the archives.

With Lisa Von Drasek down in the archives.

In Minneapolis I met with Lisa Von Drasek, Curator of the Children's Literature Research Collections at University of Minnesota. it is truly amazing what they have in their carefully temperature controlled archives. Down, down, down into the depths we went, where it is easier to control temperature and humidity.

Check out those shelves as they stretch behind us. they go on and on, and all the way up to the ceiling.

Lisa also showed me the pages from some original art work in their collection. Recognize these? 

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Tiger by the Tail

Usually my writerly life is pretty quiet. I get up, exercise, sit down at my desk, push away distractions, and get to work. Those sweat pants I work out? Yep, wear them at my desk. But this next two weeks, I am doing a four or five part juggling act, which challenging,  but incredibly fun.

Tonight I'm keynoting a wonderful evening in the Appoquinimink School District in Deleware. WISE Women: Women in Science and Engineering. You're wondering why me? Because. The radient hot core of science and engineering is creativity, which kids lose sight of as they are filled with statistics and math and formulas. All of which they need to know, but that hot moldten core has to stay burning hot. Especially the girls lose heart in the process of holding on to their science and engineering dreams. I'm going to do my best to throw shovelfuls of hot burning coals their way.

On to Minnesota where I'll interview a Vietnam vet for my upcoming book. He served in the early sixties, when, as a country, we were convinced we needed to stop Communism from spreading around the world. I'll also hang out with Lisa Von Drasek  at the Kerlan Collection... can't wait.

Then Road Trip! I'm jumping in the car with my son, daughter-in-law and granddaughter, as they move from Minnieapolis to Atlanta. This is right up there on my Grandmother Contract: love 'em, do anything you can to help.

 

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Meanwhile, a few days ago Dorothea Lange: Grab a Hunk of Lightning hit the bookstores, and I've started a very cool run of radio interviews. Minimum to do these is a landline (trickier than you might think while on the road), or a studio visit, either patched together station-to-station, or in person. I'll post a few of these soon.

Luckily, I sleep very well in hotel rooms. I find them peaceful and empty of distractions. If I'm lucky, I'll get some transcribing done on the interview, or even a little writing.

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Hot off the press

Ever wonder what happens to your manuscript once the editor has torn it from your hands, saying "sorry, no more changes," muttering something about schedules and deadlines and how you are well past yours?  

Yolanda Cazares, the production coordinator for Dorothea Lange: Grab a Hunk of Lightning, was able to go on press this summer to ensure our book came out as beautifully as we envisioned.

Check out these cool images of the process: 

http://www.chroniclebooks.com/blog/2013/10/18/on-press-check-for-dorothea-lange-grab-a-hunk-of-lightning/ 

Hidden Gem of a Dorothea Lange Collection

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For several years I'd heard that there was a great collection of Dorothea Lange images at the New York Public Library and I finally decided to go take a look.  

Past the lions, up the huge marble steps, and through some impressive locked doors to get to the collection. Thankfully once the doors were swung open, and boxes of the collection laid out on my table, no white gloves required for looking through the images.

I was totally blown away by the collection. Dorothea sent her government photographs when she worked for the F.S.A. in to Roy Stryker in Washington DC. At one point it looked like the collection might be disbanded, so as a preemptive move Stryker donated armfuls of his best photographs to the New York Public Library. They have F.S.A. images that the Library of Congress doesn't have.

California, 1936. Sorry about the Mylar reflection.   

California, 1936. Sorry about the Mylar reflection.   

There are also beautiful sets of images from her magazine work, and from her foreign travels.

Dorothea had a love of a beautiful print, and these are astonishingly gorgeous prints. Rich, luminous, with incredible tones. And on the back of many of the images are her field notes. 

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My thanks to curator Stephen Pinson, director, and Elizabeth Cronin, assistant curator, for an amazing afternoon.

 

 

 

Vermont College

I've just returned home from Vermont College of Fine Arts where I teach in the Writing for Children and Young Adults. We had a fantastic residency. It's so intense, it's like a writing boot camp. We go from early morning until way after dinner with lectures and readings and group workshops and individual meetings between students and advisers.
 This time I did yoga (classes almost every day) and I managed to get there (7 am!) six or seven times, so I felt like I had a yoga retreat as well. But sleep? Not so much.

Kathi Appelt and I did back to back lectures. I led off with writing picture book biographies, discussing the brilliant craft moves in four of my favorite picture book bios. I couldn't resist talking about the dance between images and text, and how to save "scrap" for the upcoming illustrator while researching. I unplugged my PowerPoint and Kathi plugged in, rolling with her lecture on autobiography and memoir, and how facts and feelings play into them. It was a great saturation in the whole genre with both of us coming at it from different angles. Kathi is pure inspiration.

Residency is a time of taking in more than you ever thought you could, a bittersweet time of letting go of old teacher-student relationships and starting new ones. It's a time of risk-taking, and falling or leaping off cliffs and flying, as the graduating class of Wingbuilders can attest.

Here are the last couple students making it to a reading, just at that moment when it is getting dark but you can still take a photograph. And yeah, I was the very last one there, or I couldn't have taken this shot!



The Supreme Court Rulings: Day of Sorrow, Day of Joy

I'm thrilled with the supreme court ruling against DOMA. This is a tide that can't be stopped.

Last fall my son, living in Minnesota, applied for a job at a university in the south. They were a little worried about how someone from the north would do in the south. At a round table with all the faculty, one young prof. asked him what he liked about Atlanta. "Well," my son said, "you have some good gay rights going here."

"Is that the kind of thing you're into?" said the young prof.

The head of the committee's hand shot out. "You can't ask that!" Because, of course, its strictly against the law to ask about sexual orientation.

My son was hired, and took the job. He moves to Atlanta in a few months, with his wife and new baby.

But. My joy is tempered by the striking down of the heart of the Voting Rights Act. This is such a huge, huge loss for our country.

We had a movement, a wonderful, committed leader, a group of (mostly) young people willing to put their liberty, even their lives at risk.  We had a Congress willing to work together. The reverberations of this will run through our politics for so long. Five to four. So close.

Here's congressman John Lewis, who was tear-gassed and clubbed at the foot of the Edmund Pettus Bridge in Selma, Alabama while fighting for the right to vote in 1965:


And President Johnson, 1965. Imagine the courage it took for this Southern politician to push this legislation through.

In love with Pantone 8005

More digital proofs arrived in the mail this week. First came all of the pages, every beautiful image. There's something breathtaking about seeing them full-size done by the printer. We're still adjusting density, tonal range, and contrast on a couple of the images, and catching places that need to be spotted. Sometimes there is a speck of dust on the negative, or a scratch, and when you blow up the photo, it suddenly is very apparent.

And then the cover. Incredible. This is where the Pantone 8005 comes in: Besides the black and gray, the designer added in the 8005. It's gold. Beautiful, shimmering gold. The magic that makes the whole cover just ring. I hope you can see it in the photo here. The big patch of 8005 on the right: the endpapers. Incredibly rich and beautiful.

Yolanda said it best:"Jacket, case and endsheet proofs are here and they look oh so beautiful, strong and sweet."

Here's the corner of my writing room right now.


Working with the publisher to get the images just right

Dorothea Lange is in the final prepress stages. Caitlin Kirkpatrick at Chronicle Books sent me one huge page of what the printer is coming up with, using the paper and ink we'll have for the book. A few of the images were too dark, so the next day I went in to Chronicle -- the joy of having a publisher a short BART ride away!

Sheet of pages for color correction
I worked with the production coordinator, Yolanda Cazares, and the editorial assistant, Caitlin Kirkpatrick, on  figuring out the best way to show Dorothea's photos. We were going to do duotone, but there were just not enough mid-tones, so Chronicle is doing tritone! Do you know how gorgeous this will be? 


Yolanda Cazares and Caitlin Kirkpatrick in the worlds best-ever, walk-in light box
Yolanda is using two blacks and a third color to add the tonal range they want. In her words, "not sepia, but a touch of gold." See how hard it is to talk about color using words? After the printer lays down the ink, the whole thing gets a very light coating of varnish, which adds to the warmth of the image.


This is the next best thing to holding an actual, archival print in your hands.

Courage, kids, and Selma



I'm fascinated by courageous people -- probably because I do not have a courageous bone in my body. I'm a total chicken. I especially don't like to get hurt, so people who are willing to put themselves on the line for something they believe in have my heartfelt admiration. When I've asked people how they found the bravery to do something -- especially if it went on for awhile -- they don't consider themselves courageous. As Lynda Lowery said of being a jailed and beaten young teen during the protests and march for the vote in 1965: "I was not brave. I was not courageous. I was determined. That's how I got to Montgomery."

I was just in Selma for the annual Bridge Crossing Jubilee, along with Vice-President Joe Biden, Representative John Lewis, and some of the determined, courageous people who changed our national voting laws.Which was a crucial part of changing the whole discourse on civil rights in our country.

48 years ago, an amazing group of children and teens showed unbelievable courage. And here they are today, still speaking up. My heros.

Selma Freedom Fighters and Jubilee to Commemorate Voting Rights Act bravery

I've spent an amazing weekend in Selma, Alabama at the Jubilee. 48 years ago,kids and young adults joined the adults in Selma to fight for the right to vote. Lead by Martin Luther King, they pledged to be non-violent. They marched, were jailed, and some were beaten. They stuck to the principles of non-violence. Four years ago for my book I interviewed several of these now-grown Freedom Fighters. I came back this weekend to speak at the National Park Service Interpretive Center and to join in the commemorative march across the Pettus Bridge.


My favorite photo of the weekend: with four who marched as kids: Charles Mauldin, Lynda Lowry, Chief Henry Allen, and Joanne Bland. Honored to be with them!



At the National Park Service Interpretive Center.

The next morning I arrived early at the center, just before a huge swarm of law enforcement officers needed to make sure the area was safe for the Vice President. We were locked into our building, as we were right across the street from the bridge. It was fascinating to watch them. My favorite was the dogs and their trainers. They are the cream of the crop. Most dogs can smell three kinds of explosives: these dogs are trained (and constantly retrained) to sniff out fifteen. They checked and rechecked the area, doing a last sniffing job across every speck of the bridge.

Once the area was cleaned, we were allowed out to stand quietly in front of the building. But before the Vice President and Representative John Lewis came roaring over the bridge towards us in a cavalcade of vehicles with flashing blue and red lights to give their talks, we had to go back inside.
The secret service man (yep, he was wearing a trench coat) let us go upstairs to watch. He had to radio for permission first, and I suppose also to let the snipers on the roof across from us know that the faces suddenly appearing in the deserted upstairs were okay.

Wonderful but too short speeches by Attorney General Eric Holder, Ryan Haygood, John Lewis and Joe Biden. They started up the bridge, and the rest of us were soon allowed to go surging after them.

A moment of prayer on the bridge.

Best shot I couldn't take: we were asked at the prayer to remember those who had fought for justice, now passed away. An impeccably dressed, older man took off his hat and held it to his chest, tears sliding down his cheeks. He was all shades of brown: deep brown hat, mahogany face, tweedy brown suit, and behind him the sun was bursting through the clouds. Such a beautiful moment, but it was his, not mine.

Thanks to Theresa Lorraine Hall, ranger at the National Park Service.

My heartfelt thanks to all who marched to make this country live up to our ideals.

Extraordinary School

 I just had the most amazing school visit at Hamlin School in San Francisco. It's an all girls' school, begun by Sara Dix Hamlin in 1896. The school is in an old mansion full of amazing rooms. That built-in cabinet in the upper left corner of my collage is part of the school secretary's room! Full-on fake bamboo ceiling, too. And the horse? A huge student mural, hanging right in the main hall.

 The Head, Wanda Holland Greene, is incredible. When she was six years old, her father and mother decided she should be one of several children to integrate a school in the New York. Everyday she climbed on a bus and went to an all-white, Jewish neighborhood from her home in Brooklyn. She's energetic, direct, and determined to pass on to the girls the values of being an engaged citizen.

Ms. Greene wanted me to especially talk about Marching for Freedom. Here's what the girls were studying when I came: sixth graders were discussing freedom and personal rights, and the challenges of migrant farm worker families. Seventh grade: social class and identity, and will soon discuss Jim Crow era. Eighth graders: about to do a long unit on race and identity, and look at Nazi Germany and the Holocaust.

These students will have such a rich understanding of history and social justice.

Dorothea Lange, National Hispanic Heritage Month

National Hispanic Heritage Month (Sept. 15 - Oct. 15) comes on us so fast at the beginning of the school year that sometimes it doesn't get much attention. I just found some incredible photographs by Dorothea Lange in the California fields of the migratory Mexican farm workers.


Mexican picking melons in the Imperial Valley, California

 Children of migratory Mexican field workers. The older one helps tie carrots in the field. Coachella Valley, California. Feb. 1937

Migratory Mexican field worker's home on the edge of a frozen pea field. Imperial Valley, California
(If you look closely, you can see a girl peeking out of the doorway.)

Migratory Mexican field worker's home, March, 1937. Dorothea Lange

Lange also photographed workers arriving as part of the Braceros Program. We called them "guest workers," they called themselves enganchados, the "hooked ones." Here's more about the controversial Bracero Program.

First Braceros, 1942. Dorothea Lange

Want to teach your students about what it was like to be a child working alongside your parents in the California fields? Here's a great lesson plan, Children in the Fields:, by Theresa Chaides at Marquez Charter Elementary School.