New Mexico Author’s Children’s Books Draw on Black History, Family Connections

 Bks_j20March_DontCall_CMYK“Don’t Call Me Grandma” By Vaunda Micheaux Nelson
Bks_j20March_DontCall_CMYK“Don’t Call Me Grandma” By Vaunda Micheaux Nelson

The young girl who narrates Vaunda Micheaux Nelson’s children’s picture book “Don’t Call Me Grandma” loves her great-grandmother Nell.

But Nell is a stern 96-year-old. She doesn’t hug, doesn’t kiss and insists on the formal title of Grandmother.

The reader observes Nell’s active life through her grandmother’s eyes. She likes to wear a bathing suit at the beach. She eats fish and grits for breakfast. That’s right, breakfast!

Nell has fixed up her bedroom. A ballerina doll leans on a pillow in the middle of Nell’s bed. A vanity overflows with cosmetics – powder puffs, lipsticks, nail polish, wigs and many, many bottles of perfume.

Her great-granddaughter thinks Nell is a glamorous lady.

Nell also shares her memories. She remembers paying 14 cents to see a double feature at the movies. And recalls when her sour cherry pie won first prize at the church picnic, beating out May Ella’s blueberry pie.

She remembers when her best friend, a white girl, broke her heart; they couldn’t be friends anymore because Nell’s skin was brown.

Images of recalled public events are on two facing pages in scrapbook style. There’s a photo of the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. giving his “I Have a Dream” speech, blacks marching against racism and a ticket stub to an Alvin Ailey performance in Boston.

Nell may be standoffish but the young narrator isn’t. She finds a way to plant a kiss on Nell.

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SOURCE: Albuquerque Journal
David Steinberg