It’s been 25 years since we’ve first taken the trip with Kenneth and his family to visit his grandmother in Birmingham, Alabama.
The Watsons Go to Birmingham–1963 was first published in 1995, author Christopher Paul Curtis was working at the Flint Fisher Body plant at the time, and in between breaks he began writing a story set in the 60s about a ten-year-old Black boy who was simply trying to survive middle school and his older brother Byron.
While Kenneth is trying to navigate all the challenges that come along with being the unpopular kid in school he soon finds out that he is leaving Flint, Michigan to head south to visit his grandmother.
Heading south to visit a grandparent would cheer most kids up (a cool road trip), but the book is set in the 60s and the south was segregated during that time.
The Watsons Go to Birmingham–1963 showcases what segregation looked and felt like through the eyes of a young Black child trying to make sense of it all. Curtis did an amazing job of showcasing the Black family and giving each character their own identity and personality.
I felt like I knew each character in the book, I had experiences and events that happened in my own life as a millennial that connected to a book that takes place in the 60s. Each family member felt familiar, the book read like I was being invited over for dinner at the Waston’s home and they allowed me to stay awhile.
I got the chance to talk to Christopher about his writing journey and what it means to have a book on shelves for 25 years. We took a deep dive into his writing process, what he hopes readers gain from this story, and he gave some great advice for young and new writers.
Listen to my full interview with Christopher Paul Curtis below…
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