It’s not a coincidence that Karen English obtained such honorable recognition such as the 1999 recipient of the Coretta Scott King Honor Award for Francie, the 2005 recipient of the Jane Addams Children’s Book award and the 2005 ALA Notable Children’s Book Award for Hot Day on Abbott Avenue. Karen English was destined to leave a legacy that was clearly evident as a child.
Karen started writing at the age of 7 she even goes as far as to call it an obsession. While most children in sixth grade are playing she was writing and penned her first novel. At the time unfortunately she had never seen a person of color in children’s books, in teenage magazines or on television. She did not let this deter her though, she called her main character negro but still gave the character blonde hair and blue eyes. As early as her childhood it demonstrates the hatred she had for racial injustice and a seed was planted within her to change that.
Karen grew up as a black girl in a predominantly white neighborhood in the 1960’s in Los Angeles. Racism at this time was still at an all time high but in spite of she still was determined to pursue her calling and what she was put on this earth to do. It bothered her how people of color was perceived but she acknowledged and pursued her purpose to change that through her gift of teaching and writing. She was an elementary school teacher for 30 years and has wrote countless books some geared towards showing children of color in a more positive light. Some books even shed light on issues of race that should not be ignored. She is determined to let others know through her children’s books that people of color are just as good as people of the caucasian race. “I wanted to write something that reflects another kind of African-American experience. It seems like we have this prescribed narrative of drugs, gangs, absent fathers and poverty. That is part of our story, but we have other stories.” (Karen English)
When one thinks of a legend one of the things that come to mind is a leading light. Karen English grew up at a time when racism was prevalent. Children of color in Children’s books were non existent. Karen English left a legacy and made it possible for issues of racial injustice to be talked about through children’s books. Thanks to Karen English and many other african american legends people of color are in children’s books all over the world painted in a more positive light.
Author profile written by Daisy Copelin.