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For Run Away Home
By Patricia C. McKissack

 

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Patricia Mckissack was born Patricia L’Ann Carwell on August 9, 1944, in Smyrna, Tennessee, near Nashville. She lived in Nashville until she was three years old and then she and her family moved to St. Louis, Missouri.

McKissack says she “holds dual citizenship in both Missouri and Tennessee.” When Patricia was ten years old, her parents divorced and she moved back to Nashville with her mother, her brother Nolan, and her sister Sarah Frances. She visited her father in St. Louis in the summer.

Patricia grew up listening to her grandparents tell stories and she became an avid reader. After she became a writer, she used events and stories from her childhood to create books for children. She started writing in the third grade and has always enjoyed reading and writing.

McKissack says that her grandfather taught through storytelling, “He preserved our family history, and he passed that on to me.” Patricia’s grandfather could not read, but he knew how important it was. He provided his family with reading materials and he also loved his Bible. He memorized scripture verses and also quoted the Bible a lot.

Patricia and her future husband, Fredrick McKissack grew up in the same neighborhood and knew each other for most of their lives. They lived, “In the same town, where every family knew every other family,” McKissack said, “but he was five years older, and you just didn’t date boys who were five years older than you. When I was fifteen and he was twenty, that just would have been forbidden.”

Patricia and Fredrick grew up in an era of violent change. Sit-ins and demonstrations by Southern blacks were finally rocking segregationist attitudes. Also, it was the beginning of integrations. Patricia proudly remembers that, “Our generation was the first to do it.”

When Patricia was a child, she attended a segregated school with forty children in a classroom and not very many books. However, she still loved school. Patricia recalls, “When Fredrick and I were growing up, the Nashville Public Library was never segregated. It was one of the few places in Nashville that wasn’t. We went in and out of it. We had respect for books because the librarian respected us. We could go right in the front door. That was quite a thing to be able to do in the South, to go into a Carnegie Library, as ours was, and use the books. So, that was where the love affair with books started. Add all of that to my grandfather’s telling tales, my reading to him, and his rich language – all of those things made words very special to me.”

Fred joined the Marines and was away for several years, but when he returned he and Patricia attended college at the same time. They both graduated from Tennessee State University in Nashville in 1964. Patricia received her Bachelor of Arts degree in English.

The McKissacks were brought together by their like-minded views and the experiences they shared during the Civil Rights Movement. They were married on December 12, 1965. “All of our friends said it wouldn’t last six months. They said it was ridiculous,” Patricia remembered, “but we just knew.”

When Patricia and Frederick were first married, Patricia went on to receive a Master’s degree from Webster University. Then she taught English at the junior high level and she wrote when she had the time. After teaching for nine years, she became an editor for Concordia Publishing. In the early 1980’s, the McKissacks both faced turning points in their careers. Since that time, Patricia and Fredrick have joined forces and put their talents together. Most of the books they write together are biographies and nonfiction books on the history of African Americans. Fredrick usually does the research and Patricia puts the information together. She also writes fiction on her own. Patricia has even written a book with her son Fredrick Jr.

McKissack says she “ is not a black writer, but rather a writer who happens to be black – I write for children of all races.”


Awards
Patricia McKissack has received many awards including:

  • Christian Educators Association, 1984, It's the Truth Christopher
  • Caldecott Honor Award, 1989, Mirandy and Brother Wind
  • Parents' Choice Award, 1989, Nettie Jo's Friends
  • Coretta Scott King Award, 1990, A Long Hard Journey: The Story of the Pullman Porter
  • Newbery Honor Award, 1993, The Dark Thirty: Southern Tales of the Supernatural
  • Coretta Scott King Award, 1993, The Dark Thirty: Southern Tales of the Supernatural
  • Coretta Scott King Honor Award, 1993, Sojourner Truth: Ain't I a Woman?
  • Boston Globe-Horn Book Award, 1993, Sojourner Truth: Ain't I a Woman?
  • Coretta Scott King Honor Award, 1994, Black Diamond: The Story of the Negro Baseball Leagues
  • Coretta Scott King Award, 1995, Christmas in the Big House, Christmas in the Quarters
  • Coretta Scott King Honor Award, 1997, Rebels Against Slavery: American Slave Revolts
  • National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, 1999, Let My People Go
  • Coretta Scott King Honor Award, 2000, Black Hands, White Sails: The Story of African American Whalers

Works Cited

Other Mckissack Sources
Meet the Authors and Illustrators
http://www.childrenslit.com/f_mckissack.html

The Children's Literature Web Guide
http://www.ucalgary.ca/~dkbrown/k6/mckissack.html

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Comments: L. Perrenoud at perrenll@uwec.edu
Page Last Updated October 24, 2003