Stories for You | Los Angeles Public Library
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Stories for You

Tuesday, October 21, 2008
Episode Summary
Irene Smalls reads stories from her writings.

Participant(s) Bio
"As a former Miss Black New York State, Young Ambassador to Europe, and a student activist, I have had lots of jobs. But the job I really like is writing children's books. I write very simple stories about my children, my childhood. I grew up in Harlem in the 1950's. Back then, Harlem was a small, southern black community that just happened to be in the North. The dialect, the foods, the mores and values were Southern. Harlem was a ghetto of softness and strength, a community of open doors and open hearts that loved its children."

Author and storyteller Irene Smalls says that she became an author in Kindergarten. Kindergarten was especially important because there were no books in her family home and no one read or told her stories. But, in Kindergarten five-year-old Smalls was taught the beauty of language through song, games, and dance. "Reading was a thing that you do that is loud and fun." When Smalls was told that she wasn't a good writer in junior high, high school, and college she always remembered the magic of Kindergarten. Years later when she lost her job, a chance reading of a Boston Globe article about Little, Brown and Company lead Smalls to create her first story and to pursue publication.

Well, Little, Brown said "yes" and the rest is history. Irene Smalls is the author of several books and she travels the country sharing her melee of fun and literacy. She has performed at the White House Easter Egg Hunt in Washington, D.C. and was recently honored by the Boston Celtics. Smalls writes very simple, beautiful stories. She writes about her life, her children, and the world she sees at "the tip of her nose." Her first children's book, Irene and the Big Fine Nickel, captures fond memories of her childhood in Harlem, New York, circa 1955. Jonathan and his Mommy is a love song for her son, Jonathan. Dawn and the Round To-it, a story of her daughter. Kevin and His Dad is a love song for, Kevin Logan, her nephew. Irene Smalls graduated from Cornell University with a B.A. in Black Studies and from New York University with an M.B.A. She has three children. Ms. Smalls currently lives in Boston, Massachusetts. Smalls says, "...the hard part of writing children's books is that you have to tell the truth and the easy part of writing children's books is that you have to tell the truth."