I was born in New York City, during an explosive time in American history, the 1960s. One day, my parents were watching the news on TV and saw black and white students being beaten for riding the bus together. When my parents saw this they knew right away that it was time for them to go back to the South and fight for civil rights for all. I was not even a year old when we moved to Atlanta, Georgia.
What I remember most about growing up in Atlanta was that our house was always full of people. During the civil rights movement, there would be people sleeping on our floor, meeting in our living room, and eating at our table. Later, when my dad ran for Congress, it was more of the same. I always had many aunts and uncles that were not related to us at all, but part of our family, nevertheless.
I went to a private school for the first couple of years of my education, one that my oldest sister, Andrea, integrated. When she graduated, she recommended that Lisa and I leave, too. It had not been a pleasant experience for her and she wanted to spare us the pain. I continued in public schools until my dad became the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations and we moved to New York again, where I finished high school at the United Nations School. Then, it was back to the South, to Duke University, for college. After that I headed to Uganda to try teaching. I loved it! I returned to New York one more time to get my master’s degree in Education at Bank Street College.
I started teaching in Atlanta public schools, and one summer I went to Washington, D.C., to work for the National Black Child Development Institute. I met the love of my life, Hilary Shelton, who impressed me with his passion for justice. I married him one year later. We have three amazing, creative, energetic sons—Caleb, Joshua, and Noah—who keep us very busy and quite entertained.
I always loved to write. I would write volumes of poetry, keep a diary, record my dreams, and write long letters, short stories, and even a television show. I wrote my first children’s book as my master’s thesis. My cousin illustrated it and I sent it out to countless publishers, and received countless rejections. I kept writing. My current work-in-progress features three amazing boys who bear a striking resemblance to my own sons.
As a first-grade teacher, I get to read a lot of children’s books and I also enjoy storytelling. I began telling stories about the civil rights movement to our students, and one day a parent, who happened to be a published author, heard me and said, "You should write this down." Of course, I already had and he soon introduced me to his agent. And that’s how I got to be a published author.