When I first saw THE UNSUNG HERO OF BIRDSONG, USA on readbrightly.com, I knew I had to feature it. It’s a beautiful story about friendship, redemption, and justice by Brenda Woods, a Coretta Scott King Honor-winning author.
On Gabriel’s twelfth birthday, he gets a new bike–and is so excited that he accidentally rides it right into the path of a car. Fortunately, a Black man named Meriwether pushes him out of the way just in time, and fixes his damaged bike. As a thank you, Gabriel gets him a job at his dad’s auto shop. Gabriel’s dad hires him with some hesitation, however, anticipating trouble with the other mechanic, who makes no secret of his racist opinions.
Gabriel and Meriwether become friends, and Gabriel learns that Meriwether drove a tank in the Army’s all-Black 761st Tank Battalion in WWII. Meriwether is proud of his service, but has to keep it a secret because talking about it could be dangerous. Sadly, danger finds Meriwether, anyway, when his family receives a frightening threat. The South being the way it is, there’s no guarantee that the police will help–and Gabriel doesn’t know what will happen if Meriwether feels forced to take the law into his own hands.
According to your website bio, you were stung by a nest of hornets at the age of three. How did this come about, and what do you remember about it?
I remember it vividly as it was pretty traumatic. We were living in Ohio and had gone to visit friends who lived in a rural area. I trailed behind my older brother and another boy about his age into the woods. My brother and the other kid found a hornet’s nest and decided to disturb it by throwing rocks. The last thing my brother said to me was, “RUN!” Of course, my brother and the other boy out ran me and made it to the house but the hornets overtook me. The estimate at the hospital was 75 to 100 stings. For many months after the attack anything that flew, even a fly, would terrify me. I can remember having nightmares where it was happening all over again. I’ve been told I was lucky to survive.
Wow! What a terrifying experience. In THE UNSUNG HERO OF BIRDSONG, USA, I love the friendship that buds between Gabriel and Meriwether. What about their relationship mattered most to you while writing it?
What mattered most was that the friendship be plausible…that people would believe that this was a genuine relationship that transcended age and skin color. I also wanted the friendship to be mutually beneficial…symbiotic…as most good friendships are. I hope I succeeded.
You definitely have. You’ve also said, “The beauty of our language cannot be dismissed.” What about language do you find most beautiful and why?
What I find most beautiful about language is its ability to have a sometimes astounding and intoxicating effect. A beautifully written paragraph or novel has the ability to draw us back to it to read it again and again in much the same way a beautiful or ingenious painting or photograph forces us to stare, ponder and take pleasure. And…each time we discover something different…more depth, a new dimension…and receive another dose of beauty.
Indeed. What are some of your current projects?
I am currently working on a middle grade novel set in 1965. Also, I always have a painting or collage in progress.
For other books by Brenda Woods, click here.
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