Expanding your knowledge in the African American Experience



Sandra Belton, author of the popular Ernestine and Amanda

Sandra Belton, author of the popular Ernestine and Amanda

Nationwide (BlackNews.com) — Sandra Belton, author of the popular Ernestine and Amanda series about two African-American girls growing up in the 50’s and 60’s, wants to hear what young readers have to say.

In the first post of her new blog, Sandra’s Write Place, she asks her readers, “If you could talk to Ernestine or Amanda which one would you choose and what would you say?”

“In creating a community of readers and writers, which I very much want to do,” Belton says. “I want to know what young people today know about the Civil Rights era and might say to kids their age who grew up during those times,” Belton says.

Readers who respond will have the opportunity to be published on the blog and to receive an autographed copy of the latest Ernestine and Amanda book, Goodbye. Hello…, which tells of an unexpected event that befalls the two girls in their middle school years and triggers the question that has been asked throughout the Ernestine and Amanda series: “Can Ernestine and Amanda ever be friends?”

The two girls are very different, and dislike each other from the beginning of the series, even though circumstances keep bringing them back together. Musically gifted but lacking somewhat in self-confidence, Ernestine thinks Amanda is stuck up. Amanda, outwardly more confident but with family problems, thinks Ernestine is too fat. As the series progresses, the two girls grow from third graders to teenagers, encountering adventures and challenges along the way: musical competitions, summer camp, family separation, first loves.

A companion website, www.ernestineandamanda.com, allows readers to learn more about the people and events mentioned in the series – historical figures and occurrences that characterize and help define their times. These include, for example, not only well known figures from American history like Rosa Parks, Langston Hughes, Duke Ellington and Harriet Tubman but lesser known African American luminaries like classical pianist Philippa Duke Schuyler, and choreographer Katherine Dunham.

Belton began the series with the first book, Ernestine and Amanda, published by Simon and Shuster in 1996, because, as she says in her blog,

“Ernestine and Amanda’s stories tell ones I wish I had been able to read when I was growing up – stories about black girls like me.”

“My friends and I longed to read about kids who looked like us and talked like we did. Kids whose neighborhoods were similar to ours and whose families cared and talked about the same kind of things at the dinner table that we did. Kids who went to the same kind of schools we went to.”

Of the series, Publisher’s Weekly has said, “Lots of texture and perceptive writing make this a winner.”

“Belton writes very well,” adds Booklist, “not only beautifully capturing the voices of her characters but also bringing the two feuding girls to the brink of friendship in a believable, endearing fashion.”

Belton will also share stories from her own life as the blog develops, hoping to lend support to aspiring young writers. She is also thinking about sharing as yet unpublished stories about other characters from or connected to the series, one being Jazz, who is Ernestine’s sister.

“I am very excited to hear from my readers and looking forward to reading their thoughts and ideas,” Belton says. “It is critical for each of us to gain a strengthened understanding of who we are, who we were, and who we can become. All the bridges we build between our generations can help us do that.”

Young writers should send their submissions directly to Sandra Belton at her blog, http://sandrabeltonbooks.blogspot.com

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