When I lived in New York, a million years ago, I used to take the train fairly regularly through Harlem, the setting for The Vanderbeekers of 141st Street. As the story unfolded I could see it happening. I could imagine the places. I wanted to crawl right inside and hang out with Vanderbeekers. Not many books have me wishing for that. I’m feeling lucky I got to ask author Karina Yan Glaser a few questions. Have a look…
Where did your love of books/storytelling/reading/writing/etc. come from?
I’ve been a reader as long as I can remember. I was the kid who brought books with her to recess and kept a book in my lap during dinner so I could sneak read while I ate. When my kids were born, I started a blog where I wrote hundreds of blog posts about being a new mom. I found out I loved telling stories, and when my second daughter started preschool I began writing The Vanderbeekers of 141st Street in a coffee shop.
What was the best part of writing The Vanderbeekers of 141st Street?
I loved revising and polishing, inserting wording or paragraphs that pulled me more and more into the story. For me, writing a novel is like putting together a puzzle. It doesn’t all come together at the first go; the full picture gradually reveals itself with time, patience, and diligence.
Your novel centers on a possible eviction from a beloved Harlem brownstone. Did you have a house in mind from your own past when you began writing or one in your current neighborhood?
The brownstone setting idea came from lots of walks around my current Harlem neighborhood. Thankfully I have a few friends who live in brownstones, so my familiarity with the buildings come from visiting and spending time in their brownstones. One day, if The Vanderbeekers of 141st Street sells a bajillion copies, I hope to move my family into a brownstone!
Both Publishers Weekly and Kirkus use the term ‘old fashioned’ (as in charming and lovely!) to describe this book. Did books you read as a child influence the tone of this work?
Definitely. I loved books like Sydney Taylor’s All-of-a-Kind Family, Eleanor Estes’s The Moffats, and Elizabeth Enright’s The Saturdays. All of those stories were about big families, and All-of-a-Kind Family and The Saturdays were set in New York City. I’m honored that reviewers saw glimpses of that sensibility in The Vanderbeekers of 141st Street!
Writing for middle grade readers can be a challenge. What about this age range/genre appeals to you?
Oh, I love everything about middle grade books. That eight-to-twelve age range was when I fell in love with reading, and I love the themes of growing up and discovery that comes during that age. The best thing about having kids who are currently seven and nine is that I can share my favorite middle grade books with them!
Who are your favorite authors?
So many! Katherine Paterson, Jason Reynolds, Ashley Bryan, Grace Lin, Linda Sue Park, Louise Erdrich, Jack Cheng, Gary Schmidt, Cynthia Voigt, Elizabeth Enright, Richard Peck, Janice Nimura, Holly M. McGhee, Jacqueline Woodson, Sydney Taylor, Joyce Sidman, Eleanor Estes, Laurie Halse Anderson, Melissa Sweet, Jacqueline Kelly, Kelly Barnhill, Ada Calhoun, Ruta Sepetys, Jeanne Birdsall… those are just some!
What is your favorite thing to do when not writing?
Reading! Hiking! Eating chocolate!
What are you working on right now?
I am finishing up illustrations for the sequel to The Vanderbeekers of 141st Street. I’m also starting my third book.
How do you prefer readers get in touch with you?
I’m reachable through most social media outlets and by email!