Water is Life: A Deep Dive Interview with Carole Lindstrom On Her Upcoming Dual Biography
I grew up not far from Lake Michigan, so it did not seem strange to me that a lake could stretch so far that it resembled an ocean. Now I live close beside it at a time when abundant fresh water is much on the minds of people everywhere. And I think that no picture book author has done more to talk of water, Water Rights, and the Indigenous activists fighting for it, more than author Carole Lindstrom. No doubt you remember her work on the Caldecott Award winning title We Are Water Protectors. That book took much of its inspiration from the members of the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe who fought against the Dakota Access Pipeline. Now she returns to us with the true story of Grandma Josephine and her great-niece, Autumn Peltier. If you’re unfamiliar with them, Josephine Mandamin or “Grandma Josephine” was a respected Anishinaabe elder from Canada who was an internationally recognized Water Rights and Indigenous activist. Her niece Autumn would go on to become the youngest Chief Water Commissioner for the Anishinabek Nation.
Today, Carole herself joins us to discuss Autumn Peltier, Water Warrior (out everywhere September 19th):
Betsy Bird: Carole! It’s so lovely to get a chance to talk to you about AUTUMN PELTIER, WATER WARRIOR. So let’s just start at the very beginning. First and foremost, how did you personally first hear about the work of Josephine Mandamin and Autumn Peltier?
Carole Lindstrom: When I was doing research for WE ARE WATER PROTECTORS I learned about Grandmother Josephine and her great niece, Autumn Peltier and all they were doing to protect the water. I knew after learning about these important Anishinaabekweg that I had to write a story about them.
BB: I’m always interested in that point where vague notions circulating in an author’s brain coalesce into a comprehensible story. Where did that moment happen for you? When did merely knowing about Josephine and Autumn turn into a real book?
CL: I just know that when I read about people and things that are doing big things and aren’t recognized for it – that there’s a story there. I also knew as I began to think about the story arc and what the actual story would be, when I realized that it must be told through the viewpoint of nibi (water) that it was a story.
BB: There are so many different ways to write a biography for kids. You can take just a slice of a subject’s life or encompass it entirely. You had the extra added challenge of having two different biographical subjects. How did you prefer to tackle the material? And was it hard working two people’s stories into a single book?
CL: I knew that Grandmother Josephine and Autumn’s story were intertwined so that necessitated a story that intertwined their lives When I came upon the idea of telling it through nibi’s viewpoint, that’s when the story began to flow, so to speak.
BB: The theme of protecting water comes up time and time again in your books for children. Could you speak a little to why this topic interests you so specifically? Why do you return to the theme of water repeatedly?
CL: For many reasons, but I feel from a spiritual place that as Anishinaabekweg we are considered the keepers of the water. It feels important to my heart and myself as a person to honor that place and I do that by telling these stories. Water is life. It is essential to us all. It is neglected and taken for granted, we can see that today in the lakes drying up in 2023. These are all warning signs and nibi could not be any louder in it’s cries for needing care and nurturance.
BB: Tell us about some of the choices you made in writing this book. Were there things you initially hoped to include but that had to be cut?
CL: No, there was not anything that I cut when writing the story of Autumn. My writing style is to keep words to a minimum and let the illustrators work shine through the details. Children are also brilliant with inferences, so I find making the best word choices to pack the most punch also to be very helpful.
BB: This book is illustrated by Bridget George. Were you aware of Bridget’s work before this book? What are your thoughts on the final product?
CL: Yes, I was aware of Bridget’s brilliance before the book. I am very fortunate that I have a large say in the illustrators of the stories that I write. I am extremely grateful for this privilege and do not take it lightly. It’s very important to me, as Native woman, to uplift and bring up new voices in illustrating books for young people. Graphic design and the like would not have been something that a lot of Native students would study in school because it was not awfully long ago that these types of books were not looked at as “to the trade.” They were viewed at as more niche markets; therefore, many Native artists would have done just that with their creative talents. They would have been painters, sculptors, bead workers and the like. It is only in the last few years that Native books have found themselves on bookshelves everywhere, YAY!!!
So the publishers I work with are all very kind and gracious in offering to work with new artists to help them develop their skillset for illustrating children’s books. I have been so very honored to work with some amazing publishers which has allowed me to work with some INCREDIBLE illustrators, like Bridget.
I am blown away by the final artwork. I just love it so much and think the words and art go perfect together.
BB: Finally, what else do you have coming up next? What can we hope to see from you?
CL: I am working on a middle grade historical fiction book with Bloomsbury. I’m excited about this story. It’s based on my Metis ancestry and the Northwest Resistance.
I am also working on a YA graphic novel and several picture books in various stages of revisions.
Miigwech for having me, Betsy.
BB: Thank YOU for talking with us today!
A great deal of gratitude to Carole for answering my questions today, as well as Chantal Gersch and the folks at Macmillan for setting this up. Autumn Peltier, Water Warrior is on shelves everywhere September 19th. Look for it soon!
Filed under: Interviews
About Betsy Bird
Betsy Bird is currently the Collection Development Manager of the Evanston Public Library system and a former Materials Specialist for New York Public Library. She has served on Newbery, written for Horn Book, and has done other lovely little things that she'd love to tell you about but that she's sure you'd find more interesting to hear of in person. Her opinions are her own and do not reflect those of EPL, SLJ, or any of the other acronyms you might be able to name. Follow her on Twitter: @fuseeight.
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