Cover of An American Story

The New York Times bestselling and award-winning author Kwame Alexander teamed up with acclaimed Triangle artist and sculpturist Dare Coulter to create an intriguing new book for young readers titled An American Story.

The author and artist will kick off a nine-city national book tour on Thursday when they visit Raleigh’s Quail Ridge Books. On Friday, the creative duo will make a stop at Northside Elementary School in Chapel Hill, and then return to Raleigh to visit Moncure School. 

Published by Little, Brown Books for Young Readers, An American Story explains American slavery through the voice of a teacher who is struggling to help her students understand its place in history, according to a Tuesday morning press release.

An American Story is told with lyrical writing and stunning illustrations that forms a “powerful, multilayered narrative,” according to the release.

An American Story takes its readers on a journey that begins with “fireside tales in an African village, through the middle passage across the Atlantic and the backbreaking work in the fields of the South to eventual freedom. 

“I wrote this book after a rather difficult parent-teacher conference back in my daughter’s fourth grade school year,” Alexander said in the release. “An American Story is for all teachers and parents trying to find their voices, trying to share a lesson that we all find so difficult to discuss. It is a story for readers of all ages — a story of a people’s struggle, strength, horror and hope that needs to be told and understood by all of us.”  

The book debuted Tuesday to glowing reviews from Booklist, Kirkus, Horn Book, School Library Journal, and PublishersWeekly.

An Amazon book review lauded An American Story as “a powerful picture book that tells the story of American slavery through the voice of a teacher struggling to help her students understand its harrowing history.”

Booklist described the picture book as “beautifully crafted and honest,” while Kirkus called it “stunning.” 

Kwame Alexander is no stranger in literary circles. He is a poet, educator, publisher, and a best- selling author of 37 books, including the Caldecott Medal and Newbery Honor-winning picture book The Undefeated, illustrated by acclaimed artists Kadir Nelson, and the Newbery medal-winning novel, The Crossover that’s set to become a TV series on Disney. Alexander, a regular contributor to NPR’s “Morning Edition,” also co-authored Becoming Muhammad Ali with James Patterson.

Coulter, a native of Raleigh, is an award-winning artist, muralist, and sculptor whose primary artistic objective is to create positive imagery of Black people and families. She is Raleigh’s inaugural artist-in-residence and aims to install sculptures around the world that depict Black joy.

An alumna of NC State’s College of Design, and Meredith College’s art program, Coulter was recently commissioned by the University of North Carolina -Wilmington to create a monument celebrating Black lives.

“I want there to be these big assemblies of beautiful, hopeful kids reading this book, to whom we can say, ‘Yes, this did happen, yes, it is terrible; but the way forward is acknowledgement and understanding,’” Coulter said in the release about her role of illustrating An American Story.

“I want readers to walk away feeling resilient,” she added.


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Follow Durham Staff Writer Thomasi McDonald on Twitter or send an email to tmcdonald@indyweek.com. Comment on this story at backtalk@indyweek.com