Barbara Krasner is an author, educator, and creator of The Whole Megillah blog. I have the good fortune of serving with Barbara on the Sydney Taylor Book Award Committee. Barbara is passionate about history and research — her wealth of knowledge is inspiring. I was delighted to chat with Barbara about her mostrecent book, Goldie Takes a Stand (Kar-Ben) about Golda Meir.
Barbara Bietz: In your new book Goldie Takes a Stand you focus on a specific time in Golda Meir’s youth. How did you discover Goldie’s involvement in the school book fundraising effort and why did you choose to write about this event?
Barbara Krasner: In 2010, I was attending a two-week retreat (the Carolyn P. Yoder Alumni Retreat) at the Highlights Foundation in Boyds Mills, PA and there was a weekend break between the two one-week sessions. I had a press pass to attend the annual reading of the George Washington and Moses Seixas letters of religious tolerance at the Touro Synagogue in Newport, RI, so when Week One ended, I headed up to Rhode Island. I had brought with me a book I found on the farmhouse shelves at the Highlights Foundation: My Life by Golda Meir. Nestled in my bed that night, I read — and discovered that Golda had lived in Milwaukee when she first arrived in America. Over the course of two pages, she described how she formed this society of her friends to raise money for kids who couldn’t afford their textbooks. I loved this anecdote, because she’d only been in the fourth grade and already she’d become a macher.
BB: During your research process, what was the most unexpected thing you discovered about Golda Meir?
BK: Aside from kids having to buy their own books, I think the most surprising thing was that this fundraiser was the first time she gave a public speech, and as much as she tried, she had to speak from her heart. She never wrote down a speech again.
BB: Did you face any challenges in the research process?
BK: I went down a few bunny trails in Milwaukee before finding an archivist at Jewish Museum Milwaukee who was able to find a newspaper article (which Golda mentioned in her autobiography) documenting the fundraiser event. Distance also presented a challenge. For most other projects, my research has kept me within driving distance from home in New Jersey.
BB: How did it feel to see the illustrations by Kelsey Garrity-Riley?
BK: I think it’s always exciting for an author to see her words interpreted by an illustrator. I was really curious to see what she would do with Golda, since even Golda knew she was not particularly attractive. I think the results speak for themselves.
BB: Can you share one writing or research tip for aspiring non-fiction writers?
BK: Think broadly when conducting your research. Go sideways if you have to. For instance, if your subject left no journal or diary or didn’t pen an autobiography, find contemporaries who did. That at least will give you context.
To learn more about Barbara Krasner visit her website at www.barbarakrasner.com.
Barbara Bietz is a freelance writer and children’s book reviewer. She is currently a member of the Sydney Taylor Book Award Committee. Barbara is the author of the middle grade book, Like a Maccabee. She has a blog dedicated to Jewish books for children at www.jewishbooksforkids.com.
- Children’s: Starred Reviews
- Golda by Elinor Burkett
- Reading List: Children’s and YA (curated by Association of Jewish Libraries)