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2008 National Book Award Finalist,
Young People's Literature

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Photo © Joyce Tenneson.
Laurie Halse Anderson
Chains
Simon & Schuster

Interview conducted by Rita Williams-Garcia.

RWG: In Chains, you’ve recreated everyday life down to the smallest domestic detail. What was your most fascinating find in all of your research?

LHA: I was most fascinated by the kind of medical treatments used (superstitious remedies for epilepsy, cobwebs to staunch bleeding, etc.) and the kinds of make-up used by upper class women. The detail that made me dance when I found it was the use of mouse fur eyebrows.


RWG: Each chapter begins with a date followed by an excerpt from an array of sources such as diaries, letters, articles, speeches and poetry. Is there an excerpt that remains with you long after having finished this novel?

LHA: The quote from the John Adams letter about wishing he coud fly across the ocean the way angels were believed to fly from planet to planet comes to mind, because I spent so much time in airplanes this year. Also, the entire text of Common Sense, the book that made the argument for revolution and moved the hearts of thousands, still echoes in my mind.

RWG: We are treated to a heroic female character who navigates through political intrigue, peril and cruelty as a child, female, black and a slave—all carrying repercussions and limitations of their time period. How did you manage to keep Isabel heroic yet true to her circumstances?

LHA: I'm not sure I can take credit for that -Isabel was a strong and self-defining character.


Rita Williams-Garcia is the author of six distinguished novels for young adults: Jumped, No Laughter Here, Every Time a Rainbow Dies, Fast Talk on a Slow Track, Blue Tights, and Like Sisters on the Homefront. She has also published a picture book and has contributed to numerous anthologies. Williams-Garcia's works have been recognized by the Coretta Scott King Award Committee, the PEN/Norma Klein Award, the American Library Association, and Parents' Choice, among others. She recently served on the National Book Award Committee for Young People's Literature and is on faculty at Vermont College for the MFA in Writing for Children & Young Adults program. Rita Williams-Garcia lives in Jamaica, Queens, NY and is the mother of two daughters.

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