Saturday, September 20, 2014

Museum Talk in Arizona Featuring, A Boy Named Beckoning!





I was asked to give a talk to Arizona's River of Time Museum patrons and docents. The talk was to discuss my book, A Boy Named Beckoning, and shed a light on the amazing, Dr. Carlos Montezuma   It was a whirlwind of a trip to Fountain Hills, Arizona, but one that I all not soon forget. There were so many people who guided us on trips that not only had they influenced the day, they changed my life, forever.

Many thanks to the Fountain Hills team, Kathleen Butler and Gladys Kleshi, who pulled everything together: Fountain Hills Charter School author visit, Yavapai Nation Reservation tour, Yavapai Cultural Museum meeting with (Director, Karen Ray, Ralph Bear, and Dr. Bill Myer), Yavapai school tour, lunch, the tour of the Museum of Time, and the final talk on my book, A Boy Named Beckoning, held at the Fountain Hills Civic Center.
Our escorts through this exhilarating, informative, day are the delightful…and, very patient, Debbie and Kit Wyper from the Museum of Time. What wonderful hospitality we were given!
Kids at Fountain Hills Charter School

Below is the talk which I delivered at the end of this wonderful day in Arizona.



I want to say, right off the bat that I am primarily an illustrator, but adapting Carlos Montezuma’s own words for a young readership was a wonderful challenge for me as a writer.

A Boy Named Beckoning, is the testament of the character, heart and triumph of the human spirit from one man, Dr. Carlos Montezuma.

In a time when there was little or no regard for American Indians, Wassaja was brutally ripped
from his people. Despite great obstacles, 
Yavapai Reservation with Cultural Coordinator, GM  and docent
Wassaja grew up to become Dr. Carlos Montezuma—One of the most famous Native Americans of his day. He wore many hats: Doctor, Lecturer, Professor, Researcher, and Publisher. But his most important role was that of Native American Civil Rights Activist.

Dr. Montezuma worked tirelessly to reform Indian policy with the United States government. He fought for his People’s right to vote and their right to keep their ancestral land…but above all, he fought for their dignity.

To me, Carlos Montezuma's work as a Civil Rights Activist is on the same level as Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., and Cesar Chavez.  We know that Carlos Montezuma was a strong political voice at the turn of the 20th century.
* He had relationships with Presidents Harding and Coolidge.
* His speech, “Let My People Go,” was read on the US Senate floor.
* Because of Dr. Carlos Montezuma efforts, American Indians finally gained their right to citizenship.
* He fought for the Yavapai...their land and water rights.

Carlos Montezuma is a Yavapai Hero. He is also my Hero for the reasons I stated but also because of what he endured, and achieved in spite of obstacles.

It is a privilege to have had the opportunity to write and illustrate, 
A Boy Named Beckoning. 

The story of Carlos Montezuma came to me 12 years before it was ever published.  

In 1994, I was researching an educational book on American Indians.  During that time I walked into our local video store because I like to watch movies related to the subject. Sort of gets me in the mood. 

I asked where the educational documentaries were and a worker guided me to a black curtain. I wondered if he misunderstood me.  Maybe “educational” was code for “naughty” movies. Behind the black curtain were hundreds of documentaries. 
Introductions at the banquet.
There was a lot WRONG with that video store but I was able to dig up a strange title, called, “Dr. Montezuma and the Smithsonian”…I decided to rent it.

The film featured a letter written in 1905 by Dr. Carlos Montezuma to Professor Holmes from the Smithsonian Institution. It had a narrator speaking over Plains Indians Ledger Art...which didn’t make sense since the narrator stated that he was an “Apache Indian.”

Still that discrepancy did not keep me from being riveted to the most amazing story I’ve ever heard.

 Dr. Montezuma explained his life by stating that:
* His name had been Wassaja, which means, “Signaling” or “Beckoning.”
* He was born 1876 near Iron Peak Ridge in the Arizona Mountains. 
* When he was four years old his people were massacred and he was abducted by the Pima.
* He was sold for 30 silver dollars to an itinerant Italian photographer
Giving my talk to Museum patrons and docents
* Together they traveled the country
* He briefly acted in a play with Buffalo Bill
* He went to school in Chicago
* He graduated high school at 14, graduated college at 17
  Then, he went to medical school.

* Shortly after medical school, Carlos Montezuma dedicated his life to helping his people-demanding their rights for citizenship, healthcare, educational and voting right. All this in the late 1800’s to the early 1900’s.

How could you not be captivated by the story?  

 The first thing I did was to contact the National Archives and asked for a copy of Carlos Montezuma's letter. Then, I got to work. If my math serves me well this was twenty years ago.

Carlos Montezuma is an icon. The story of his youth puts his later struggles
At the podium with Dr. Myrh
into perspective. Imagine being a child and seeing your village burn. You hide under a bush and watch the chaos. An arm from nowhere grabs you.  At dawn you are forced to march two days in the hot desert to the Pima village. Imagine the numbness, terror and exhaustion you would feel!

After a week of being held captive, you are taken outside, placed on wooden boxes and a war dance begins. Old women and children spit and throw dirty rags at you. And yet, Carlos Montezuma remembered others whose eyes showed sadness for the child. This is the person I wanted to know...the one who could tell goodness from the bad, even as a child. 

The story goes on, little Wassaja is taken to Florence, Arizona, to be traded or sold. He has never seen a horse. He has never seen an Anglo man. Or, an adobe house. 

For a short time Wassaja is placed in the storage room
in a trading post. He is given candies and
Getting ready for book signing.
cookies to eat. Then, he sees a boy, the same age and size of himself. This strange boy mimics Wassaja's every move.  Wassaja is ready for a fight and when he moves to the side, the boy disappears. This is the first time he sees his reflection in a mirror.  Then, we read that a man, with a very thick Italian accent, buys Wassaja for 30 silver dollars.

The little boy is thirsty and cries out for water but no one can understand what he is saying. An old Indian woman is brought in with hopes that she can understand his cries. She cannot. But, she intuitively gives him a drink of water. 

You get the point!      

My children’s book, A Boy Named Beckoning, is a biography. It is also non-fiction and reveals not only what Carlos Montezuma experienced but also, reveals a shared experience of those Yavapai who had been abducted the same time as he. 

I hope that the book is thought provoking.

What is compelling is that despite circumstances, one can survive. Despite the terror of a childhood one can excel. Despite cultural and language barriers, one can conquer.You can overcome bigotry. And, education is the key to success. For me, reading Montezuma’s story also means that there are no excuses.
Book Signing

Much of what I have stated was not in the original letter to the Smithsonian.The rest, I had to discover. First, I visited every repository and library in the area. And, finally located the Carlos Montezuma papers on microfiche at the Southwest Museum. These papers were edited by Dr. John Larner.

The Quest was on. I Drove to Arizona, visited sites, picked up rocks, and collected dirt to get a sense of the land. Dug up more material from the National Archives. Nagged historians. I also made some valuable and treasured friendships.  Dragged my revised manuscripts to my writing group for revisions.
                                     
The breadth of my book came from Primary Resources including: Articles and Essays that Montezuma wrote, The Carlos Montezuma papers, edited by my new friend, Dr. John Larner. There were other holdings from the Universities of Wisconsin, Chicago, and University of Arizona.

The books written by Dr. Speroff, Dr. Marino, and Iverson are great scholarly works on Montezuma. There was an interesting book by Elaine Waterstrat that gave me additional first person Yavapai accounts. There were also misc. transcripts and Dissertations.

Each of these works took part in building the story.
A Boy Named Beckoning and awards!

While preparing for this talk, it occurred to me that I might be asked why the book is entitled, A Boy Named Beckoning, rather than A Boy Named Wassaja. 1. “Beckoning” is a compelling word...it seemed to be a significant word in relation to Montezuma's life. 2. The word is personally significant because as I researched the story, it continued to “Beckon me” for 12 years while I kept trying to fill in the gaps.  .

Eventually the story began to evolve. With the final manuscript draft looming there were things I needed to keep clear: This was a children's picture book; I had to remain true to Carlos Montezuma's story; I determined that the skeleton of the story was the letter he wrote to the Smithsonian Institution; I needed to keep copious research notes and back up my sources; I would weave Montezuma's various accounts into the Letter; I wanted side bars in the book to add a secondary historic account.

In light of everything, I have to share how: Dr. John (Jack) Larner, editor of the CM Papers shared his experiences with me:  He wrote: “As well you can imagine, reading all of someone’s mail plus their private written musings really gets you very well acquainted with that person.  Oh, the dreams of Wassaja at varied stages of his life.  When confused by his several hand-writing styles, I’d look up and verbally ask him for help.  Yep, immediately the obscure passages were clear as could be, no problems whatsoever!”
           
Wassaja’s very love and potent spirit is truly with us.  As we say in Pittsburgh: “It doesn't get any better than that!” 

(A special dedication to Carolina Butler, editor of The Oral History of the Yavapai, for all her support )


Copyright, 2014, Gina Capaldi.  All Rights Reserved. Do not copy without prior consent from author.




Tuesday, July 16, 2013

The Mazza Museum Studio Bus Tour, 2013





A big black tour bus pulled up to our house. I had expected a “bus” but not one that rock stars used for tours.  Even better than rock stars were the forty-two children’s book lovers from the Mazza Museum of International Art from Picture Books who climbed down the steps of the bus and filed into my house.  I had to smile. 

 


The purpose behind the Mazza Museum Studio Tour series is to visit a group of artists in different regions each year. This year they chose Southern California artists.  And the honor was mine!  Retired librarian, Mary Wong from Arizona, initially suggested that the Mazza Museum contact me as a potential illustrator they might visit for the tour.  Among other things, Mary has been a powerful advocate for my book, A Boy Named Beckoning, and instrumental in getting this book into the Arizona school and public library system. 



The Mazza Museum group, for the most part, came from Ohio.  The Museum was established in 1994 at the University of Findlay.   It is ‘the home of original artwork by the most distinguished and honored illustrators of children’s books. It has the distinction of being the first and largest teaching museum in the would specializing in children’s book art.’  The museum collection spans more than 100 years and includes works illustrated by Randolph Caldecott, Kate Greenaway, Ludwig Bemelmans, and Johnny Gruelle, and H.A. Rey!




What an exhilarating experience to see the exuberant faces of adults who wanted to meet me and view my humble studio and work. The morning was cool and overcast, just the way I like it!  The group moved through the house and studio and headed toward the tents set up for them.  I gave a brief lecture on how I approach my art for the books A Boy Named Beckoning and Red Bird Sings (Lernerr/Carolroda).  I primarily focused on the historical collage elements and attention to cultural details, which were incorporated into the illustrations. I did this because I feel passionate about the approach and believe that these elements add dimension to each story. 




Specifically, A Boy Named Beckoning, became my first published attempt at incorporating mixed media and acrylic. Careful attention was given to the backgrounds. Each was chosen to help the story move along. For Wassaja’s childhood I used bark paper. For his entry into the Anglo world and the west, I chose to paint the illustrations on wood contact paper. To depict Carlos’ life in Chicago I found a Chicago Tribune newspaper dated October 11, 1872!  On it I illustrated the scene of young Carlos Montzuma as he and his friends sell newspapers. Perhaps he sold the very newspaper I was painting on over 100 years later!






Red Bird Sings also presented interesting mixed media challenges. From the very beginning my co-author, QL Pearce and I had discussed which materials we would use to enhance the story on each spread. The cover, while painted with acrylics, is an example of the use of unique elements to augment the art. Its background was an enlargement from a song book Gertrude Simmons would have been familiar with in the late 1800’s. To add depth I also added real hair from a wig. The violin strings in the illustration are genuine and glued in place as is the bow, which is made of horsehair. 


 



The title page was exciting to create. When I couldn’t locate a feather from a small red bird, I gathered the molted feathers I had saved from my white parakeet and dyed them red. I sorted through antique doilies made by my great grandmother made and incorporated them into the art. Using faux suede contact paper, I recreated the look of Yankton Sioux moccasins. Finally, to present the Atlantic Monthly Magazine on which our book was based, I used period paper and copied the cover of the magazine.


 


Locating authentic visuals for each spread wasn’t always possible so I came up with ways to create items that would work. If I couldn’t find actual old newspapers, I fabricated them with newsprint using the original scanned articles. Fortunately I was able to find many items. The white and yellow ribbons with the gold medallion found on page 21 are from a post card that was from Earlham College. The newspaper clipping found on page 25, is an actual ad from a period newspaper. I included flowers and buffalo grass that were indigenous to the region to give a greater dimension. Of course, on each spread a red bird can be found!  


Of these illustrations three were chosen to be part of the Mazza Museum’s permanent collection: Red Bird Sings cover and title page. And, A Boy Named Beckoning’s Chicago/Newspaper page.

After discussing my work on Beckoning and Red Bird Sings, I gave the tour group a preview of upcoming projects that my co-author and I had recently developed.  Under  the pergola I displayed a number of illustrations and featured them in my presentation. I received a great response to the stories. Dr. Jerry Mallett encouraged me by saying, “You MUST get these published!” Who could argue with such a dynamic man?  I’m convinced that Q and I are on the right path in presenting these stories to publishers.








I’m sure that anyone who has had the Mazza touring group visit was made to feel special, that’s just the way the group is. However, for one hour and 45 minutes I was made to feel ‘queen for a day’.  



I must express special appreciation to Mary Wong of Arizona, for among other things,  suggesting me for the Mazza Museum tour.  I am forever grateful to Benjamin Sapp, Director of the Mazza Museum; and, the genius and founder of the museum, Dr. Jerry Mallett who showed such enthusiasm for my work. These two gentlemen were warm and generous with their time and encouragement.

 It was a privilege to be have been a part of the Mazza Museum Studio Tour and to meet all the sweet members who disembarked from that great black touring bus on June 26, 2013. Grand wishes for the Mazza Museum of International Art from Picture Books!

Gina Capaldi, 6/2013





The Mazza Museum of International Art from Picture Books also includes ‘five galleries, an amphitheater, library, children’s art studio, art vault and gift shop, to name just a few of its many features. There is an interactive area to reinforce the ‘creative nature and art and literacy.” An important element of the museum, the Dr. Jerry Mallett Institute, offers children’s programs, adult conferences and professional developments, and contains a ‘wealth of materials and references on children’s books available for research purposes.” I could go on about this amazing museum and you should check them out at www.mazzamuseum.org.














Thursday, December 13, 2012

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Red Bird Sings Wins Major Award




We are thrilled to announce that Red Bird Sings has just won the Carter G. Woodson award from the National Council for the Social Studies (NCSS).....
"NCSS established the Carter G. Woodson Book Awards for the most distinguished books appropriate for young readers that depict ethnicity in the United States. First presented in 1974, this award is intended to “encourage the writing, publishing, and dissemination of outstanding social studies books for young readers that treat topics related to ethnic minorities and race relations sensitively and accurately.” Books relating to ethnic minorities and the authors of such books rarely receive the recognition they merit from professional organizations. By sponsoring the Carter G. Woodson Awards, NCSS gives wide recognition to and encourages these authors and publishers."
http://www.socialstudies.org/awards/woodson/winners

2012

Elementary Level (Grades K–6)
RedBirdSings.jpg
Carter G. Woodson Book Award
Red Bird Sings: The Story of Zitkala-Ša, Native American
Author, Musician, and Activist
Adapted by Gina Capaldi and Q. L. Pearce
Published by Carolrhoda Books




Thank you voting members of the NCSS for deeming our book worthy for this amazing award!  and, thank you Jean Reynolds for being such an amazing editor!
Gina & Q