Photo credit: Alisha Shaw
The Length of a String is your latest book that came out in May. How has it been received so far?
So far so good! The official reviews have been positive, and I’ve gotten some wonderful, meaningful feedback from authors I greatly admire. I’ve been hearing that the book has been sparking conversation and discussion, especially between parents and children—a few schools and groups have decided to use it for a parent-child book club—which makes me very happy.
Where did you get the initial idea to write this book?
The idea for the present-day story came from one of my best friends from childhood, who was adopted. I was thinking about her—and spoke with her quite a bit about her thoughts and experiences—when I came up with the character of Imani, who is black, adopted, and Jewish.
The idea for the historical story came from two places: a caller on NPR who shared her father’s Holocaust survival story, and my own grandparents’ experiences of growing up in New York City in the 1940s. The NPR story inspired the circumstances under which Anna moves from Nazi-occupied Luxembourg to Brooklyn. My grandparents’ memories inspired much of what happens once she arrives in Bensonhurst.
At first, I was intimidated by the prospect of writing historical fiction, so I decided to frame the historical story with the contemporary one to ease myself into the book. Once I started writing, though, I realized that these ideas were meant to go together all along.