When Susan E. Goodman set out to write about the first case that challenged the courts to outlaw segregated schools in the United States, she focused on two main characters: Sarah Roberts and social justice.
“I zeroed in on the zig-zagging, lurching nature of social justice,” said Goodman, who teaches in our MFA in Creative Writing program. “Getting that idea across was one of the main reasons I wrote the book.”
Goodman has won the top Massachusetts Book Award for picture books for “The First Step: How One Girl Put Segregation on Trial,” illustrated by E.B. Lewis. The book tells the story of Sarah Roberts, the brave girl who fought to desegregate Boston’s public schools in the 1800s. Although her family lost its case against the city, the case laid important groundwork for the landmark 1954 Brown v. Board of Education case that desegregated American schools.
“Winning any award is an honor, but acknowledgement from your home state is a real thrill, especially since we have so many great writers here,” said Goodman, whose picture book also won a Jane Addams Peace Award, a 2017 Orbis Pictus Honor Book from the National Council of Teachers of English, a 2017 Carter G. Woodson Honor Book from the National Council of Social Studies and Kids Best of the Best Book 2016 from Chicago Public Library.
The Massachusetts Book Awards also recognized Lesley Professor Danielle Legros Georges and Associate Professor Aaron Smith with “Poetry Must Read” honors for their respective collections, “The Dear Remote Nearness of You” and “Primer.”
“It’s wonderful to see our MFA Program represented so well by Susan Goodman in the 17th Annual Massachusetts Book Awards, and to have a Lesley faculty presence in general here,” said Legros Georges, Boston’s poet laureate, who directs Lesley’s MFA Program in Creative Writing.
For Goodman, whose books include “How Do You Burp in Space? And Other Tips Every Space Tourist Needs to Know” and “On This Spot,” research is an immersive endeavor.
Through her research for “The First Step,” based in 1847 Boston prior to the Civil War, she observed the ways that both sides mobilized and reacted in the tug-of-war over segregation. Goodman is grateful for the recognition the book has earned and hopes that it helps teach history’s struggles.
“Writing this book made me realize more than ever before that if we have values we really care about, we must nurture them, and fight for them. Otherwise they can slip away,” said Goodman.