Author Patricia McKissack Dies at Age 72
Author Patricia McKissack, who produced children's books about black history with her husband, passed away on April 7th at the age of 72. According to her son, Fredrick L. McKissack Jr., the cause was cardiorespiratory arrest.
Patricia McKissack was an American children's writer. She was the author of three Dear America books: A Picture of Freedom: The Diary of Clotee, a Slave Girl, Color Me Dark: The Diary of Nellie Lee Love, The Great Migration North, and Look to the Hills: The Diary of Lozette Moreau, a French Slave Girl. She has also written a novel for The Royal Diaries series: Nzingha: Warrior Queen of Matamba. Patricia lived in St. Louis. Her husband, Fredrick McKissack, with whom she co-won the Regina Medal in 1998, died in April 2013 at the age of 73; before marrying her and joining her in writing full-time, he had an accomplished career as a U.S. Marine, a civil engineer for the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, and had owned a contracting business in the St. Louis area.
Patricia McKissack was also a board member of the National Children's Book and Literacy Alliance, a national not-for-profit that actively advocates for literacy, literature, and libraries.
She was known also as L'Ann Carwell, Pat McKissack and Patricia C. McKissack.
Patricia L'Ann Carwell was born to civil servant parents Robert and Erma Carwell on August 9, 1944, in Smyrna, Tennessee. She was inspired to be a writer by her mother who always read her poetry and also by her grandparents who told her many stories. Her father's stories usually included the names of her and siblings Nolan and Sarah. The characters in these stories were always smart and brave, characteristics present in Patricia's later works. Patricia and her siblings grew up in the south and they all remember the poetry her mother told by Paul Laurence Dunbar.
When writing Goin' Someplace Special (2000), Patricia remembered her favorite place to go as a child, which was the Nashville Public Library, where she always felt welcome and where she learned her love for reading. Many of the childhood stories she heard from her mother and grandparents later became stories she wrote as an author of books for children and young adults.
While attending Tennessee Agricultural and Industrial State University now known as the Tennessee State University, Patricia met up with a childhood friend, Fredrick McKissack, who would later become her husband. She graduated with an English degree in 1964 while Fredrick obtained a civil engineering degree. They were married on December 12, 1965 and started their family right away. After traveling to Missouri, Patricia attended Webster University and graduated with a M.A. in child education. She then became a junior high-school English teacher but in 1971 realized that she wanted to be an author.
Fredrick and Patricia's first book together was published in 1984, a biography of Paul Lawrence Dunbar entitled Paul Lawrence Dunbar: A Poet to Remember, which is her mother's favorite poet. Patricia then went on to write many more biographies. In 1975, Patricia McKissack began her professional writing career. She wrote mostly non-fiction and focused on issues such as racism and African American history. She spent considerable time writing 20 non-fiction books before she wrote her first picture book. Flossie & the Fox was sent to Ann Schwartz, who was an editor at Dial Press. Schwartz threw the manuscript aside, saying it was too long. Patricia did not want to shorten her manuscript at all but finally shortened it to six pages, when it was finally accepted. (It was published in 1986.)