Doreen Rappaport is an award-winning author of 69 nonfiction books that celebrate multiculturalism, history, the lives of world leaders and the stories of those she calls ‘not-yet-celebrated.’
Her books have received critical acclaim and awards for her unique ability to combine historical facts with intimate storytelling, and for finding ‘new ways to present the lives of well-known heroes‚’ like Martin Luther King, Jr., John F. Kennedy, Eleanor Roosevelt, Helen Keller and the Statue of Liberty. – A dynamic writer-teacher-storyteller in the classroom, she is a frequent speaker at state and national educational conferences, universities, libraries, historical societies, book fairs, and community centers. She has been a featured author at the National Portrait Gallery, National Book Festival, the Smithsonian Museum of American History and the White House.
BEYOND COURAGE: The Untold Story of Jewish Resistance During the Holocaust (Candlewick Press, Sept. 2012) her most ambitious project to date has been a five-year journey. Her first crossover book for young adults and adults, it was written to inspire a wider public with the stories of the heroic resisters and the defiance of countless numbers of Jews across eleven Nazi-occupied countries during World War II.
Born in New York City, she lived in a home surrounded by music. Her father was a musical arranger and her mother a singer. She studied the piano and attended the Performing Arts High School in New York City. She graduated from Brandeis University and became a junior high school music teacher.
In the 1965, she went to McComb, Mississippi to teach in a Freedom School and learned a part of American history she had not really understood before:”I met extraordinary ordinary people – Black Americans who had been deprived of their rights, who were threatened with death on a daily basis, and demonstrated a kind of courage of the great mythic heroes.” This journey transformed her consciousness and ignited her desire to write about people’s struggles against oppression – it became her dream and commitment.
Among her numerous honors, she is the recipient of The Washington Post Children’s Book Guild Award for Lifetime Achievement for the writing of non-fiction. Her book, Martin’s Big Words: The Life of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., illustrated by Bryan Collier, received a Caldecott Honor Award, a Coretta Scott King Award, the Jane Addams Book Award, and an Orbis Pictus Honor Book. It is the seminal children’s book on Dr. King’s non-violent philosophy and has been read to children in New York schools by Mayor Mike Bloomberg and Senator Hillary Clinton.
Doreen Rappaport and her husband Bob Rosegarten, an artist, divide their time between New York City and the upstate village of Copake Falls. Children, including her own eight smart, funny, tech-savvy grandchildren, continue to inspire and enrich her life and writing.
“I want to write stories that empower kids to know that other people empowered themselves. If I have a mission, that’s my mission.”
“I tell kids, you’ve got to find your own voice and take a chance on yourself.”
“I use words from archives, letters, songs, poems, memoirs, and court testimony – interwoven with my words – to trace the struggles, fears, hopes, inventive resistances, courage, dignity and celebrate the triumphs of ‘extraordinary-ordinary people’ whose names many of us will never know.”
“All of the struggles and heroic actions in my books are enriched by the paintings of award-winning artists whose attention to detail matches my own, and belief in freedom and empowerment against all odds accompanies us on our journeys of discovery.”
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