Barbara Goldin discusses culture and research in children’s books during The Blank Page Speaker Series

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In collaboration with the University of Connecticut Archives and Special Collections, Clara Nguyen is hosting “The Blank Page Speaker Series: Conversations on Creativity.” Every week or two, Nguyen highlights a new author. 

On Thursday, UConn welcomed Barbara Goldin, an award-winning author of 22 books for children in families. Not only is Goldin an esteemed author and the current director of a public library, but she was also the recipient of the prestigious Sydney Taylor Body-of-Work Award from the Association of Jewish Libraries in 1997.  

Goldin’s children’s books tend to involve the themes of culture and different time periods. One of her books titled “Fire! The Beginning of the Labor Movement” delves into the 1911 Triangle Shirtwaist Factory fire that took place in New York City. She drew inspiration from her own family background.  

“It was close to my own family history because my father worked in a garment factory around the time period of this fire,” Goldin said. “After I did all the research and released the book, I found out from my mother that my grandfather had taken her as a little girl to the site of the fire and said, ‘Here’s where the big fire [was].’”  

While this story was very personal, Goldin draws inspiration from many things, one being her mentor, Jane Yolen. She  currently works with Yolen in an organization  called the Society of Children Book Writers and Illustrators, which she strongly recommends to all aspiring writers.  

“She is my mentor and encouraged me a lot,” she said. “A lot of people in the children’s book field are totally inspiring.” 

Joining organizations such as SCBWI is one of the many tips Goldin provided when dealing with writer’s block or something she describes as the blank page. When dealing with writer’s block, a term she attempts to not use, Goldin reaches to nature or steps away from the material to overcome being stuck.  

“I might take a walk and sometimes that will rotate around in my brain and I will get a different idea,” she said. “Sometimes I will go write something else, and I’ll let the thing I’m working on sit for a while.” 

At all times, no matter whether she’s in bed or in the car, Goldin always carries a pen and paper so she can jot down any ideas that come to mind. Since she works on two or three projects at once, it is important to step away from one for a moment if needed. Even then, she will read it before bed to make sure it’s still somewhat fresh in her mind.  

“I don’t start with a blank page, I read what I have already written,” she said. “If it’s something totally new, you could read blogs about writing.”  

Since her stories often take place in different cultures or time periods, Goldin often conducts research, an activity she immensely enjoys. One of her books, “A Persian Princess,” takes place in a Persian Jewish community. An editor asked Goldin to write this book because there were very few picture books that represented the Persian Jewish community near where she lived.  

“She helped me find some members of the community who were willing to help me with research,” she said.  

One particular woman from this community helped Goldin immensely.  

“She wanted her son’s name in the book, so the main boy character’s name is Nati, her son’s name,” said Goldin.  

Goldin’s research allows her to learn about other cultures throughout history so they can be accurately represented in her books, which help to educate young children about these underrepresented communities. 

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