The Origins of Becoming America’s Stories series

What’s Your Writing Story? #whatsyourwritingstory

Welcome to What’s Your Writing Story, where Indie Children’s Book Authors present their latest project’s writers journey. Find out the what, where, how, and/or why of the process that brought a children’s book into the world.

Today’s Indie Children’s Book Author is me, Antoinette Truglio Martin. My Becoming America’s Stories series is just about complete. Book 3, The Wishes of Sisters and Strangers will launch on November 7, 2022.

The Becoming America’s Stories series consists of three middle-grade novels, but did not start that way. I initially wrote The Heart of Bakers and Artists as a stand-alone picture book. I love picture book literature. The stories are told through an economy of words and complementary illustrations. Picture books are not just for very young children or emergent readers. Older children and adult readers also enjoy a well-told story in picture book form.

The Heart of Bakers and Artists was born from my grandmother’s recall of baking bread at a Jewish bakery when she was ten years old. The bakery was on the corner of her Mott Street apartment in the Little Italy neighborhood of the Lower East Side, Manhattan. As a little girl, she and a few other neighborhood children got up early, learned to mix bread dough, knead and shape a loaf of bread each day. The baker sold them the bread for three cents a loaf instead of the usual five. The baker’s wife always had a roll or treat for the children’s breakfast and at midday when they returned from school lunch break to knead and shape the bread. Grandma felt very proud of her chore and especially proud when her papa claimed she baked the best bread he ever tasted. Papa did not freely give out compliments.  

The other part of Grandma’s story was that she had to take her tag-a-long sister. Lily was tall enough to reach the bread table, but she was just a little kid. The baker’s wife immediately fell in love with the little girl, fussed over her red hair and taught the child to dance across the basement floor. Lily got a breakfast roll because she was pretty and sweet.

I suspect that the bakers, who were childless, were looking for apprentices. Letting young children learn the satisfying art of bread baking was probably a means to search for reliable help.

As I researched the time and place for the story, I discovered incredible bits of history that affected the course of American progress into the 20th century. History curriculums speed read from the American Civil War to World War I. The issues and fight for fair labor and wages, union organizations, women’s suffrage, healthcare, education for immigrants and girls, and justice were objectives of the day.  The first twenty years of the 20th century actively laid the foundations of policies and laws that reverberate in today’s world. I became fascinated with how children of immigrants assimilated into American life while honoring parents who took risks and gave up everything. These stories keep repeating.

Both sides of my family were from southern Italy and Sicily. They arrived in the Little Italy neighborhoods of New York’s Lower East Side during those early years of the new century. I took pieces of my great grandparents’ and grandparents’ stories, placed historical contexts, and created the Becoming America’s Stories. I chose 1911 when the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory Fire occurred and its consequences were deeply felt in the homes of families struggling in the Lower East Side.

Although I intended to write for young children, the stories developed and my ideal audience became middle-grade readers—children between 9 to 13 years old. I have been told, young adults and older readers have enjoyed the books as well. Lucky for me, Stephanie Larkin of Red Penguin Books, saw the stories as a series and offered to publish the books.

Antoinette Truglio Martin is the author of the award winning middle grade historical novel series Becoming America’s Stories: The Heart of Bakers and Artists, The Dreams of Singers and Sluggers and The Wishes of Sisters and Strangers. Antoinette also wrote the memoir Hug Everyone You Know: A Year of Community, Courage, and Cancer (She Writes Press) and the children’s picture book, Famous Seaweed Soup (Albert Whitman and Company). Stay tuned for the revived edition of Famous Seaweed Soup (Purple Butterfly Press) coming in June 2023!

Antoinette is available for virtual and live visiting author programs in the schools. Her blog, Stories Served Around The Table, retells family tales and life’s musings.

Find Antoinette’s Books at your favorite indie bookstore, Barnes and Noble Books, and Amazon

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Work for Peace

You have a voice

Hope you are hungry. Becoming America’s Food Stories recalls the tales that have been told around my family’s dinner table. The histories explain the motivations over bowls of macaroni, antics play out while slurping soup, and laughter echoes throughout the dining room. Pull up a seat. There’s always room.
The Heart of Bakers and Artists is set in the Lower East Side of Manhattan, 1911. The story follows nine-year-old Lily, an American-born child of Sicilian immigrants, who wants to prove she is not a little kid. To be a big kid in the crowded tenement neighborhoods, she must tackle bigotry, bullies, disasters, dotty bakers, and learn to cross the street by herself
The Dreams of Singers and Sluggers picks up where The Heart of Bakers and Artists left off.Lily has big dreams to sing out with her powerful voice, but must do EVERYTHING, since Mama fell into a deep depression, the baby is sick, and the “Black Hand” terrorizes the neighborhood, threatening her chance to sing at the New York Highlanders Fourth of July baseball game.
Antoinette Truglio Martin is the author of Hug Everyone You Know: A Year of Community, Courage, and Cancer. The memoir is a wimpy patient’s journey through her first year of breast cancer treatment.

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