Interview with Andrea White
Andrea White is a wife, mother of three, author, friend to many, community activist, and Houston's First Lady. She views this role as a truly unique and wonderful volunteer job—and education is at the core of her volunteer involvement. Before she was a published author and political spouse, Andrea practiced law and was one of the first female partners at a major Texas law firm. She received both her undergraduate and law degrees from the University of Texas.
Andrea has been involved in many programs to encourage reading among children. When she is not working hard making sure kids are reading, she's writing books for them. She is a recipient of the Golden Spur Award for Best Young Adult Texas author. Her first book for pre-teens, “Surviving Antarctica: Reality TV 2083,” was published in 2005. Today she is here to talk about her new book “Window Boy.”
Tyler: Welcome, Andrea. I’m happy to have you join me today. To begin, will you tell our readers who is “Window Boy” and why he is given that title?
Tyler: Where did you get the idea for Sam Davis?
Andrea: From a magazine article written by Lisa Belkin about a young man who wants to be mainstreamed in the New York public school system. Lisa’s article is reproduced in its entirety at the back of my book.
Tyler: Will you explain to us Sam’s disability and how he came to be in a wheelchair?
Andrea: Sam was born with something called cerebral palsy. Although this motor disability hampers Sam’s ability to move and communicate, he is extremely smart.
Tyler: What did you find most difficult about creating a character with a disability?
Andrea: For some unknown reason, all my life, I have been afraid of being trapped. When I had difficulty imagining Sam’s world, sometimes, I would get in touch with that feeling.
Tyler: Did you have to do much research regarding Sam’s disability?
Andrea: Although I read several books about cerebral palsy before I wrote “Window Boy,” it wasn’t until after the book was published that I met and became good friends with a young man with cerebral palsy. Just like my character Sam Davis, this young man, Gary Lynn, loves sports and politics.
Tyler: Why did you choose Winston Churchill as the inspiration for Sam?
Andrea: Winston Churchill gave the bravest speeches in the world.
Tyler: The novel opens in 1968. Do you think the story would be different if Sam were a boy in 2008 and what would be the differences?
Andrea: We live in a much more enlightened time, where educators understand that all children have potential. Due to current laws, Sam wouldn’t have had to struggle to attend a public school.
Tyler: Will you tell us more about Sam’s mother? She does not appear to be a very likeable character.
Andrea: Sam’s mother is a young woman who wants to have fun yet who feels saddled with responsibilities. Sam is a brilliant young man but he can also be a handful. Sam’s mother acts badly but I can’t help feeling a little bit sorry for her. In the end, she makes the right decision.
Tyler: What made you decide that basketball would be such an inspiration for Sam?
Andrea: My book had to be about basketball so my sixteen-year old son would read it. He is a fanatic about the sport.
Tyler: What does your son think about “Window Boy”?
Andrea: I have two sons. The older son, Will, thinks “Window Boy” is awesome. Together with my husband, my younger son, Stephen, wrote the parts about basketball. Stephen enjoyed “Window Boy.”
Tyler: Since Sam wins a contest for his essay on Winston Churchill, did you consider Sam’s interest could be writing over basketball?
Andrea: Sam does become a reporter so he is able to combine his interest in sports with his ability to write.
Tyler: How does Sam ultimately become a basketball coach? What makes him accepted for this position?
Andrea: Sam spends all his time watching the players play and has become quite analytical about the game. He correctly identifies the team’s weakness, the lack of a point guard, and locates a point guard for the team. He is accepted as the team’s coach because he is competent and insightful.
Tyler: What is the reaction you most hope to receive from people after they read “Window Boy”?
Andrea: “I stayed up all night reading it” is a thrilling reaction.
Tyler: Andrea, I understand you are very involved in your community and focusing on the importance of reading. Will you tell us more about this work?
Andrea: Along with our local school districts, four years ago, my husband and I started a program called Expectation Graduation. Every year we go and knock on the doors of kids who have not returned to school. Not only has Expectation Graduation successfully convinced hundreds of kids to reenroll, it’s a real education for the volunteers to see that many of these drop outs have adult-sized problems. The program is expanding to four or five new Texas cities in the fall. Anyone who wants to start an Expectation Graduation program in their community should check our Expectation Graduation website.
Tyler: When you wrote “Window Boy” did you envision it being used in the classroom? How did you think it could be used effectively?
Andrea: When I wrote the book, I was not thinking about anything but my characters. However, I think “Window Boy” could be used to teach students about kids with disabilities as well as history.
Tyler: Have you received any feedback from students or teachers who have used “Window Boy” in classrooms yet?
Andrea: I have not had that joy yet.
Tyler: Andrea, will you give us a little preview of what your next book will be about?
Andrea: “Radiant Girl,” a coming of age story set in the Ukraine in 1986, is about Katya Dubko. On Katya’s birthday a fantastical character warns her that her world is about to end, and the next morning, the Chernobyl nuclear explosion occurs.
Tyler: Wow, that sounds like a powerful story. Andrea, do you have any advice for parents or teachers to help them get children to read?
Andrea: Read them good stories.
Tyler: Thank you for joining me today, Andrea. Before we go, will you tell us about your website and what additional information may be found there about “Window Boy”?
Andrea: The website is www.andreawhiteauthor.com. I have posted a curriculum for teachers on my website and my book talk can, also, be downloaded. Thank you for having me.