Distinguished Scholar / Author / Poet, Bard High School Early College, Brooklyn, NY. Born: Ajax, ON.
Dr. Zetta Elliott was born in Ajax, Ontario and spent the early years of her life in Pickering and Scarborough. She attended Bishop’s University in Quebec, then spent a summer in Brooklyn, and knew NYC would one day be her home. After one year at York University, Zetta moved to Brooklyn, NY and earned her PhD in American Studies from NYU (2003); she has since taught Black feminist cultural criticism at Ohio University, Louisiana State University, and Mount Holyoke College.
While in graduate school, Dr. Elliott worked extensively with children and teens in community centres, after-school programs, and museums; today she continues to serve urban children as a visiting author in schools and libraries.
Works: Her poetry has been published in the Cave Canem anthology, The Ringing Ear: Black Poets Lean South, Check the Rhyme: an Anthology of Female Poets and Emcees, and Coloring Book:an Eclectic Anthology of Fiction and Poetry by Multicultural Writers. Her novella, Plastique, was excerpted in T Dot Griots: an Anthology of Toronto’s Black Storytellers; and her essays have appeared in Horn Book Magazine, The Black Arts Quarterly, School Library Journal, WarpLand and Hunger Mountain. Her award-winning picture book, Bird, was published in 2008. Her first play, Nothing But a Woman, was a finalist in the Chicago Dramatists’ Many Voices Project (2006). Her fourth full-length play, Connor’s Boy, was staged as part of two new play festivals: in Cleveland, OH as part of Karamu House’s R. Joyce Whitley Festival of New Plays ARENAFEST, and in New York City as part of Maieutic Theatre Works’ Newborn Festival (2008). Her one-act play, girl/power, was staged as part of New Perspectives Theater’s NYC festival of women’s work, GIRLPOWER (2008). Her young adult novel, A Wish After Midnight, was released in February 2010, while her next novel, Ship of Souls, will be published in 2012.
Other: Dr. Elliott currently teaches African-American literature to college students and leads writing workshops to help children understand that “everyone has a story to tell.”
Favourite book? It’s impossible to pick just one, but Ezra Jack Keats’ Snowy Day was important for me; it was the first book I read as a child that featured a Black protagonist, and Keats’ books continue to inform my scholarship on multicultural children’s literature.
Favourite quote? “Bear but a touch of my hand and you shall be upheld in more than this.” – from Dickens’ A Christmas Carol)
Given the chance, what would you love to do that you haven’t done yet? Publish books for children IN Canada! I’m working on developing a conference to discuss the lack of diversity in Canada’s publishing industry.
Who inspires you? Radical Black feminists of the 1970s, my ancestors, the children I teach.
Why do you do what you do? I grew up in a country that claimed to value multiculturalism, yet gave me no opportunity to discover and/or celebrate my ancestors’ contribution to Canada. I write the books I wish I had had as a child. I advocate for change so that all Canadian children can find a mirror in the books they read at home, at school, and at the library.