Here at the Standard, we strive to bring you the stories of Texans. One of those Texans is celebrated author and illustrator Don Tate. The Austin-based artist has been illustrating children’s books for years, and recently made the jump to writing them as well. His book “Poet: The Remarkable Story of George Moses Horton” tells the story of an enslaved poet born in North Carolina in the late 18th century.
Tate’s book has received critical acclaim. He’s headed to New York this month to collect another award. He says he never would have imagined that he would pen such a successful book.
“It’s unbelievable for me, because if you would have told me 10 years ago that I would even write a book, much less write a book that went on to win awards, I would have told you that you’re crazy,” Tate says.
Tate sat down with the Standard’s Joy Diaz. Here’s what he had to say:
On discovering his passion for writing:
“I was fully an illustrator and thought that writing was for people who studied, you know, medieval Russian poetry in college and that just wasn’t me. So the fact that now I’m writing, I’ve discovered how much I love writing and that my books are going on to do so well and win awards, that makes me feel great and it gives me the confidence to continue to tell my stories.”
On how he got inspired to tell George Moses Horton’s story:
“My friend … had heard on the internet a story about an enslaved man who the university of North Carolina at Chapel Hill was going to name a dorm after. … I had not heard of George, but once I did my research and I learned his story – that he was once enslaved, that he published poetry, volumes of poetry while he was still enslaved – I thought thats a story that I wanted to be able to tell.”
On why children’s books remain popular in the digital age:
“I think that theres nothing better than to read a book to a child, at bedtime or in a library. That’s one thing that a child loves to do is to actually hold the books in their hand and read it. And there for a while there was all this talk about how the e-book was going to replace picture books, but children proved to us that they like to hold the book in their hand. So, the picture book isn’t going anywhere any time soon.”
Hear Tate read an excerpt from his book, “Poet: The Remarkable Story of George Moses Horton.“