Alicia D. Williams, a middle-school U.S. History teacher, is already receiving rave reviews for her debut novel, Genesis Begins Again, which publishes today from Simon & Schuster's Atheneum house for young adult readers.
Recommended for ages 10 through 14, it tells the story of Genesis, a 13 year-old suffering verbal abuse because of the dark color of her skin, as she copes with regular evictions and difficult family relationships. Barnes & Noble's KidsBlog named it one of "the six most anticipated 2019 middle-grade reads," with children's author Meg Cannistra calling it "a must-read for kids and adults alike. With so much power and emotion in her writing, Alicia is an author to watch and I can't wait to read this book and future stories to come."
Kirkus Reviews writes: "With smooth and engrossing prose, debut novelist Williams takes readers through an emotional, painful, yet still hopeful adolescent journey....It's a story that may be all too familiar for too many and one that needed telling."
The New York Times calls it a "stunning debut novel" and "tender and empowering," and compares it to Toni Morrison's "The Bluest Eye."
See an interview with local outlet Qcitymetro, highlighting her PDS connections, here.
Media interviews are continuing, with Williams recording an episode of NPR's "All Things Considered" with co-host Ari Shapiro this week. (Here is a link to the interview). The community is invited to celebrate the publication with Williams at Park Road Books Saturday, Jan. 19, at 2 p.m.
For Williams, the novel was a labor of love since she was in graduate school at Hamline University. She credits Anne Ursu, a children's author on the faculty at Hamline, as well as PD's Maria Blackburn and her own PDS students for providing the encouragement to turn the story from an 80-page graduate thesis into a full-fledged novel. Williams has been in the classroom at PDS since 2012, beginning as a lower school teaching assistant. She is an alumni parent, with her daughter Nailah '17 now a student at North Carolina A&T University.
"Genesis started out as me, but I'm not that interesting," says Williams. "I connect with Genesis, I identify with her, but I'm not her."
In the end, Genesis' story became a universal one of self-acceptance, and learning to reject society's messages about beauty and find the answers within ourselves. "It's a process for all of us, even as adults," says Williams.
Williams already has two more books on the horizon - the next one, a picture book biography about author and anthropologist Zora Neale Hurston, is due in approximately a year.