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Valerie Wilson Wesley

Author Valerie Wilson Wesley was born on November 22, 1947 in Willimantic, Connecticut to Bertram W. Wilson and Mary Wilson. Wesley attended Howard University, where she earned her B.A. degree in 1970. She went on to receive two M.A. degrees, one from the Bank Street College of Education and another from the Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism.

Wesley began her career as an associate editor for Scholastic News in 1970, where she remained until 1972. In 1988, she joined Essence magazine as the travel editor. Wesley served in many editing positions at the magazine. She served as executive editor from 1992 until 1996 and as contributing editor from 1994 until 1997. Wesley has also served as a writer for Essence. In 2005, she was named as an artist-in-residence at Columbia College of Chicago, Illinois. Wesley also served as an adjunct professor at Ramapo College of New Jersey in 2013.

Wesley was the author of numerous works in genres including mystery, romance, children’s, and nonfiction. She was the author of the Tamara Hayle Mysteries series, as well as the Willemena Rules! childrens book series. Wesley also wrote: Where Do I Go from Here?, which won the American Library Association’s Best Book for Reluctant Readers citation in 1993, When Death Comes Stealing, and Ain’t Nobody’s Business If I Do, which received the Award for Excellence in Adult Fiction from the American Library Association Black Caucus in 2000. Wesley was the recipient of the Griot Award from the New York chapter of the National Association of Black Journalists in 1993, and the Author of the Year Award from Amigirls Book Club in 2004, in addition to being named the author of the year by the Go Go, Girls Book Club.

An active participant in community organizations, Wesley was a board member of Sisters of Crime, a professional organization committed to fighting discrimination against women who write mystery novels, and was a member of the board of directors for the Newark Arts Council. She has also served on the Board of Trustees for the Montclair Art Museum and the YWCA of North Essex, New Jersey.

Wesley and her husband, Richard Wesley, have two daughters, Nandi and Thembi.

Valerie Wilson Wesley was interviewed by The HistoryMakers on March 30, 2017.

Accession Number

A2017.079

Sex

Female

Interview Date

03/30/2017

Last Name

Wesley

Maker Category
Middle Name

Wilson

Occupation
Organizations
Schools

Ashford School

Howard University

Kaiserslautern High School

Bank Street College of Education

Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism

First Name

Valerie

Birth City, State, Country

Willimantic

HM ID

WES11

Favorite Season

Fall, Spring

State

Connecticut

Favorite Vacation Destination

Caribbean

Favorite Quote

Life Goes On, There's Always Tomorrow.

Bio Photo
Speakers Bureau Region State

New Jersey

Interview Description
Birth Date

11/22/1947

Birth Place Term
Speakers Bureau Region City

Newark

Country

USA

Short Description

Author Valerie Wilson Wesley (1947 - ) was executive editor of Essence magazine and published several award winning novels.

Employment

Newark Public Schools Board of Education

Scholastic News

Essence Magazine

Self Employed, Author

Favorite Color

Purple, Maroon, Turquoise

Timing Pairs
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DAStories

Tape: 1 Story: 1 - Slating of Valerie Wilson Wesley's interview

Tape: 1 Story: 2 - Valerie Wilson Wesley lists her favorites

Tape: 1 Story: 3 - Valerie Wilson Wesley describes her mother's family background

Tape: 1 Story: 4 - Valerie Wilson Wesley recalls her mother's education and aspirations

Tape: 1 Story: 5 - Valerie Wilson Wesley describes her father's family background

Tape: 1 Story: 6 - Valerie Wilson Wesley talks about how her parents met and married

Tape: 1 Story: 7 - Valerie Wilson Wesley talks about her father's service as a Tuskegee Airman

Tape: 1 Story: 8 - Valerie Wilson Wesley talks about her father's legacy as a Tuskegee Airman

Tape: 1 Story: 9 - Valerie Wilson Wesley describes her parents' personalities and who she takes after

Tape: 1 Story: 10 - Valerie Wilson Wesley talks about her sister

Tape: 2 Story: 1 - Valerie Wilson Wesley describes her earliest childhood memories

Tape: 2 Story: 2 - Valerie Wilson Wesley remembers her father's deployment to the Vietnam War

Tape: 2 Story: 3 - Valerie Wilson Wesley recalls her early education

Tape: 2 Story: 4 - Valerie Wilson Wesley describes her community in Ashford, Connecticut

Tape: 2 Story: 5 - Valerie Wilson Wesley remembers discrimination in Ashford, Connecticut

Tape: 2 Story: 6 - Valerie Wilson Wesley recalls her early interests

Tape: 2 Story: 7 - Valerie Wilson Wesley remembers living in Madrid, Spain

Tape: 2 Story: 8 - Valerie Wilson Wesley reflects upon her experiences during high school

Tape: 2 Story: 9 - Valerie Wilson Wesley recalls her literary instruction in high school

Tape: 2 Story: 10 - Valerie Wilson Wesley remembers Kaiserslautern High School in Germany

Tape: 2 Story: 11 - Valerie Wilson Wesley remembers the political atmosphere at Howard University

Tape: 3 Story: 1 - Valerie Wilson Wesley recalls majoring in philosophy at Howard University

Tape: 3 Story: 2 - Valerie Wilson Wesley describes her early experiences of religions

Tape: 3 Story: 3 - Valerie Wilson Wesley remembers meeting her husband at Howard University

Tape: 3 Story: 4 - Valerie Wilson Wesley remembers meeting her husband at Howard University

Tape: 3 Story: 5 - Valerie Wilson Wesley talks about influence of philosophy on her writing

Tape: 3 Story: 6 - Valerie Wilson Wesley talks about her work in early childhood education

Tape: 3 Story: 7 - Valerie Wilson Wesley remembers her marriage to Richard Wesley

Tape: 3 Story: 8 - Valerie Wilson Wesley recalls joining the Harlem Writer's Guild, pt. 1

Tape: 3 Story: 9 - Valerie Wilson Wesley recalls joining the Harlem Writer's Guild, pt. 2

Tape: 3 Story: 10 - Valerie Wilson Wesley recalls her decision to attend the Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism

Tape: 3 Story: 11 - Valerie Wilson Wesley describes her position at Scholastic News

Tape: 3 Story: 12 - Valerie Wilson Wesley remembers joining Essence magazine

Tape: 4 Story: 1 - Valerie Wilson Wesley describes her role as senior editor of Essence

Tape: 4 Story: 2 - Valerie Wilson Wesley recalls her writing schedule in the late 1980s

Tape: 4 Story: 3 - Valerie Wilson Wesley talks about her writing process

Tape: 4 Story: 4 - Valerie Wilson Wesley describes her strategy for writing young adult fiction

Tape: 4 Story: 5 - Valerie Wilson Wesley talks about her article, 'Anatomy of a Party Gone Wrong'

Tape: 4 Story: 6 - Valerie Wilson Wesley describes her book, 'Where Do We Go From Here?'

Tape: 4 Story: 7 - Valerie Wilson Wesley talks about the adventures of her heroine, Tamara Hayle pt. 1

Tape: 4 Story: 8 - Valerie Wilson Wesley talks about the adventures of her heroine, Tamara Hayle pt. 2

Tape: 4 Story: 9 - Valerie Wilson Wesley talks about the possibility for television adaptations of her stories

Tape: 5 Story: 1 - Valerie Wilson Wesley talks about her research for her books

Tape: 5 Story: 2 - Valerie Wilson Wesley describes the inspiration behind her work

Tape: 5 Story: 3 - Valerie Wilson Wesley talks about her favorite books

Tape: 5 Story: 4 - Valerie Wilson Wesley talks about the business aspect of publishing

Tape: 5 Story: 5 - Valerie Wilson Wesley reflects upon her written works

Tape: 5 Story: 6 - Valerie Wilson Wesley reflects upon her career

Tape: 5 Story: 7 - Valerie Wilson Wesley describes her hopes and concerns for the African American community

Tape: 5 Story: 8 - Valerie Wilson Wesley reflects upon her family

Tape: 5 Story: 9 - Valerie Wilson Wesley reflects upon her legacy

Tape: 5 Story: 10 - Valerie Wilson Wesley describes how she would like to be remembered

Tape: 6 Story: 1 - Valerie Wilson Wesley narrates her photographs

DASession

1$1

DATape

4$4

DAStory

5$6

DATitle
Valerie Wilson Wesley talks about her article, 'Anatomy of a Party Gone Wrong'
Valerie Wilson Wesley describes her book, 'Where Do We Go From Here?'
Transcript
'Where Do I Go from Here?' [Valerie Wilson Wesley] came out--was published in '93 [1993] and now, now it won the NABJ [National Association of Black Journalists] Griot Award at some point?$$No, no that was--$$That--$$Well no, that was--I won the NA- for a journalist piece I did--$$Okay.$$--about my daughter, as a party.$$Oh, okay.$$That was, yeah that was, that was in, wait, wait, no the NABJ thing was an article thing I wrote in Essence.--$$Okay.$$--and that was for a party gone--I think it was called 'Anatomy of a Party Gone Wrong' [Valerie Wilson Wesley].$$Okay that makes more sense to me. Because I have--it's in here the same year so I thought it may have been for the, but I don't know why they would do that so that answers that. 'Anatomy of a Party Gone Wrong.' Now what, what is that about, gun violence?$$No, it's about the cops came into our home. My girls were giving a party and beat up everybody. And Amiri's kids were here and just it was awful. I was at Essence at the time and that's why I wrote it and Audrey [HistoryMaker Audrey Edwards]--$$So, well who orchestrated it (simultaneous)?$$(Simultaneous) Well what happened was the kids were giving a party. Lucky there were no drugs there.$$Were they in high school?$$No Thembi [Thembi Wesley] was in college [Howard University, Washington, D.C.], first year of college. Nandi [Nandi Wesley] was in high school, and Richard [HistoryMaker Richard Wesley] and I were up the street and Thembi's eighteen, and somehow, we think now that maybe what happened was they were trying to--, there was a young kid, a young very political young boy in Newark [New Jersey] who was, that we think they may have been following because he was really you know, kind of a revolutionary kid. Anyway the house was, friends from college, kids they knew. You know how parties start, with kids like, here. It's a predominantly white neighborhood [Montclair, New Jersey] and somehow I think they were following this kid. But they came in. No one--our neighbors were like really horrified because they don't, I don't care, you know, they were really were protective of the kids and because they know them. And the cops basically came in and and my daughter wouldn't let them in. She said, "You have to have--," basically stood up and said, "you have to have a search warrant. You just can't come in--," and pushed her out of the way and went. They were just, it was awful and when they did that, the boy saw them. What happened in these situations, the boys, they pick on the boys first and there was lots--the girls first. There were lots of siblings at the party so they would start, they would start beating up the girls and you know pushing them around and like you know and anyway they ended up arresting kids and including Thembi and including Amiri Baraka who came when he heard his kids were here and when he heard they were doing that to us, he got in his car and drove down here and came into the party and was angry, and Thembi and Amiri ended up in the same squad car. It was just a mess. Anyway, and so and it was just awful, awful and we ended up, ultimately they kind of dropped the charges and expunged Thembi's record which you know it was just you know, it was just terrible and to have your home invaded like that. And I think if they were looking for something it would have, it would have been of course there was nothing here, including if there'd been would have been mine because the kids, there was not any alcohol. They were not drinking. No alcohol. So that was, and I wrote about it. You read about it from two perspectives. One from me and one from a kid who was here who is now a doctor. Anyway, as it ends it up, as it ends up it was just awful that's all I can say. Recently, that maybe two years ago I ordered a pizza and the delivery guy came and when he came to the house he said, you, he looked like he had a hard time. He said, "I know this house," and I said--. "Well you know I remember I was a cop once and we came here." And he just apologized. He said, "I'm so sorry that what happened to you. Will you forgive me for that?" I said, "Yeah." I mean, "Is everyone okay?" And I said, "Yeah." And they were. I mean they went through it. Thembi never again, they were sensitive, they were afterwards, but they all, it was a terrible education for them but it, thank God there was no one was shot. It would be today, but then they weren't, cops weren't using guns like they do now. And it was just really not, you know, it was just rousing people you know arresting kids but it was really awful but the kids got, that was their first introduction to you know that kind of, "You ain't white," that's what my uncle told me. He said, "Didn't you teach those kids they weren't white?" That was my uncle's--, "Valerie [HistoryMaker Valerie Wilson Welsey], why didn't you, didn't you teach them?" I said, "I, you know, you yeah." I was young too, then in a sense. It was awful. That's all, I kept saying that word again and again. It was just really frightening (simultaneous).$$(Simultaneous) Hm, yeah okay. That's quite a story, I--yeah.$$It, yeah and that was the 'Anatomy of a Party Gone Wrong.' It was a look at that.$'Where Do We Go From Here?' [Valerie Wilson Wesley]. Now what was that about?$$That was about, that was a young adult novel. That was the first after the, in, of the children's the, the AFRO-BETS book of heroes ['Book of Black Heroes from A to Z: An Introduction to Important Black Achievers for Young Readers,' Wade Hudson with Valerie Wilson Wesley] that was about two kids and it was based upon something Richard [Wesley's husband, HistoryMaker Richard Wesley] was writing, and how it got and came into being was [HistoryMaker] Walter Dean Myers had said to send him an--I was working and I'm still working I never sold it on a book about history book for children about the Sea Islands about port--what they call the, port world experiment [sic. Port Royal Experiment] which was when missionaries from the East came down to the Sea Islands. Anyway I had the three chapters and I sent it to Walter Dean Myers' editor and she said, "We don't want to buy history, but do you have anything contemporary?" And I said, "Oh yes, of course I do," which I didn't. You never say you don't. You always--and I wrote the first three chapters of what I called at the time was 'The Indicot Blues' [ph.] and it was, 'Where Do I Go From---'it was basically about a middle--a kid on scholarship at this exclusive school and he [Marcus] and this little girl in Newark [New Jersey] it's from her perspective, whose at the same school and her fitting into the glorified world of middle--of them both the private schools, he you know he drops out and disappears one night. He's like the star of the school. He's very friendly and everyone loves him and he kind of helps her and her name is Nia, kind of helps her be a part of the school only because he's such a you know but he leaves one night and she basically goes in search of him because now she's there by herself and she gets into a fight with a little white girl which also grew up in Newark and was a lot of that tension. Anyway she finds him and they become friends again and he's fine and it was based upon, Richard was doing a story about at the time called 'Murder Without Motive' ['Murder Without Motive: The Edmund Perry Story'] for, and it was about a kid who went to one of these prep schools [Phillips Exeter Academy, Exeter, New Hampshire] and comes back home and ends up shooting a cop or shooting somebody and ends up dead. And I, I of course took my story and made it different. But and that's what it was about and it's about these two kids in this environment, this predominantly white private school. But it was you know it was pretty good and I, it was--out of print now but I think it would be interesting to, it was Scholastic [Scholastic Corporation] was--$$Okay, okay.$$And that was the first one (simultaneous).