Monday, February 3, 2014

Author Spotlight: Carolyn Marie Wilkins

In They Raised Me Up, Carolyn Marie Wilkins juxtaposes her personal story as an up-and-coming musician and single mother in the 1980s with the histories of influential women from her family’s past. This poignant and telling narrative not only offers insights on the travails of a musician and single mother but also humanizes the struggles of black and biracial women from the early twentieth century into the 1980s.   The interweaving of memoir with family history creates a cohesive, entertaining, informative, and engrossing read that will appeal to anyone with an interest in African American Studies, Women’s History, Ethnomusicology, or simply looking for an intriguing story about music and family.

Q. What inspired you to include the stories of your ancestors and mentors alongside your own?
 I think the most important part of the book is not my story, but the stories of the other women in the book.

Q. Did you ever consider abandoning music?
Yes.  I actually quit for a couple of years when my daughter was around two years old.  I went back to school, got a degree in Paralegal Studies, and worked in a law firm for a while.  But I just couldn't stand it. Shortly afterwards I moved to Boston to focus full time on my music career.

Q. What does your daughter think of the book?
She's been very supportive!  A big motivation for me writing the book was to give her more information--more about her roots.  Now she knows who her people are and where she comes from.

Q. How much more accessible to women has the music industry become since the ‘80s?
Things are much better now.  The amazing drummer Terri Lyne Carrington, who graciously wrote a blurb for my book, just won a Grammy for her latest album.  That would never have happened thirty years ago.

Q. What advice do you have for young women looking to pursue a career in music?
Prepare yourself as thoroughly as possible--learn all aspects of the business and of your craft. Most importantly, work on building a strong sense of self-esteem--it's rough out there.

Q. What do you hope readers take away from They Raised Me Up?
My hope is that readers will be educated, entertained, and inspired by my book.

Q. Do you have any upcoming writing or music projects?
Thanks for asking! I'm in the midst of writing a murder mystery.  Also, I plan to release a solo piano CD this fall.  

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