Meet Reading Roundup Author Alton Carter

Oklahoma’s third DoubleR Author Tour kicks off September 11 in Claremore with a presentation by award-winning author Alton Carter. He will also be appearing in public libraries and schools in Stratford, Elk City, Tecumseh, and Watonga.

Carter’s first book, The Boy Who Carried Bricks, is a true account of his young life in Oklahoma—a life betrayed by abandonment, neglect, hunger, and violence. While some readers may identify too closely with the hardscrabble narrative, all readers find inspiration in the author’s ultimate triumph over a difficult childhood.

The book received the 2016 Oklahoma Book Award in the Young Adult Category, and Carter has received a Martin Luther King, Jr. Award for outstanding leadership in the community. Today he serves as Director of Youth Ministries at First United Methodist Church in Stillwater.

Carter’s other two books, Aging Out, a story about his life after foster care, and a picture book titled The Boy Who Dreamed Big, will also be available for purchase during his Reading Roundup presentations. Aging Out is also an award-winning book. It received the 2017 In the Margins Award for Nonfiction.

In preparation of his September tour, we had a chance to talk to Carter about his books, and how they are making an impact on people of all ages.

Book Cover of the Boy Who Carried BricksODL: Hey, Alton. Congratulations on your two award-winning books. Let’s start with The Boy Who Carried Bricks, the featured title for your Reading Roundup tour. There’s a saying that everyone has a book in them, but you are among those who actually wrote and published your story. Would you tell us a little about that process?

Carter: The writing process was both difficult and cleansing, as I had to relive many of the events. Honestly there were times when I wanted to stop writing and shove it all down. When I traveled and spoke to others, I found that there were so many people like me trying to just survive. Hearing people say how much they appreciated me sharing my story gave me the courage to finish the book. I wanted to give others hope, so I tried to be as transparent as possible when writing my story.

ODL: The reaction of young people and educators to your story has been pretty phenomenal. What do young readers tell you about how the book has affected them? What do teachers and librarians tell you?

Carter: Students will often share with me that, for the first time, they feel like they aren’t alone. They tell me that hearing my story or reading my book gave them hope. I get the same response from teachers and librarians. Many of them tell me they had little “Alton’s” in their class, and after reading my book they had a better understanding of how to react to those students.

(At this point, Carter shared one of the hundreds of e-mails he has received from people of all ages. This one was from a woman who recounted the years of abuse she suffered as a child, and shared the impact those years continue to have on her life. “Please don’t publish this,” Carter said. “I’m just sharing an example of what kind of responses I get.”)

ODL: You’ve been able to take the book on the road and visit with young people around the country, from Oakland, California, area schools to the National Book Festival in Washington, D.C. Do you have any stories from the road you’d like to share?

Carter: There have been several occasions where teenagers told me that The Boy Who Carried Bricks was the first book they had ever read! As for specific stories, honestly, I have discovered that there are hurting people everywhere. Rich, poor, black, and white, there are kids wanting to fit in and feel accepted.

ODL: Aging Out continues your story as you aged out of the foster care system. The book is a reminder that life will always throw you challenges. I’m curious if your young fans are reading this follow-up, or if adults are the main audience for the sequel.

Carter: Both adults and young people are reading Aging Out.

ODL: We see that you’re a fan of David Shannon’s popular No, David! picture book, and that you’re helping to promote it. What’s special about this particular children’s book?

Carter: I like this book because, as a child, I was told that I would never amount to anything, nor would I be anybody important. The book No, David! just connected with how I felt as a child. We just need to listen to those who whisper in our ears telling us that dreams can come true.

ODL: What does the future hold for Alton Carter? Are you working on another book?

Carter: I just released a children’s book titled The Boy Who Dreamed Big. I am currently working on a poetry book titled Make it Stop. This book reveals how reading and writing poems were a key component in helping me heal the wounds from my childhood.

ODL: Thank you, Alton! We look forward to reading these new books. And we look forward to the big tour!