At the 2010 National Book Awards where I was a judge for Young People's Literature

Solstice MFA in Writing Program at Pine Manor College

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Laban Carrick Hill's newest book When the Beat Was Born: DJ Kool Herc and the Origins of Hip Hop is illustrated by the amazing Theodore Taylor III. Time Magazine describes the book as, "Completely awesome." It was be selected for six 2014 Notoble Book Lists and its illustrator Theordore Taylor III was selected as the 2014 Coretta Scott King/​John Steptoe Award for New Talent.

Hill's previous Dave the Potter: Artist, Slave, Poet is a picture book poem illustrated by Brian Collier and won a 2011 Caldecott Honor and Coretta Scott King Illustration Award along with 12 other book honors and awards. His award-winning America Dreaming: How Youth Changed America in the 60's (also with Little, Brown & Co.) won the 2007 Parenting Publications Gold Award. The New York Times Book Review wrote, "Excellent." Howard Zinn praised the cultural history as "a phenomenal piece of work, extensively researched and visually stimulating; an essential resource for children and adults of all ages." America Dreaming examines the legacy of the sixties, and how the events that took place then inform our lives today.

Hill is the author of more than 35 books, including the 2004 National Book Award Finalist Harlem Stomp!: A Cultural History of the Harlem Renaissance, a book he researched for more than a decade. He was drawn to this era because the Harlem Renaissance seemed to embody Ralph Ellison’s sense that America could not be America without African Americans. Hill has also taught writing at the Solstice MFA in Creative Writing Program at Pine Manor College, Columbia University, Baruch College, St. Michael’s College in Vermont, University of Colombo in Sri Lanka, and the University of Cape Coast in Ghana. In the fall of 2008, when he was a visiting professor of creative writing at the University of Cape Coast, Cape Coast, Ghana, he co-founder and still co-directs of the Writers Project of Ghana, which was formed to promote literacy and literary culture and to publish literary books in Ghana. The Writers Project of Ghana has been supported by the U. S. State Department. In 2010, Hill went to the University of Colombo in Sri Lanka to teach writing on a Fulbright Fellowship. As well, the U.S. State Department has brought him to Egypt, the Philippines and Indonesia to lecture on American culture, African American history, hip hop, and writing.

Hill has written two young adult novels: A Brush with Napoleon, based on the life of the French Romantic painter David, and Casa Azul, based on the Frida Kahlo painting Self Portrait (with Monkey and Hummingbird). Casa Azul was selected as a New York Public Library 2006 Book for the Teen Age. His poems have been included in the Contemporary Poetry of New England anthology and in numerous literary magazines, including Solstice Literary Magazine, Tar River Review and Denver Quarterly. He was one of the founding editors of American Letters & Commentary. He has also written critical biographies for Scribners American Writers and British Writers series on J. M. Coetzee, Bobbie Ann Mason, and Jane Kenyon. His articles have appeared in a variety of publications such as The New York Times, The Smithsonian, and Eating Well.

Hill was born in New York, but grew up primarily in Memphis, TN, where his family was from. In Memphis, he attended a segregated religious school until he was asked not to return after the 9th grade. He then attended three quarters of the year of a religious boarding school in Chattanooga until he was asked to leave. He then moved to Denver, CO, to live with his father where he attended East High School until graduation. He moved to NYC when he was 17 and lived in the East Village where he became wrapped up in the Punk music scene. At 20, he apprenticed with Allen Ginsberg in Boulder, CO. When he returned, he got a job as a copywriter at The New Yorker Magazine. While there, he enrolled at Benard M. Baruch College where in 1986 he earned his BA in English and earned a number of academic awards. Upon graduation, he attended the CUNY Latin Institute where he graduate Magna cum Laude and then entered the Columbia University School of the Arts with a Teaching Fellowship. In 1989, he graduated with an MFA in Writing, specializing in Poetry.

After publishing several children's books and working at Bantam Books, Hill moved to Vermont with his wife and toddler. He has lived in Vermont ever since. He is active in the community. He coached girls soccer for 14 years. He was on the local library board. He is on several other local boards and has volunteered with several organizations, including and Winooski Dollars for Scholars.

Laban Hill is available to visit your school, library or organization. He can lead presentations, workshops, lectures, and activities based on his award-winning books, including When the Beat Was Born: DJ Kool Herc and the Creation of Hip Hop and Dave the Pottter: Artist Poet Slave.

Hill is also available to give readings, talks and creative writing workshops.

Contact: labanhill@​

Selected Works

1. Nonfiction
"Completely awesome"--Time "Hill tells the story of the birth of hip-hop with his own catchy rhythm, and Taylor’s illustrations bring out the enthusiasm and sense of community at the heart of this trend-setting sound."--New York Times Book Review
"Phenomenal."–Howard Zinn "Excellent."–New York Times Book Review
Harlem Stomp! is a wonderous new book: it celebrates a time, a place, an energy, and a people who refused to be held back and so they created a culture the entire world is still reeling from.”
--George C. Wolfe, writer, director, and producer of the Public Theater, NYC
3. Poetry
A picturebook poem describing the life of the slave potter Dave. Illustrated by Bryan Collier.
“Contemporary Poetry of New England offers a vivid portrait of a region, its colors and smells, its physical and emotional textures, and the people…. It presents a range of poets, few of whom would call themselves a “region poet,” although each has taken to heart in a private way Frost’s haunting dictum: ‘Locality gives art.’”
--from the Introduction
2. Fiction
A seventeen-year-old is plucked out of the Grande Armee to sit in place of Napoleon for a portrait of the Emperor by the artist David.
"I felt like a kid reading every word on the page! I liked the strains of "magic realism" coming through in Frida's house! Children will relate to this very much! The story is charming and reads like a thriller." –Margarita Aguilar, Assisant Curator, El Museo del Barrio
4. Middle Grade Series
These kids love extreme sports--snowboarding, skateboarding, rock climbing, wake boarding--and are ready to fight when the right to do their sport is threatened.