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Author Biography

Frances Schoonmaker
Image courtesy of Teachers College, Columbia University

I was reared on a farm in Western Oklahoma, not far from where The Black Alabaster Box takes place. My parents were farmers and school teachers. Growing up on a farm gave my brothers and me many opportunities to explore and use our imaginations. We learned about hard work, success and failure, and caring for the world around us.

Every summer my mother ordered a box of library books from the Oklahoma State Library Commission. It was always a great day when it came. As soon as we finished one box, she sent for another. Reading took us around the world.

In college I studied to be a teacher. I taught just about all of the elementary school grades. It was valuable experience when I became a professor at Teachers College, Columbia University in New York. There I taught men and women who were studying to be teachers, school principals, and to work in education-related jobs.

Now I share my time between Baltimore and with my daughter and granddaughter in Stratford-upon-Avon, England where my daughter is studying at the famous Shakespeare Institute. I like to garden, read, write, and go for long walks. I like to travel, too.  I’ve been lucky enough to work in many places around the world. What a wonderful world we live in! Below are some pictures taken in some of the places I’ve been lucky enough to visit.

Still, I think Bilbo Baggins had it right, Yet feet that wandering have gone, Turn at last to home afar. J.R.R. Tolkien, The Hobbit. For me, home is where family is.

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James Pearson Beckwourth, 1798-1866. A scanned image from a book about him published in the 1800s (Wikimedia Commons). Born into slavery in Virginia, Beckworth was an explorer, mountain man, and fur trader. He is one of the people who make the Great Westward Expansion such an interesting period in US history.

The Black Alabaster Box is set in 1856 during the Great Western Migration. Grace Willis, the protagonist doesn’t meet Beckwourth, but she does meet a cast of diverse characters. It is Jim Payne, a freed black and retired Army Scout who teaches her how to be a scout, equipping her with survival skills she will later need.  

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