Author Q&A with Jacqueline Jules
Today, I’m excited to share a Q&A with the author of more than 50 books for young readers, and most particularly, the author of My Name is Hamburger, which I reviewed yesterday. Jacqueline Jules shares some of the inspiration behind favorite characters, why she chose to write Trudie Hamburger’s story in verse, and more.
Q: What is your favorite thing about Trudie Hamburger? What inspired you to create her?
Trudie is a version of myself at her age. My Name is Hamburger was inspired by my own childhood in a small southern town as a Jewish minority. Writing this book gave me the opportunity to recall both pleasant and not-so-pleasant memories of growing up.
Q: Who is your favorite character in the story? Were there things about your favorite character which couldn’t be included in the novel?
My favorite character in My Name is Hamburger is Daddy. This character was modeled after my own father who was a German speaking Jewish immigrant. Like Daddy in My Name is Hamburger, my father loved flowers and enjoyed visiting the cherry blossoms in Washington, DC. A big difference between Trudie’s father and my own is his profession. My father worked in a winery. He wore a tan uniform to work and came home each night smelling of fermented grapes. However, I felt a father who worked in a winery would be distracting in my middle grade novel. So I chose to make Trudie’s father the owner of a print shop because ink also carries a distinctive smell.
Is there a scene or moment in your novel that really sticks with you? Can you tell us a little bit about it?
There is a place in the novel where Trudie realizes that she has made an unfair assumption. She blames the bully who has been tormenting her for something he did not do. When she learns the truth, she says “The news should make me feel better. No one tried to hurt me. It just happened.” Sometimes, we suffer difficult situations and loss. There is no one to blame. It is a reality everyone must face at some point in their lives.
My Name is Hamburger is set in Virginia in 1962. What made you choose that particular time and setting?
Since this novel was inspired by my childhood, I needed it to take place in an era and town similar to my own experiences. It was a challenge at times, to make sure the things I recalled took place in the year of the novel. For example, in the final editing stages, I had to take out a particular brand of bike which was popular after 1962. Historical fiction requires research, even if the era is personally familiar to the author.
What made you decide to write Trudie’s story in verse?
Poetry is and was my first love as a writer. I love the compression and imagery of poetry as well as the challenge of packing volumes of meaning into a few lines. I am the author of four books of poetry for adults and a collection for young people titled, Tag Your Dreams: Poems of Play and Persistence. My first drafts of Trudie’s story were written in prose. Her voice didn’t truly emerge until I began writing the story in verse.
What do you most hope that readers take away from My Name is Hamburger?
I hope this novel increases empathy and understanding. Jews make up only 0.2% of the world’s population. Many young readers may not have the experience of meeting a Jewish person outside of a book. While My Name is Hamburger is historical fiction, Trudie’s experiences with anti-Semitism and anti-immigrant sentiments are relevant today.
About Jacqueline Jules
A former elementary school librarian, Jacqueline Jules is the author of over fifty books for young readers including My Name is Hamburger, which is a PJ Our Way selection. Her other books for young readers include The Porridge-Pot Goblin, Drop by Drop: A Story of Rabbi Akiva, Picnic at Camp Shalom, The Generous Fish, Feathers for Peacock, and Never Say a Mean Word Again. She is also the author of two chapter book series, Zapato Power and Sofia Martinez. Visit her online at www.jacquelinejules.com
About My Name is Hamburger
Say your name with pride!
Trudie Hamburger is the only Jewish kid living in the small southern town of Colburn in 1962. Nobody else at her school has a father who speaks with a German accent or a last name that means chopped meat. Trudie doesn’t want to be the girl who cries when Daniel Reynolds teases her. Or the girl who hides in the library to avoid singing Christian songs in music class. She doesn’t want to be different. But over the course of a few pivotal months, as Trudie confronts her fears and embraces what she loves–including things that make her different from her classmates–she finally finds a way to say her name with pride.