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March 11, 2013

Meet the Author: James Robinson

I had a very interesting home life—so interesting in fact that I chose to include large amounts of it in my book: Fighting the Effects of Gravity. I am an only child. Both of my parents are still living. My father is 85 and my mother is 83. Both are now retired. My mother was an educator who went on to start her own after school in 1972 and later opened a pre-school in 1984. My father was the famous one of the family—so famous in fact that my young cousin—when he was about ten years old—said: “uncle James, you’re famous” and began referring to him simply as “famous.” My father was a great athlete who was the first black to play football for the University of Pittsburgh in the mid-forties. He went on to become a Presbyterian minister who was very active in the Civil Rights Movement in Pittsburgh the 60’s. He met Martin Luther King at one point who—when he ran in to him again—didn’t call him famous like my young cousin did—but did refer to him as “Pittsburgh.” My parents opened a charter school on the northside of Pittsburgh ten years ago for grades K-8 which will solidify their legacy.

When I began writing Death of a Shrinking Violet, I got away from the memoir style and ended up writing 13 separate essays about different topics which had always caught my fancy or struck me as noteworthy. All of my essays are humorous. My essays usually start with a germ of material or a topic. In Death of a Shrinking Violet for instance, I got the idea to write an essay about Sam’s Club after dozens of visits to the stores. After giving some thought to the idea, sitting down and sketching it up (doing some brainstorming with pencil and paper in hand). Very little research is usually required; my experience is all I need.

In the essay, “Where’s your Coat?” I realized that it really bugged me that some people didn’t where coats even in bitter cold weather. What’s the problem with these people? How can you wear a t-shirt in the winter? People never did this when I was young. Is this some sort of new phenomenon? It didn’t take long to realize that there was a wealth of humor and oddities in our daily lives and that we can all laugh at one another.

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