Summers, Barbara 1944-
Summers, Barbara 1944-
Office—Barbara Summers, Open the Unusual Door, Park West Station, P.O. Box 21044, New York, NY 10025.
(Editor) Brian Lanker, I Dream a World: Portraits of Black Women Who Changed America, Stewart, Tabori & Chang (New York, NY), 1989.
Nouvelle Soul: Short Stories, Amistad (New York, NY), 1992.
The Price You Pay (novel), Amistad (New York, NY), 1993.
Skin Deep: Inside the World of Black Fashion Models, Amistad (New York, NY), 1999.
Black and Beautiful: How Women of Color Changed the Fashion Industry, Amistad (New York, NY), 2001.
(Editor and author of introduction) Open the Unusual Door: True-Life Stories of Challenge, Adventure, and Success by Black Americans, Graphia (Boston, MA), 2005.
Barbara Summers is a writer and educator with a background in the beauty industry. Along with her fiction, she has also written, edited, and collected several works about social activism and the hidden history of African-American women. Prior to writing, Summers worked as a fashion model for over fifteen years. Her realization that women of color played a role in changing the face of the modern concept of beauty inspired her to move from fiction to nonfiction with the books Skin Deep: Inside the World of Black Fashion Models and Black and Beautiful: How Women of Color Changed the Fashion Industry.
Skin Deep is part biography and part an overview of the world inhabited by African-American fashion models from the 1940s through the late twentieth century. In addition to exploring the role of models in the fashion industry, Summers describes the emergence of black designers and modeling agencies that promote models of color. Calling the book a "massive tome," Ann Burns added in her Library Journal review that in Skin Deep Summers "presents a fascinating portrait of black supermodels."
Edited by Summers, Open the Unusual Door: The True Life Stories of Challenge, Adventure, and Success by Black Americans is geared toward a younger audience. In addition to excerpts from the autobiographies of sixteen well-known African Americans, Summers gathers tales of challenges overcome, which provide readers with insights into how life choices play out in one's life. The book includes the writings of athletes, entertainers, activists, writers, a scientist, and a statesman. "This little gem of a book should be a first purchase for public and school libraries," Carol Jones Collins asserted in School Library Journal, while Kay Weisman wrote in Booklist that the "thoughtful essays" in Open the Unusual Door "will make excellent discussion starters." Patricia Moore, writing for Kliatt, found the book to be "easily read but not easily forgotten."
As she noted on her home page, Open the Unusual Door was written because Summers "got tired of seeing the headlines: Black Kids Don't Read, or Reading Scores for Black Students Are below Grade. I'm a writer. If black kids who don't read grow up to be black adults who don't read, I'm going to be out of a job!" Her idea was to assemble a selection of essays relevant for a crucial target audience: young black students struggling with reading. "Challenges can be doors to opportunity—unusual, unexpected chances to change your life," she wrote, explaining the book's focus. "And there's nothing like using the real experiences of real people to show how this can happen."
BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:
American Visions, April-May, 1994, Gary A. Puckrein, review of The Price You Pay, p. 33.
Black Issues Book Review, January, 1999, review of Skin Deep: Inside the World of Black Fashion Models, p. 51.
Booklist, January 1, 2006, Kay Weisman, review of Open the Unusual Door: True-Life Stories of Challenge, Adventure, and Success by Black Americans, p. 79.
Kliatt, March, 2006, Patricia Moore, review of Open the Unusual Door, p. 36.
Library Journal, December, 1993, review of The Price You Pay, p. 177; November 1, 1994, review of Skin Deep, p. 86; November 1, 1998, Ann Burns, review of Skin Deep, p. 117.
Obsidian II, fall-winter, 1993, Joyce Pettis, review of Nouvelle Soul: Short Stories, p. 136.
Publishers Weekly, October 26, 1992, review of Nouvelle Soul, p. 56; January 17, 1994, review of The Price You Pay, p. 408; August 31, 1998, review of Skin Deep, p. 65.
School Library Journal, December, 2005, Carol Jones Collins, review of Open the Unusual Door, p. 175.
Barbara Summers: Open the Unusual Door,http://www.opentheunusualdoor.com (August 7, 2007), "Barbara Summers."
Barbara Summers' Amazon Daily Blog,http://www.amazon.com/gp/pdp/profile/A164G9BFSMIQNU/ref=cm_psrch_profile/103-4569603-3433440 (October 5, 2006).
Houghton Mifflin Books Web site,http://www.houghtonmifflinbooks.com/ (August 6, 2007), "Barbara Summers."