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Charles Fuller

Produced by Karen Smyles

May 2011

Charles Fuller is a native Philadelphian who grew up in North Philadelphia and graduated from Roman Catholic High School. He recalls being inspired to become a writer when he and his best friend Larry Neal went in search of a book by an African American author in the high school library and couldn't find one. They both decided they would become writers and one day have books in that same library. Today Fuller does.

After 40-years of work in film and theater, acclaimed screenwriter and playwright Charles Fuller launched his first novel, SNATCH: The Adventures of David and Me in Old New York. Mr. Fuller is well-known for A Soldier's Play which won the Pulitzer Prize for Drama in 1982 and his Academy Award nominated film, A Soldier's Story, 1985, which he wrote the screenplay for and garnered nominations for Best Screenplay and Best Picture.

SNATCH fulfils a promise Mr. Fuller made to his now middle-aged sons Charles Fuller, III and David Ira Fuller nearly a half century ago, that he would create a story in which the two of them would be the heroes in a historical adventure during the turbulent times in New York before slavery was abolished.

Set in "Five Points" a notorious neighborhood in New York City in 1838, SNATCH is a tale about two brothers, David and Charles, "free" black kids, who while fishing in the Hudson River on a day in September meet and help a fugitive slave, Freddie Johnson elude a gang of slave catchers led by a mysterious man called "Snatch." Over thirty-six hours, the two brothers engineer a wild chase and escape through the streets and tunnels of Old New York helped by the "Brewery Witches," a trio of girls from the neighborhood.

This segment of Art of Life, Charles Fuller discusses how his career as a writer began, his success in the theater and film industries, and his goal of introducing the pleasure of reading and history to young people through books like SNATCH. Although geared towards kids of middle-school age, Fuller believes adults will enjoy it just as much. We also meet his two sons Charles and David who discuss life with a dad in the limelight, and their pleasure with starring in his new children's book.

More great historical fiction your middle-school child might enjoy!

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  • The Watsons Go To Birmingham by Christopher Paul Curtis
  • Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry by Mildred D. Taylor
  • Red Scarf Girl by Ji-li Jiang
  • Weedflower by Cynthia Kadohata
  • The Circuit by Francisco Jimenez
  • Homeless Bird by Gloria Whelan
  • The Breadwinner by Deborah Ellis
  • Before We Were Free by Julia Alvarez
  • Fever 1793 by Laurie Halse Anderson