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Stateside Podcast: Des Cooper's new children's book celebrates intergenerational joy

In author Desiree Cooper's new children's book — called Nothing Special — a grandfather and grandson find beauty in the ordinary moments of life — from catching crabs at the beach to laying under the stars. Cooper based the book on the relationship between her grandson Jax and her own father, known in the book as PopPop.

Cooper lived in Detroit for 30 years. But while she was there, she would make frequent trips down to her parents home in Virginia. Cooper said that she realized when writing this book that she was not just going down for the sun and the warmth, but because of what she calls “Black nostalgia for us.”

“Our families have been divided so many times over time,” Cooper said. “During enslavement, after reconstruction. And then, if you look at the great migration that was started in 1917 and went all the way up to 1970. … So for us, nostalgia is reversing that journey and going back south and maintaining those ties.”

a photo of a woman with shoulder-length black hair. She has on a red dress with some flowers printed on it, as well as a straw hat and glasses.
Courtesy of Desiree Cooper
Desiree Cooper is a writer who used to be based in Detroit, but has moved out to Virginia Beach, Virginia.

Apart from the beauty of the story, the book is also illustrated through intricately designed stop motion photographs. Each picture contains a character made out of different fibers, dressed in small articles of clothing, posed in a setting also made out of some kind of fabric or fiber. Illustrator Bec Sloan built the characters and set by hand and arranged each vignette for the story. Cooper said she was blown away by the final result.

"The clouds are fabric, made by hand. The grass is made by hand. The water, there's scenes by the water, that's fabric, sheer fabric layered and layered to make the water. She hand carved crabs. She hand carved ears of corn. Everything is by hand. It is stratospheric."

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Music in this episode byBlue Dot Sessions.

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April Van Buren is a producer for <i>Stateside</i>. She produces interviews for air as well as web and social media content for the show.
Dan Netter joined the Stateside team as an intern in May 2022 and is a senior at Michigan State University studying Journalism and Social Relations & Policy.