Kem Knapp Sawyer was born in New York (on St. Luke's Place) and now lives in Washington, DC, with Jon (her husband) and Shadow (a puppy). She enjoys taking long walks, movies, reading (of course), travel, holidays, cooking for lots of people and cooking for just a few people. Most of all she likes spending time with her family—three daughters (one lives in Congo and two are close by), two sons-in-law, and seven grandchildren (almost one to eleven).
Kem writes books for young people, as well as reviews and travel articles. (See the Dorling Kindersley (DK) Eyewitness Travel Guide to Washington if you're planning to visit the nation's capital! Highly recommended: "Three Guided Walks.") Her feature stories have appeared in Cobblestone, Scholastic News, The Five Owls, the St. Louis Post Dispatch, the Christian Science Monitor, and the Washington Post.
Kem's most recent books are Grace Akallo and the Pursuit of Justice for Child Soldiers, Champion of Freedom: Nelson Mandela and Champion of Freedom: Mohandas Gandhi. Her other biographies include Abigail Adams, Eleanor Roosevelt, Anne Frank, Lucretia Mott: Friend of Justice, and Marjory Stoneman Douglas: Guardian of the Everglades. She has also written The Underground Railroad in American History and Refugees: Seeking a Safe Haven, as well as a novel—Freedom Calls: Journey of a Slave Girl.
On a trip to India Kem visited Gandhi's ashram in Ahmedabad, his home in Mumbai, and the Birla house and gardens in Delhi where he spent his last days. The Birla house is now a memorial where people from all over the world come to learn about Gandhi's philosophy of ahimsa (or the practice of non-violence). It is a way of life she very much admires.
Kem met Grace Akallo several years ago when Grace was a college student living outside Boston. She had been abducted by the Lord's Resistance Army from a boarding school in Uganda. Forced to serve as a child soldier, she later escaped. She's now become an advocate for preventing the use of child soldiers and is a brilliant speaker on the rights of children. Her story is one of courage—and also hope.
Kem is also a contributing editor at the Pulitzer Center on Crisis Reporting. This organization, started by her husband, Jon, supports international journalism and an innovative education program. Kem works closely with the university student fellowship program.