What’s Your Story?: Lehman Riley

“What’s Your Story?” is a new, guest post feature on BCBA web. Authors-traditional and self-published-are invited to write about their books, writing journey, creative process, inspiration, rewards and challenges of publishing, etc. They can go in whatever direction they choose. We are excited and grateful for their willingness to share, and we hope you enjoy our guests’ stories.

My grandfather Papa Lemon was amazing!

I was always fascinated with my grandfather Papa Lemon. He was born in the small town of West, Mississippi in 1896. His real name was Walter Cain. When Walter was two years old, he was acting fussy and cranky one day, and his mother said, “You are sour as a lemon.” The nickname stuck for his entire life. Eventually, his grandchildren began calling him Papa Lemon.

Papa Lemon passed away in 1973. When I was a child, my family and I would travel to Mississippi from Minneapolis during the summer. Visiting Papa Lemon was always such an amazing time. He made me feel like the most important child in the world. When Papa Lemon passed away, I was only ten years old. It was like a bad dream. How could Papa Lemon be gone forever?

Fast forward to May 1992, which is when I was spiritually inspired to write children’s books featuring Papa Lemon as the main character even though I never thought about being an author.

What a 25-year journey this has been. I wrote one Papa Lemon book in the mid-1990s. However, life took my career in a different direction, and I put the book project on hold for quite some time. Then, in 2003, my job was being transferred from Minnesota to Wisconsin. The move didn’t feel right. However, the time to jump start the Papa Lemon Book business was right on time!

I published my first book about Dr. Martin Luther King in The Adventures of Papa Lemon’s Little Wanderers series in September 2004. Since then, I have published six additional 3rd-grade reading level books with historical figures ranging from Harriet Tubman to the Navajo Wind Talkers and one about the first successful heart surgery performed by Dr. Daniel Williams.

My journey as an author has been filled with numerous ups and downs. On the positive side, I have spoken to more than 17,000 students in the Twin Cities area. It is extremely fulfilling to share my books and Papa Lemon stories with students. On the negative side, having major success in the book world is extremely difficult. I haven’t even come close to making a profit in my book venture.

I do believe, however, that creating the Papa Lemon book series is part of my spiritual destiny. Few African American males have created a children’s book series featuring their grandfather as the main character. I feel the time is right for a breakthrough. Imagine an African American grandfather as a positive role model getting all youth excited about U.S. History and learning more about their family history!



The Adventures of Papa Lemon’s Little Wanderers

Book 7: Abraham Lincoln and the Battle with Depression 

Book 6: Dr. Daniel Williams and the First Successful Heart Surgery in 1893 

Book 5: The California Gold Rush  

Book 4: The Life of Babe Didrikson “Greatness is Never Forgotten” 

Book 3: World War II, The Navajo Wind Talkers

Book 2: The Dangerous Escape from Slavery 

Book 1: Meeting Dr. Martin Luther King 


Lehman Riley, creator of The Adventures of Papa Lemon’s Little Wanderers, lives in Minneapolis, Minnesota with his wife, Tracy and their four children, DuVale, Nareece, Andrea, and Tianna.

Connect with Lehman Riley


1 Comment

  1. Anonymous says:

    Like you, I write about my grandmother. What you are doing is invaluable and your grandfather would be proud. Continue your writing journey.