“This journey is a whirlwind,” said author Ama Kuma, debut children’s book author of Nandi’s Unexpected Gift. “I’m constantly moving, trying to get things done, and make the story the best possible experience for the children reading about Nandi.” Hailing from Orlando, Florida, Ama studied English at Howard University in Washington, D.C., and Africana Studies at New York University. She now teaches elementary school near her hometown and is thrilled by the positive feedback she’s received for her debut, having launched in July 2016. Find out more about this talented author below and at her website www.amakuma.net.
- Your book, Nandi’s Unexpected Gift, was just published in July of 2016. Tell us a little about the book and how you think your readers relate to the challenges Nandi faces.
Nandi’s Unexpected Gift is a journey in understanding that there is only one true beauty that really matters— the beauty inside. I think that young girls will be able to relate to the challenges Nandi faces because like Nandi, they are constantly bombarded with images and ads that tell them how they are supposed to look. My book seeks to help them navigate those outside influences to help them blossom into the beautiful, strong young women they can become. For boys, it teaches them how to empathize with and relate to the struggles that young girls face.
Not only do diverse books enhance the power of representation, but also foster self-empowerment. How does writing for children inspire you and reflect your goals?
Writing for children is literally all I think about—from sun-up to sun-down. Having taught in the public-school system, I experienced firsthand the negative effect that a lack of diversity in children’s books can have on children of color. And after ordering a careful selection of books for my students to read, I was blessed to see the positive effects that diverse books can have on all children. These books gave children of color a sense of pride and what I like to call a “self-fascination” in that they wanted to know where they had come from culturally. For non-minority students, I felt like these books taught empathy and understanding. Writing for children empowers me because I feel strongly that it will contribute to creating more empathetic, compassionate, and motivated children. That’s a beautiful and necessary thing!
- What was the most rewarding thing about indie publishing your book?
The most rewarding thing about having indie published is that I persevered even though there were financial setbacks, inner-doubts, and confusion as to how to make the book successful. I wrote a book that parents and children alike enjoy despite not having a major publisher back my work. And to have a mother tell me that their child has never gravitated to a book the way she has gravitated mine, knowing that I’ve walked this publishing journey alone…That’s priceless.
- How do you see children’s fiction and YA writing becoming more diverse in the future? What can readers do to find/support diversity in fiction?
With more and more writers opting to indie-publish as opposed to taking the traditional route, I foresee a huge blossoming of diverse literature for children and young adults. That’s exciting! I just hope that major publishers will take note and begin to promote more authors of diverse backgrounds. It’s also important for readers to support books by and about people of color through actively seeking forums and articles that promote diverse books (ie. Goodreads, Mahogany Books, Facebook, etc.) With the nature of social media, it’s very easy to discover great new books.
- What projects are you working on now?
Right now, I’m working on the next book in the Nandi series. I plan on writing five books in total. I’m also working diligently to gain more publicity— interviews, features, etc.—for Nandi’s Unexpected Gift. I’m more motivated than ever. To me, there’s nothing I can’t do!