Fresh Voices: Kwame Mbalia

Welcome to Fresh Voices! In this new series, we are excited to share with you authors whose books capture a unique aspect of the human experience. Enjoy this Q&A with Kwame Mbalia, editor of the anthology, Black Boy Joy!

What gave you the idea to create this anthology? How did you go about choosing which contributors you wanted to participate?

This idea came about in part due to my wish to work with a lot of the amazing contributors, and also in part due to the constant barrage of negative labels assigned to Black children by the media. This was my attempt to say to those children–and especially those boys like myself when I was younger–that we recognize their happiness, their achievements, and their joy.

What was the most difficult part about writing your story THE GRIOT OF GROVER STREET? What part was the easiest?

The hardest part of my story was trying to make sure each part had its own energy, and didn’t require readers to flip back to parts one and two to remember what was happening. The easiest part was embellishing Gary the Griot’s (Mr. G) wardrobe. It’s my wardrobe.

Aside from your short story, is there another short story that you identify with the most, and why?

I think I connected on some level with each of the sixteen other stories. Getting dressed for school, relying on my grandmothers/elders for support and encouragement, trying to kickflip, etc. Each of them provided some harmony with my memories of growing up

What do you want young readers today to take away from this anthology?

I hope they take away a favorite story they reread over and over. I hope they take away inspiration to find their own joyful safe spaces. I hope they take away an appreciation for short stories, and how they can be about anything, from fantasy to sci-fi to contemporary fiction. I hope they take the book away from the library repeatedly, checking it out over and over because it brings them joy.

What are you currently reading?

I am currently reading The Black Jacobins by C.L.R. James, a book about the Haitian revolution and the events leading up to it.

Kwame Mbalia is a husband, father, New York Times bestselling author, and former pharmaceutical metrologist, in that order. His debut middle-grade novel, TRISTAN STRONG PUNCHES A HOLE IN THE SKY, and the sequel, TRISTAN STRONG DESTROYS THE WORLD (October 6, 2020), are published by Rick Riordan Presents/Disney-Hyperion. A Howard University graduate and a Midwesterner now in North Carolina, he survives on dad jokes and Cheez-Its.

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