The long journey of writing an authentic children's book
As a mother of four mixed kids and a passionate book lover, I have always wished there were more stories that reflect my children's reality of growing up in two cultures. But unfortunately, books about mixed-cultured children are still rare and an absolute minority on the bookshelves of this world. And even though protagonists of children's books have become more diverse in the past few years, mixed-ethnic kids are still underrepresented.
But representation matters. I feel a strong need to normalize the image of mixed families. It is a fact that more and more children are growing up with two or more cultures, just like our kids. So rather than hope for someone to write a story that would reflect their reality, I decided to write a book myself.
“I am hoping to contribute to more diversity in the world's bookshelves and to promote the Igbo language and culture globally”
From head to paper
First, I penned down the script- this was definitely the easiest part. My husband and I have been taking our kids to Nigeria ever since they were 11 months old, so I had enough stories to share. The challenge was more to find an illustrator for my book, as it was very important to me to work with someone that was familiar with the Igbo culture. I started a call for submission on my social media channels, and luckily found the talented Charisma Standley for my project.
After countless messages and calls, drafts, and corrections, Charisma made the images in my head come to life. Watch how we worked together in the video below.
Putting it all together
When the script was translated to Igbo, German, French, and Spanish (I actually wrote the original text in English), it was time to put it all together.
But I was overwhelmed by the task, as I had never worked with the necessary programs such as Adobe Illustrator or Kindle Create, and neither did I know anything about print on demand on Amazon. And since I wanted the book to be available in Hard Copy, Soft Copy, and Kindle E-book, this turned out to be a major effort of formatting and reformatting.
It felt like learning how to walk as a toddler. Without Youtube tutorials, perseverance, and the encouragement and support of friends and family, I guess I would still be crawling on the floor today :-)
“We are always more wise in the aftermath”
Done - and starting all over again...
After weeks of hard work, I finally clicked the "publish now" button, just to find out that the size of the book I chose, was not a standard size and therefore not deliverable to all the countries. Okay, maybe some initial research would have prevented me from making such a mistake, but as we say in Swiss-German ("Im Nachhinein isch mer immer schlauer" - which roughly translates to "We are always wiser in the aftermath").
So instead of celebrating my book launch in April, I had to redo the whole thing and start formatting afresh. But on the 27th of May 2022 and after weeks of late-night computer sessions, I finally published my book!
Done - for now
With my book, I am hoping to contribute to more diversity in the world's bookshelves and promote the Igbo language and culture. Hopefully, my story will encourage one or two families in the diaspora to bring their kids home and let them experience the best of both worlds. And if everything goes well, more books will follow!
A special thanks to the amazing Yvonne Chioma Mbanefo who encouraged me to self-publish the book when I wanted to give up and to the experienced Maazị Ogbonnaya Okoro II, who has written countless books in Igbo and has supported me with the Igbo translation.
Ala Nnam is available here:
English: Ala Nnam: A journey to Isuofia
French: Ala Nnam: Un voyage à Isuofia
Spanish: Ala Nnam: Un viaje a Isuofia