We are very excited to welcome yet another author to our Multicultural Children’s Book Day Spotlight: Shining the Light on Inclusive Authors & Illustrators series! Today we are welcoming author Kekla Magoon.
Kekla Magoon is an award-winning author of many young adult novels, including The Rock and the River, for which she received the 2010 Coretta Scott King–John Steptoe Award for New Talent. Kekla Magoon lives in New York City. Her latest book is X: A Novel.
1. What is your favorite letter of the alphabet and why?
My favorite letter is K, because it starts my name. At the moment, though, the letter X is running a very close second, because it’s the title of my new book with Ilyasah Shabazz.
2. What do you want readers to know about your latest book?
X: A NOVEL is about Malcolm X as a teenager, long before he became the international human rights activist that he is remembered for being. The novel is written by his daughter, Ilyasah Shabazz, and I helped her work on it. Malcolm X became a great speaker and leader who empowered black Americans and people all around the world to stand up for their rights and to seek equality in the law and in society, but before that he was a bright young man who struggled to find his way. Malcolm came from a family of activists and his parents instilled in him a belief that he could change the world, but his family was torn apart when he was young and he lost guidance. He ran away to Boston and Harlem and tried to find a different way to live, hoping he could outrun the pain of what he had lost. This novel tells the story of Malcolm before the X, and the winding path that led him to his destiny. The ways that Malcolm challenged authority caused him to be viewed as a controversial figure in his lifetime, and still today. Ilyasah and I hope to introduce a new generation to the true story of Malcolm X, starting when he was a young man looking for his way. Malcolm ultimately found a way to live into his extraordinary potential despite many obstacles and struggles, and we believe our readers have the power within them to do the same.
3. As an author, how do you know when you have discovered an idea for your next book?
Ideas come from everywhere. Knowing that an idea is strong enough and intriguing enough to sustain an entire novel is a much bigger challenge. A lot of times I don’t know for sure at first, because I have to write on an idea for a while before I know if it really has any substance to it, or if it’s all smoke and mirrors. I heard another author say once that the best novels aren’t based on a single idea, but rather upon two or more ideas being combined in a totally original way. In the case of X, the originality comes from Ilyasah’s choice to re-tell the true life story of a well-known figure like her father through fiction, so that people can come to know more about his early years in an emotionally-intimate way.
4. What was the catalyst for creating your latest book?
I became involved in working on X: A NOVEL when Ilyasah Shabazz asked me to help her write it. She already had the idea and story she wanted to tell, and I got to help her transform the story of her father’s life into a young adult narrative. Malcolm’s story has been important to me for a long time, so it was an honor and a privilege to be part of sharing that story in a new way.
5. What’s next? What projects/books/events do you have in the works that you would like to share?
The most recent book of my own is HOW IT WENT DOWN, which deals with the controversial shooting of a black teen boy by a white man. The novel is written in multiple voices, through which various members of the community—friends, family, and neighbors of the boy who was killed—share their perspectives on the incident and the media storm that arises in the aftermath. The subject matter has proven to be quite timely in the past few months, with the media coverage and protests on racial profiling and police shootings around the country. Many of the same issues Malcolm X spoke about and organized around during his ministry 50-60 years ago still follow us today, and there is still work to do. I hope that both of these books can contribute to the necessary dialogue about race, bias, and legal and economic justice taking place in our schools and communities.
To learn more about Kela Magoon, please visit her website.
Other books by Kekla Magoon:
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