MultiCultural Stories for Kids – A Conversation w/ Yewande Daniel-Ayoade

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Yewande Daniel-Ayoade

Yewande Daniel-Ayoade is a Nigerian-Canadian author and indie publisher. who lives in Calgary, Alberta with her family. Starting her journey as an adult-fiction writer, it wasn’t until her children began to read that she realized the lack of African themed picture books available. In this special episode, Yewande joins Justice to discuss how she is helping children learn about immigration, mental health, leadership and so much more

Justice All right. Thank you. Thank you. Thank you so much for joining us today. Got your girl Justice here with you doing the things that just a little bit different. Today, I am doing an interview with one of the most amazing people I’ve actually had the pleasure of being able to meet during this journey in podcasting. And I know I’m taking over a show for Phoenix today. But this interview had to be done and Phoenix was unavailable at this time. And I didn’t want to miss out on a wonderful, wonderful opportunity like this. One of the things that has been the biggest message that I wanted to get out from this network is awareness is being able to share stories and experiences like no other that is been the biggest joy of this journey. And sharing these experiences is something I think, in this day. And time is so important because a lot of people are feeling alone, a lot of people are feeling as though what I’m going through is just solitary, and it’s not being shared by anybody else, no one else can understand what I’m going through. This particular person I’m about to introduce an interview today is taking on one of the, in my mind, one of the biggest challenges that we’re seeing right now, as far as mental health for children. And as far as being able to show self confidence expands on the vision of our children. I would like to go ahead and introduce the author, amazing author, you one day, Daniel. I owe a day. How are you today?

Yewande I’m good. Thanks for having me. on your show. today.

Justice  We have a mutual friend. And they had sent me a link on LinkedIn of one of the books that you are actually, I believe you just had for Kickstarter, correct?

Yewande  Yes. So my Kickstarter actually is still until the 13th of April for this.

Justice  Awesome, awesome, but they sent me the Kickstarter for and I saw that it had already like reach the goal? Yes.

Yewande  So it actually only took four days for this book to be fully funded on Kickstarter. So I’m really excited about that. But we continue to take pre orders all the way through the 17th of April when the campaign ends.

Justice  That’s so so great. Can you tell us a little bit about the Kickstarter and the book, if you don’t know, for sure.

Yewande  So I’ll explain what a Kickstarter is first. So Kickstarter, for those who are not familiar with it is a crowdfunding platform. So it’s for people who have products in the pre production stage. So you have your product, it’s ready, but you haven’t actually gone to the factory to produce anything yet. And so you’ll fund that product by getting pre orders. So in this case, for my book, it’s not been printed yet. But I’m having people pre order it on Kickstarter. And I’m going to use that money to get a full production run of this book and get it into the market. And as a reward for participating in the Kickstarter, then you get a little bit extra rewards along with the book as well. So that’s what we’re doing on Kickstarter. This book itself is called the Leto reagent. And it’s about this little tidbit that a lot of people are unfamiliar about. So in West African culture, we have kings, kind of like you have the royal family in England. And when a king dies without a son, as a woman is selected to be queen, or Regent for a temporary period of time until that community can Crown a new kingdom. And this has been in our culture for like hundreds of years, but a lot of people are not even aware about it. So it’s something that’s always fascinated me that I wanted to write about. But at the same time, just looking at the way our politics and our things have gone from a leadership perspective. In America here in Canada, where I live, as well as even my home country of Nigeria, I started thinking about how our kids need to be able to understand what good leadership looks like, because they’re definitely not seeing it in the media. They’re not seeing it represented in our leaders today. And so those two ideas kind of merge together into this book. So in this book, there’s a seven year old girl called RBA, and she becomes the widget. And she has to figure out for herself what a leader does what actually makes a good leader. And so that’s the journey that she goes on in this book.

Justice I think that’s so amazing. And that’s one of the things that drew me in is I was reading about the pre order on the Kickstarter, from the link that we had sent me. It’s sad to say, but I was fascinated by the thought of one, this little brown girl, this little black girl being sent for a position of leadership, a position of morality in anything as a child, because I know when I was growing up, you didn’t say that.

Yewande  Yeah,

Justice  yeah,

Yewande  yeah,

Justice  you really, really did not. There were some books and some literature that were very much focused towards children. And given the idea or kind of like even just a little nugget of you could possibly be this but it was never something so grand. And if you saw anything like that, it was very, very far fetched. And you couldn’t. I really relate to it. When I saw this, I was just like, I wish I had this as a kid. I really, really do.

Yewande  Yeah. And it’s interesting, Jessica, like, when I started researching this book, I met the main character child because I wanted kids to move to relate to her. But as I started to do research, I found out that in Nigeria, we actually do have kids who are kings, the youngest King, and Juliet, right now is an 11 year old boy, who is king in his community. So it’s actually a thing, which I was so excited to find out.

Justice  That’s amazing. The things you find out, you’ve learned something new every day, I never knew that,

Yewande  truly, truly Amazing

Justice  And I know, this isn’t your first book. But what actually got you into this, my friend of wanting to be able to create these types of books, especially for children, and not go the route of most writers, and do it maybe adult fiction or nonfiction, a memoir or some sort of,

Yewande  right, but I initially started my writing journey, I started writing adult fiction. So I wrote a book that I was at the time trying to find representation for. And then one of my kids came home from school with a Scholastic Book order, and the things that they’re like pages and pages of books that you can order. And I was looking through them, and I just saw that there are no African themed picture books in this entire catalog. And that kind of stood out to me because I thought my kids live on this part of the world. But how awesome is that for them to be able to connect with where they’re from, and understand that culture a little better. And we don’t see a lot of those books here. And we do have books that are published about some African books that have been published, like, for example, so a has done really well in recent times. But what I do notice, though, is that a lot of books are about causes. And that’s super important, right? Like, telling kids that the color of their skin, their hair, it’s okay for it to look, the way it is that there are special books about Justice, they’re all needed, and they’re important. But I wanted to write about kids doing right, if that makes any sense. I wanted to write about kids fixing the situations that they might face, at school, or in their homes, and things that they could relate to. So that’s the aspect of children’s books writing that I do. So I have a couple of books in the market. One of my series is about a child who immigrated from Nigeria to Canada. And just some of the things that an immigrant might face, I have one that’s about a child that has social anxiety. And then this one is about leadership. So it’s just teaching kids, but teaching them within the context of this culture so that they can kind of understand it a little better.

Justice  And I love that, because honestly, I think in all of us, from children to adults, we can all see ourselves in those situations. And that’s why I’m saying for the mental health aspect of it, these books are so wonderful representation matters that said so many times, and it really, really does, when you’re able to kind of step outside yourself and see these types of things and seeing how these, they may be handled differently by someone else. And again, to not feel as though you’re alone, it’s amazing. Did you always intend on being an author?

Yewande  I always like to write, that’s the way I’ll put it. Like when I was a kid, I would write all these stories. And my dad would take them to work and get secretary to take type them out. And I had a whole binder with my name on it feel like an offer. So it’s always something that’s been a passion of mine. But in the culture I grew up in writing was like a hobby, like golfing, bowling, you definitely didn’t go to school to become a writer. So it’s not something that I saw as a possibility as a career until I was much older.

Justice  You were saying that you were looking for representation after publishing a few other was how many books did you publish initially, that weren’t children related?

Yewande  So I didn’t publish them.  Oh you didn’t you just wrote them? What I actually did was I finished a full length novel. And then I sent it out to so many different publishers and agents and I would get some good feedback. Somebody said something like, oh, there’s something there. It’s just not what I’m looking for right now. So I knew I could write, but I just wasn’t getting representation at the time. So I cannot put the siding. So I started having kids moved on and I was like, oh, maybe later in life. Then when I started writing children’s books, I started looking for representation again. So the whole, you know, sending stories out and getting rejections and rejections and rejections. And at that point, that’s when I thought to myself, okay, I’m at a crossroads here. Do I keep waiting and trying to see if some editor will see the light of day or do I publish this myself? And the tipping point for me was just looking at the number of diverse books in the market and seeing what a gap we have in Canada here today. There are only three black published children’s book offers that are trade published three You can’t believe those numbers when you say it. And they’re publishing about 400 books a year. For me that was like that something needs to be done today, it would be great to root for publishers to see the light. But this is a need that exists now, and it needs to demand. And that’s actually why I decided to self publish my books. Oh, man, that is so crazy.

Justice  Again, I’m not a child. But I thank you for the little girl that comes up next, for the next generation for being the champion for them today, even though they don’t even know it. I’m saying this, you and I’m pretty sure my audience will as well. Thank you for being able to understand that that need was there. Because I’m pretty sure a lot of those people that you went to about none of that stuff actually came to their mind when they’re kids. They wouldn’t care. Yes, it matters.

Yewande  It definitely does. I have five, right. So I can really relate to this. I see my child, my daughter starting to grow up, I found that she’s a teenager, just really been curious to understand a little more about where it comes from and how she’s unique. I think that being able to read a book and seeing a child just like you in that book, like it’s priceless. I tell the story. I also guess it a couple of months ago, and I went to school here in Canada. And I read to them my immigration story. The book is called study. And after I finished reading this book, like I did three sessions, three different classes. And one black child in each class would raise their hand and be like, is this a true story? And I thought about that for a while. I’m like, why are they asking me that? Because they know it’s a storybook, right. They read things in class all the time. But I think the difference for them was that they had never read one in which they could totally relate to the character in the book. And it almost felt like it wasn’t fiction, like it was real. And that was really eye opening for me as to why it’s important that we get diverse books into the market.

Justice  I Remember, as many people know, I’m very much a comic book fan. And one reason that I was able to get into comic books is for the same reason that you’re talking about being able to see myself within those types of scenarios, and not being the victim not being a background person. They had a lot of diversity when it came to these types of characters. And I remember when Marvel released the Black Panther movie, and just like the crazy hype and everything around it,

Yewande  yes,

Justice  yes, it was palpable and to see these little kids just go like he’s real. He’s a person. And I remember when the actor pass, and how it affected so many people. And I’ll never forget, actually getting some questions on Instagram first, some people going like he’s just an actor, why are people acting like he did something that is so amazing, I said to you, he’s just an actor, to so many people he embodied he was that person. I mean, it’s never going to be the same for somebody, you know, on the outside looking in. But for those children, he will always always be that person in these types of books. And these types of endeavors really, really solidify that there’s a young girl, I want to say she’s about 12, she was going through a similar situation, which that you’re speaking of, she wanted dolls that look like her and not just look like her head hair texture like her, you know, the kinky, curly, wavy hair, and her mom, just like baby there aren’t any. And the little girl literally said to her mom, well, let’s make some

Yewande I love that story .

Justice Yes, she started her own little doll line and that right there with books like yours, and being able to just have them where they go, Hey, this isn’t just something in my mind, I can make it a reality now. And just like those little kids asking you those questions is a real story. It can be.

Yewande  Yeah, and you know, what I tell people is diverse stories are not only important for the kids to see themselves in them, they’re actually important for all kids, because all kids need to have a well rounded view of the world. Like there’s a black author that I really admire. Her name is Chimamanda. And she has a TED talk. And she titled it the danger of a single story. And essentially what she was saying that Ted Talk is when you write consistently about a certain group of people, and you only examine one aspect of their cabin, right? You typecast them to be a certain type of people. That’s how stereotypes come about. That’s how you start to see people only as one thing, instead of seeing the totality of what they are. So what these stories do for you, that are not even black, is that it gives them a full view of the black culture. It helps them to see the complete person and eliminate some of those stereotypes that we see in our culture today.  Yes, it really, really does. It breaks downthose barriers, especially when people are saying, Well, I don’t know, another black person, or I’ve never been around another black person, it will basically have where they don’t have that anxiety or that awkwardness when they are around those types of people. It makes it feel like okay, well, they’re just another person, which is true. But to some people, that isn’t always the case, because they don’t know how to react, things like this will be able to help them.  So I have a couple of questions that I’d like to ask, just to get a little bit of insight on some of the processes and when they’re, especially if they’re any creative soul. If you have the opportunity to live anywhere in the world for a year, while you’re writing a book, or books, where would you choose?

Yewande  I don’t even have to think about it. Somewhere with a beach. And I don’t care where it is, as long as I can lay on the beach, look at the wave and write that’s like my dream come true,

Justice  that’s gonna get your juices pumping in your energizing, flowing for all the word things.

Yewande  Oh yeah

Justice you didn’t actually start out to be a writer, do you think being writers helps you to be come the person that you are?

Yewande  Oh, absolutely. So I can think of a couple of areas, particularly in the last year and a half since I started publishing, where I’m a much better person. Like, I just have this failure. And I didn’t realize how bad it was, until I started publishing my books and started having like, literally anxiety attacks, not sleeping at night, because apparently, I’m afraid of public humiliation.

Yewande  Because I just would imagine people going on, what did they don’t like it? What did they leave bad reviews on my book, and it’s gonna live forever, everyone’s gonna see it. It just became this really big thing that I didn’t realize that I had. And I’m just been able to fight through that and overcome it. I think it’s made me a much better person that made me really thankful that I took this leap. Another area is marketing. I hate selling people stuff like humiliating, I don’t know why. But it’s one area where I’ve had to fight. And this is another area where essentially, I’ve had to get comfortable with being uncomfortable, if you know what I mean. It’s not something I’m ever going to be comfortable with. I know. But it’s such an important skill to build. Why should anyone buy something you’re selling, if you can’t put it if you can show them how passionate you are about it. And that’s from doing this that I think will help absolutely helping so many other areas of my life.

Justice Oh, wow. It’s almost as if you’re inside my head. And I’m finding that it tends to be those types of people who are more creative, and entrepreneurial, you know, have that spirit that they have that, that feel a failure, especially in selling something or not necessarily selling but being able to feel like you’re telling someone that what you’re doing is great as well. It’s hard to kind of like market yourself like, this is great, just look at it. But if it was someone else, you’d have no love for you. It’s just I’ve had to struggle with it.

Yewande  It’s absolutely amazing.

Justice But for you, it’s just like, yeah, my stuff is nice. I don’t know where it comes from. But I’m so glad that you’re able to say that too. Because I can honestly say that as me doing this particular thing. As far as podcasting and curating this network. It is so journey and saying, hey, cheerlead for yourself. There’s nothing wrong with that. Being able to stand up and say,

Yewande  Hey, I did this. Yeah, it’s amazing. You should believe in yourself.

Justice Yes, yes. I love it. What is the funniest typo you’ve ever written? Oh, that’s an interesting name. And the reason why I asked that is because in doing podcasting, there’s been some most crazy bloopers that I’ve done in trying to just say, cuz I mean, I’ll get tongue twisted, and Greg never did. But I find that those are the special moments in a lot of the times that I remember in creating this type of stuff, interviews, and the energy that I get into it is amazing. But those little typos and saying, I’m just like, what am I doing?

Yewande   And I do that all the time. Like, I remember for this Kickstarter, I wanted to do like a little poster that I sent out to companies saying, hey, would your company be interested in providing this book to schools and libraries? And I remember I was supposed to say increase representation of diverse books and I think I put decrease representative actually sent it out to person. Notice it’s one of those be comfortable with being uncomfortable things, you know. Yeah, yeah. Get over it. Move on. Yeah, mistakes used to kill me. But I think just through being a writer, I’m learning to understand that it’s just part of being human.

Justice  I love that last question. What is your favorite word? And well, I guess two questions. I’m sorry, what’s your favorite word and why?

Yewande  It’s so much better. I was so fascinated by that word when I was a kid, because just being able to pronounce it like I felt like I’d won an award, right? Because it was so much. It means anything to be honest with you. But I just like to make

Justice  that right there. That is a great way to end this interview. I thank you so much. And if you would like more information on the Kickstarter for you one day’s book, you can go to why Daniel, dash IO, a And we’ll actually have that linked in the episode. So you should be able to see this in the resources section of the episode. And we’ll post it on our Instagram and Twitter as well. I thank you so much. You want to it has been a great experience to be able to sit here and talk with you and listen to your passionate journey on doing this. I never would have thought that I would be able to run into someone like you. Honestly, I thought that when you have these types of people who are changing the world in these types of ways, it’s going to have to be like you’re running into Oprah, you’re going to run into that. I thank you so much.

Yewande    Thank you for having me. Thank you so much for your kind words.

Justice No problem.

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