“…I grew up with a strong identity. This strong sense of self was amplified by seeing people who shared the same heritage as I do in prominent stations in life.”
As I got the chance to hear these sentences from Samuel Narh, I realized even more so how important his books, experiences, and purpose are to the realm of children’s literature. Samuel Narh, a budding and talented author, and I connected via social media over his first book, Maisie’s Scrapbook.
I was instantly drawn to Maisie’s Scrapbook because of the multiracial representation. There are rarely new books introduced that feature multiracial children. As someone who identifies as biracial, my heart is always warmed whenever I see more multiracial characters being created. And, Maisie was no exception!
Samuel was able to send me to a synopsis and some images of his book until I was able to buy an actual copy on its recent release date of March 5th, 2019. Since then, I have been enthralled by Maisie and her family.The cultures of Maisie’s family come to life through Samuel’s engaging words and Jo-Loring Fisher’s harmonious illustrations. I highly recommend this book for every family, but especially our multiracial families.
Luckily, I was also able to interview Samuel about his background, his experiences as an author, and Maisie’s Scrapbook. I hope you enjoy the ideas and thoughts of this great author as much as I have.
Identity & Culture
Kaitlin Kamalei Jenkins (KKJ): Tell us a little about yourself.
Samuel Narh: I was born and raised in Ghana. I grew up in a culture that treasures storytelling as a means to educate and entertain young children and adults. I am a natural storyteller. I love to paint stories using words. I am aiming at touching and moving people across the world with my stories.
KKJ: What is your racial and cultural identity? How does your identity add to your work as an author?
Samuel: I am an African. Being an African, I was exposed to a lot of stories across the continent as a child. Honestly, I grew up around people who were culturally and racially similar to me. Therefore, I did not identify myself with a color for as long as I dwelled in Ghana. I only saw myself as a member of the human race. When I first resided in Cyprus and then Mississippi that was when I realized that some people placed a lot of emphasis on their racial heritages.
My stories are meant to fill the hearts of people and the pure heart has only one color. I consider myself an outsider here in the United States. Being an outsider gives me enormous visibility in a lot of areas which are blind spots for many of my fellow citizens.
KKJ: What do multicultural/diverse books mean to you? In your opinion, what is the importance of multicultural/diverse books?
Samuel: As I stated above, I was born and raised in Ghana. I gained my elementary and high school education in the land of my birth. Most of the books I was exposed to as a child had characters that looked like me. Therefore, I grew up with a strong identity. This strong sense of self was amplified by seeing people who shared the same heritage as I do in prominent stations in life.
Children’s books shape the minds and characters of young people. In my opinion, it is imperative for children to see themselves in books that they read or are read to them. It aids in shaping their characters. Since the world is diverse: our books also have to be diverse to educate our young ones about the diversity of life in general.
Experiences as an Author
KKJ: What inspired you to become a children’s book author?
Samuel: When my daughter was born, I realized how limited exceptional children’s books with diverse characters were in the United States. I decided to share my inclusive stories with my daughter and children across the world. At this time all the protagonists in my stories are female characters for a definite reason.
KKJ: Do you have any future projects in the works that you can tell us about?
Samuel: Yes. Elle of Portuana is in the works and it should be published latest by the end of next year. It is a story about a shrewd child, who is also environmentally conscious. I also have other manuscripts that I will complete in the next few years.
Samuel: It is a book about the joyful celebration of a mixed-race family and the love that binds all of us together.
KKJ: What inspired you to write Maisie’s Scrapbook?
Samuel: My daughter and family inspired me to write Maisie’s Scrapbook. I am an African and my wife is an American, therefore our family closely mirrors Maisie’s family. However, every family is like Maisie’s family. In my experience, there are no parents who are culturally identical to each other even when they are from the same country. We are all like Maisie.
KKJ: How would you like teachers to use Maisie’s Scrapbook in their classroom? How do you envision your book being used with students?
Samuel: I would like teachers to use Maisie’s Scrapbook to teach their pupils about cultural diversity, encourage the use of their imaginations, and educate them about the universal language of love. I envision young children seeing themselves in Maisie. My daughter loves Maisie and so will other children and adults across the world.
I hope you all enjoyed reading my interview with Samuel Narh. Thank you so much to Samuel for the inspiring interview and adding more Colorful Pages to the world!