Kwame Mbalia on His New Anthology, BLACK BOY JOY
If you know Kwame Mbalia’s bestselling Tristan Strong series, you know the author as a gifted storyteller who weaves heart, humor, and wonder into his work. So it’s no surprise that you’ll find all of those elements at play in the new anthology he edited, Black Boy Joy. The collection is a vibrant celebration of Black boyhood featuring stories from seventeen acclaimed Black male and non-binary authors (including one from Kwame himself). Simply put, the book is stunning—it’s a marvelous testament to family, friends, and much-deserved joy, and it absolutely deserves pride of place on a bookshelf near you.
Read our Q&A with Kwame below, then get ready for our virtual August 4 event to celebrate the book’s publication. Kwame will appear in conversation with his collaborators Jerry Craft, DaVaun Sanders, Varian Johnson, and Julian Winters—we can’t wait!
Black Boy Joy is a wonderful collection of stories from Black male and nonbinary authors. Kwame, could you tell us about the genesis of this project? What was the spark, and how did you decide on the structure and contributors?
This idea had been floating in my head for a while. I love short stories, and more importantly, I love short stories targeting younger audiences. I believe we have an obligation to tell stories to our readers that reflect the wide array of experiences, challenges, and emotions that exist in the world. But for some reason, there’s a tendency to present mostly painful narratives when it comes to Black stories, and Black Boy Joy is an attempt to show how we can navigate toward joy, even if we start from a painful place.
Did you share a specific prompt with the contributing authors? Did they see your introductory short story before they submitted their work?
I did not give any prompts, nor did they see my story. They just wrote from the heart, and in doing so, they produced incredible individual yet relatable stories that span worlds and realities, united only in the destination they’re aiming for: joy.
✨Another star for BLACK BOY JOY!✨ @sljournal calls this book “a must-have in every collection for its variety of topics and its celebration of Black boyhood in all its forms.”— Kwame Mbalia (@KSekouM) July 20, 2021
Two weeks to go! Have you preordered these seventeen stories by sixteen fantastic authors and myself? pic.twitter.com/QoZgxVYKRd
There’s so much variety in tone and format among the seventeen stories. How did you determine how to order them in the book?
This was probably the hardest thing. From genre to tone to style . . . it was hard! We tried to aim for a fulfilling reading experience, and I think we succeeded.
Holy cow, that Kadir Nelson cover! How did Kadir Nelson come on board as the cover artist? What was your reaction when you saw the cover?
You miss 100 percent of the shots you don’t take. We’re so thrilled Kadir was able to produce the cover of Black Boy Joy, but the credit goes completely to the team at Delacorte and Random House Children’s Books for reaching out. I absolutely didn’t expect it.
THE INSTANT #1 NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER • FIVE STARRED REVIEWS
Celebrate the joys of Black boyhood with stories from seventeen bestselling, critically acclaimed Black authors—including Jason Reynolds, Jerry Craft, and Kwame Mbalia.