Back to school we go

By Yolanda Marshall




Kookumbah and Alison Isaac

Alison Isaac is a Caribbean-Canadian writer and educator based in Canada. Her first children’s book, Kookumbah, revolves around Sasha’s having a tough time settling into her new school while trying to make her Caribbean mother conform to what she regards as the ‘norms’ of their new country. Her attitude didn’t work in her favour. This story teaches children, especially those new to this country, to embrace what makes them unique. Here is more about the wonderful author of this relevant back-to-school book.

At what age did you realise you wanted to be a writer?

“I don’t remember at exactly which age I realised I wanted to be a writer, but it was probably in elementary school, although what I said out loud was that I wanted to be a teacher. I loved to read, and I wrote my stories in imitation of what I read. My stories always ended up being longer than what the teacher had asked for because I knew the stories needed time to be told correctly. I was in elementary back in the days before everyone had a personal device. So, getting to “publish” your story by typing it up on a class computer was a treat. I’d have friends do the illustrations because I couldn’t draw (and still can’t). It wasn’t ever that I found writing easy, but I enjoyed the stories that resulted from it. It was and still is a magical process for me. To think that you could go from a blank page to a whole, imagined story.”

As an educator, author, and winner of the Rewrite Reads inaugural issue, what/who inspired your short stories?

“My stories are inspired by a number of things; mainly stories from my family and other Caribbean people and odd occurrences I notice. That last one, the odd occurrences, comes from just taking note of things and being curious about them —making up stories about people or things I notice. It’s also a way to push myself when I feel like I have “nothing” to write about. But the first one, the family stories (or the reimagining of family stories), is golden. Caribbean stories are rich in everything. There’s drama, and there’s humour, and there’s the paranormal. I love a good duppy story. There’s a quote from Gabriel Garcia Marquez, who was from the Caribbean coast of Colombia, that I always go back to it because it says so much: “It always amuses me that the biggest praise for my work comes from the imagination, while the truth is that there’s not a single line in all my work that does not have a basis in reality. The problem is that Caribbean reality resembles the wildest imagination.” I’m inspired by that.”

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Languages of Africa Igbo by Learn 4 Fun

While searching for cultured educational resources, I found 13 books written in Swahili, Zulu, Shona, Yoruba, and Xhosa by Learn 4 Fun.

I connected with the authors to understand more about what motivated them to create this collection of gems in our community.

Learn 4 Fun is a mother and daughter team that felt inspired to learn and teach others the various languages of people worldwide, primarily languages spoken in Africa. We noticed very few resources for people in the diaspora to learn the different languages throughout the continent. We decided to put ourselves up to the task of helping young curious minds find the gateway to new languages while having fun doing so! We hope you enjoy coming along on this journey of discovery with us! Hlala Kahle (Stay Well in isiZulu).

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Imani Goes To School By: Thalia Bennett

Thalia Bennett is a Registered Psychotherapist of Caribbean heritage and the author of four Caribbean/diverse books, including

Imani Goes to School.

This beautifully illustrated children’s book features a young girl who experiences anxiety on her first day of school. From self-doubt to fear, Imani isn’t sure how the day will unfold. Luckily, Mom is close by as she faces her fears. As time passes and Imani must leave her home, the reader ventures with her to see if she will feel better. Filled with lessons about mental wellness, parenting, and cultural diversity, Imani Goes to School is a hidden gem waiting to be discovered.” –  Publisher: Reflections Counselling and Psychotherapy Services, 2020.

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Please support your local bookstores such as Knowledge Bookstore, A Different Booklist, Nile Valley Books and Manifest Bookstore for the books featured in this article.