Black Boy, Back Boy
(Beaver’s Pond Press)
Tell us about your book.
This book is a melodic mantra with a powerful message: Black boys can be a doctor, a judge, the president . . . anything they want to be!
What inspired you to write this book?
After the birth of my nephews—5 of whom are currently under the age of seven—I quickly noticed how few books with characters who looked like them were on the shelves of local bookstores and public libraries.
Honestly, I was stunned. Growing up I knew there weren’t a lot of books full of kids who looked like me, but with all the recent attention on the #WeNeedDiverseBooks movement and similar initiatives, I mistakenly believed things were different now. Somehow, I imagined row upon row of bright, colorful books full of Black characters—positive role models for the young boys I love so dearly.
Unfortunately, the truth is much different.
Only 7 percent of children’s books show characters of color, and only 2 percent of those books are made for Black boys. As my nephews transitioned from pre-K into grade school, I noticed they stopped reading and engaging with books. Looking at those statistics, it’s not surprising why. The books I’ve seen aren’t made for them because they aren’t written by people who look like them. That needs to change.
Is there anything socially/economically significant about the overall message of your book?
As children approach 3rd grade—typically 8 or 9 years old—if they’ve failed to meet basic reading and writing standards, they’re often deemed “at-risk.” This means they’re typically subject to “zero tolerance” discipline models—especially if those children are Black indigenous people of color (BIPOC). It also means they’re included in statistics the government tracks to determine how many beds they’ll need in prisons. This is the big thing.
I want my book to change the world—I want to encourage little Black boys like my nephews to read! Reading is the most fundamental tool people can have. If you can read, you can learn! If you can learn, you can grow. If you grow, you can be anything!
What’s next for you as an author?
Crown Comic: A comic book about a Black girl superhero whose hair is her superpower. Black Girl, Black Girl: The girl version of Black Boy, Black Boy.
Contact Crown Shepherd at the following links:
Facebook: Crown Shepherd
LinkedIn: Crown Shepard