“The origin of Rice & Rocks is a personal one. My nephew, Giovanni, the lead character in the book, passed away at the age of eight about ten years ago. I was trying to figure out a way to keep his memory alive. I started to write down our conversations, and the one in particular that took on a life of its own was about the day I discovered he didn’t like ‘rice and rocks’. It was one of the many fun and imaginative conversations I shared with him.”
In what ways, if any, did your cultural background and/or experiences shape this book? “The book is all about my family traditions that are shaped by our cultural background and experiences. My family is from Jamaica and while my family immigrated to America starting in the late 1960’s – it was important to my parents that my brothers and sisters were raised with a strong sense of self and pride in our roots and culture.”
What do you hope Black and Brown children will get out of reading Rice & Rocks? “I hope that all children are filled with the curiosity to discover their own family’s traditions and background. What better gift to share with our children then the knowledge of self, their history and culture. As I mentioned, my parents did that for me and I thank them for that each and everyday. I can live my life not wondering what life was like for my parents and my grandparents in Jamaica. I don’t question, ‘Who am I?’, because my parents showed me, taught me, and shared their experiences with me.”
What questions or points do you suggest parents or educators reading this story to children might want to consider exploring with them so that the critical aspects of the story don’t get lost or watered down? “I hope that the story highlights the critical role that all members of a family play in the upbringing of a child. Auntie and Grandma play a significant role for Giovanni in the book. It was important to me, as well, that Auntie did preach to Giovanni but served as a guide along his journey to discover and learn more about other people, families and cultures.”
What current book projects are you working on now, and what should we expect to see from you in the future? “I am working on my second book in what I hope to be a series for Rice & Rocks. I want to explore more about other cultures with Giovanni. As The great Maya Angelou said, ‘We are more alike than we are unalike.'”
Enter to win a copy of Rice & Rocks by sharing a family tradition you and your family practice in the comments section below!
(Winner will be announced November 10th.)
Chemay is a social liberation & equity coach who founded My Reflection Matters, LLC in 2016. She is an unschooling mom of two brilliant, TriniRican boys. She loves traveling, going on adventures and exploring new things with her sons, reading, decorating, yoga, photography, and collecting funky art. (Read more on MRM’s About Page.)