Special Q&A with editor Kwame Mbalia about his anthology, BLACK BOY JOY!

By Caroline O'Connor | August 19 2021 | General

This month, the Penguin Random House Diversity, Equity, & Inclusion Outreach committee is happy to share a special Q&A with editor Kwame Mbalia about his anthology, BLACK BOY JOY!




  1. What gave you the idea to create this anthology? How did you go about choosing which contributors you wanted to participate?  

This idea came about in part due to my wish to work with a lot of the amazing contributors, and also in part due to the constant barrage of negative labels assigned to Black children by the media. This was my attempt to say to those children–and especially those boys like myself when I was younger–that we recognize their happiness, their achievements, and their joy.


2)    What was the most difficult part about writing your story THE GRIOT OF GROVER STREET? What part was the easiest?

The hardest part of my story was trying to make sure each part had its own energy, and didn’t require readers to flip back to parts one and two to remember what was happening. The easiest part was embellishing Gary the Griot’s (Mr. G) wardrobe. It’s my wardrobe.


3)    Aside from your short story, is there another short story that you identify with the most, and why?

I think I connected on some level with each of the sixteen other stories. Getting dressed for school, relying on my grandmothers/elders for support and encouragement, trying to kickflip, etc. Each of them provided some harmony with my memories of growing up.


4)    What do you want young readers today to take away from this anthology?

I hope they take away a favorite story they reread over and over. I hope they take away inspiration to find their own joyful safe spaces. I hope they take away an appreciation for short stories, and how they can be about anything, from fantasy to sci-fi to contemporary fiction. I hope they take the book away from the library repeatedly, checking it out over and over because it brings them joy.


5)    What are you currently reading?

I am currently reading The Black Jacobins by C.L.R. James, a book about the Haitian revolution and the events leading up to it.




Join The Conversation.

Visit prh.com/theconversation for books and resources that promote anti-racism, acceptance and inclusivity.


Black Boy Joy
17 Stories Celebrating Black Boyhood
Celebrate the joys of Black boyhood with stories from seventeen bestselling, critically acclaimed Black authors--including Jason Reynolds, Jerry Craft, and Kwame Mbalia! "Pick up Black Boy Joy for a heavy dose of happiness."—Booklist, starred review
$17.99 US
Aug 03, 2021
5-1/2 x 8-1/4
320 Pages
Delacorte Press
Age 9-12 years

I Am Smart, I Am Blessed, I Can Do Anything!
Based on a viral video comes the story of one boy's positive energy and how a sunny outlook can turn everything around.
$17.99 US
Dec 29, 2020
9-1/4 x 8
32 Pages
Flamingo Books
Age 3-7 years

I Am Every Good Thing
An upbeat, empowering, important picture book from the team that created the award-winning Crown: An Ode to the Fresh Cut
$18.99 US
Sep 01, 2020
8-1/2 x 11
32 Pages
Nancy Paulsen Books
Age 3-7 years

Milo Imagines the World
The team behind the Newbery Medal winner and Caldecott Honor book Last Stop on Market Street and the award-winning New York Times bestseller Carmela Full of Wishes once again delivers a poignant and timely picture book that's sure to become an instant classic.
$18.99 US
Feb 02, 2021
10-1/2 x 8
40 Pages
G.P. Putnam's Sons Books for Young Readers
Age 4-8 years

New Kid: We Fit Together
A 450-Piece Puzzle Featuring Original Art by Jerry Craft: Jigsaw Puzzles for Kids
This colorful 450-piece puzzle in a keepsake box features original art by Jerry Craft—a must-have for fans of his bestselling graphic novels New Kid and Class Act.
$16.99 US
Nov 23, 2021
6 x 8
450 Pages
Clarkson Potter
Age 8-12 years

New Kid Sketchbook
A Place for Your Cartoons, Doodles, and Stories
Turn your life into the stuff of cartoons with this drawing sketchbook inspired by the protagonist of the bestselling, award-winning graphic novel New Kid, Jordan Banks.
$14.99 US
Aug 03, 2021
6-1/4 x 9
Stationery & Accessories
128 Pages
Clarkson Potter
Age 8-12 years