Anna Nyakana is an award-winning and bestselling author, motivational speaker, and entrepreneur. She was born in Berlin, Germany, in 1986 to a Ugandan father and a German-Moldavian mother.
Her family immigrated to the United States in the early 90’s, settling in Stamford, Connecticut. Through her own personal experiences, Anna discovered there was an overwhelming need for multicultural children’s books where heroines could slay the fiercest of dragons versus filling the typical princess in distress role.
Anna talks to Afroelle about her book Niyah Zuri.
What are some of the key points you would like people to pick up from reading this book?
First and foremost, I want my young readers of Color to gain a knowledge of self and the ancient LEGACIES from which they hail; to understand that their history is BEYOND the 28 days of Black History month and that they in fact hail from Empires and the first inventors of every advancement known to date.
I also want children who don’t identify as a Person of Color to gain a love and respect for world cultures, and all readers to be motivated to never dim their light but rather radiate magnificently because if the kids in my books can bet on themselves, so can they.
That’s a great title, how did you choose it?
In the first book of the series, Niyah Zuri and her best friends Miguel and Hugo Gonzales, travel through time using a mystical map. Their mission is to help other children from history conquer challenges that forever shape the present world.
The title “Niyah Zuri and The Pharaoh’s Throne” is based on my characters’ first official mission to Ancient Egypt to guide Prince Tut with overcoming his fear of rule.
It was important to bring my young readers to Africa first, for we have birthed the world but our history does not magnify us as the Mother of all Mankind. So, I will take on the responsibility of teaching our history with honor.
What would you like the children who read the book to learn?
My aim is to educate and empower Children of Color to learn their own history without indoctrination and misrepresentation; to understand the glory from which they descend. Moreover, I want all children to embrace cultures different than their own so we can all contribute to a loving and empathetic society.
With that said, the Niyah Zuri series is based on my fearless heroine, Niyah Zuri, to inspire girls and women to kick the damsel in distress concept to the side and step into their highest potential, to be heroines in their own stories by using their most PRECIOUS treasure- their minds.
You mentioned that through your personal experience you discovered there was an overwhelming need for multicultural children’s books.
Growing up, I could never find a character on the cover of a book that looked like me or the children in my neighborhood.
After discovering the need for representation in children’s books was still left greatly unfilled since the time of my own childhood, I knew that my dream to change that narrative was my purpose.
As a student attending an under-funded and low-performing school, I personally saw how society conditions children into thinking that their zip code decides their possibilities in life. It would be a shame to allow this type of trickery to continue; not on my watch.
I am determined to change the narrative by bringing diversity to the classroom and homes worldwide while empowering our youth to reach their fullest potential by instilling in them the “Fundamental Truths of Niyah Zuri”.
What a progressive generation we could create if only we uplifted our youth to know their true value and expose them to their rich history versus the suppression of indoctrination.
Please tell us about your upcoming cartoon series?
I am so excited to bring my dream of an animated Niyah Zuri cartoon series to life. After months of storyboarding, I am finally in production of my cartoon teaser “Adventures with Niyah Zuri” that I plan to pitch to networks in the coming months.
The cartoon is based on my Niyah Zuri book series and will continue the Niyah Zuri mission of bringing a focus to representation, girl empowerment, and history through adventure while doubling as an educational resource, which can be utilized in the classroom and virtual learning at home. And yes, Niyah’s naturally curly hair will be animated with precision; no wild spiral will be spared.
What else would you like us to know about the book?
Niyah Zuri is more than a character, a book, a brand. It’s truly a movement, a genesis of my Niyah Zuri Tribe – Niyah Zuri means “Beautiful Purpose” in Swahili. I used that name on PURPOSE to serve a PURPOSE! Everyone has a right to fulfill their own destiny and too many times we are robbed of the belief of our worth and potential during childhood.
For this reason, I will continue to work each day to empower our youth and the masses to live beautifully in their purpose in order to transform this World. My children, your children, and all the children of this world are going to inherit the impact we are making at THIS point in history RIGHT NOW, let’s make it worthy of them. No Days Off.
Truths of Niyah Zuri” Anna Nyakana will stay true to her mission to transform the world!