Chana Ginelle Ewing Unpacks Power and Privilege in Debut Intersectional Board Book

Teaming up with illustrator Paulina Morgan, Ewing's new work, An ABC of Equality, aims to celebrate differences and spark a dialogue between adults, caretakers, and young readers. 

 

Photo courtesy Of: Quarto

The concepts of intersectionality and privilege may seem like thorny, daunting subjects to teach to preschool and elementary school children. For debut board book author Chana Ginelle Ewing, these necessary lessons are imperative in shaping a positive identity. Teaming up with illustrator Paulina Morgan, Ewing's new work, An ABC of Equality (Frances Lincoln Children's Books, Sept 2019), aims to celebrate differences and spark a dialogue between adults, caretakers, and young readers. We spoke to Ewing about her writing process, the importance of storytelling, and the idea of self-care.   


What inspired you to introduce intersectionality in a board book format and target it for a young audience? What were the challenges that came with making concepts accessible to a preschool/young elementary school audience?

Sometimes part of the process of being an adult is revising and throwing out early messages we may have learned about our identities. So, I wanted to offer children a shot at constructing identity in a positive way, as they navigate the world around them. The hardest part of that process is removing some of my own complex understanding of things like race, class, and gender. Distilling what these ideas mean and how to relay them in a way that leaves room for layering and conversation.

I’m a first-time author of any format but what I love about the board book is the possibility of simplifying complicated ideas.

How did you decide which topics were assigned to each letter?

There were some topics that I knew would be foundational and set us up to discuss others. I’m glad we began the book with Ability and have covered the main thrust by the time we reach Difference and Equality.

Photo Courtesy Of: Quarto

How did you visualize the art in connection to your text? Did you have a set idea of the illustrations before you started writing?

I didn’t have a set idea for the illustrations. I loved the process of the illustrator, Paulina Morgan, who developed her own unique responses to the words; and I gave feedback when I thought there could be room for more visual clarification.

How do you differentiate between “diversity” and “inclusion”? Do you prefer to use one word over the other?

I actually like to think of this idea of “belonging.” What does it mean to create [a] shared space where all contributors to that space feel like they can show up as their whole selves? Leaders have the opportunity to think about their communities beyond the silo of one identity, to consider the intersectional realities of how folks show up in the world.

How does storytelling shape our cultural narrative? What value does storytelling hold for you?

I see storytelling in everything. I think it is literally the way we come to understand our world.

Who are your favorite authors and how have they influenced your perspective on both literature and the world around you?

If we’re thinking about published authorship then I’m going to go with James Baldwin for his incisive understanding of American culture and society and Toni Morrison for her whole new ways of using language. Beyond traditionally published works, I have been deeply impacted by long-form Instagram storytelling and cultural criticism from folks like @alokvmenon (ALOK), and @sonofbaldwin (Robert Jones Jr.).

Did you find that your experience and skills as an entrepreneur could be applied to the publishing process? Did this skill set inform not only the way you wrote the book but how you intended to shape the marketing and publicity?

Yes, in entrepreneurship— I’m thinking about the target audience or customer. I’m considering the context around which children and caretakers will receive and read the book. And from the point of view of marketing, I want to know what partnerships would make sense on social media but also in real life.

What do you hope parents, educators, and librarians take away from An ABC of Equality?

Adults still struggle around equality, intersectionality, [and] equity. We’ve over-complicated things that are fairly easy to understand. I hope that it gives adults the opportunity to consider and unpack some of their own confusion, privileges, and prejudices.

In a world full of chaos, how do you manage self-care? Can self-care ever be a form of radical resistance?

Self-care really is a practice of creating security, compassion, love, and empowerment for myself daily. So, while there are moments where I need to stop and relax and take a breather, I’m more invested in the daily practice of being gentle with myself. That in and of itself is radical.

Do you have any plans to write more books in the future?

Yes! I’m still exploring the next story I want to tell.


Chana Ginelle Ewing, a women and identity advocate, and entrepreneur is the Founder and CEO of Geenie, a leading women’s empowerment platform centering the stories of Black women for personal growth. She is the author of the forthcoming children’s book An ABC of Equality, illustrated by Paulina Morgan (Frances Lincoln Children’s Books, an imprint of The Quarto Group, September 3rd, 2019).

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