Christine Mapondera-Talley, a Chicago resident who self-published a picture book, Makanaka’s World: Adventure in Morocco, two years ago, is launching a publishing company, called Global Kidz House. GKH will specialize in children’s books (pre-K to seventh grade) that celebrate the history and diverse cultures of Africa and the African diaspora in fiction and nonfiction. Mapondera-Talley’s goal is to dispel common stereotypes about Africa and Africans.
“I take issue with how Africa and Africans are represented in literature,” she told PW. “There’s been a growing discomfort and difficulty with the topic due to the misrepresentations. [American] children don’t get a complete perspective on what life is like in African countries.”
Mapondera-Talley, who immigrated to the U.S. from Zimbabwe 21 years ago, when she was a teenager, explained, “When I think of home, I remember the fun I had with my family and friends. We lived normal lives like anyone else.” She feels that stereotypes about Africa treat the continent as a monolith, and that U.S. media emphasizes such topics as war, refugees, poverty, and famines, overlooking the positive, as well as the unique histories and cultures of each of its 54 countries. She also noted that she has met a number of authors and illustrators of African heritage who share her concerns about misrepresentations of Africa and the African diaspora.
Until the pandemic shut down Chicagoland, Mapondera-Talley worked as an office manager in a dentist’s office; she decided to launch a small press while sheltering at home with her family this past spring. She has assembled the same team—editors, an art director, printing partners—that worked with her on Makanaka’s World. She intends to focus on emerging writers and illustrators by reaching out on social media and by welcoming solicitations from such authors and artists. GKH does not yet have national distribution, but Mapondera-Talley is researching various companies.
“Covid has re-calibrated everybody’s life,” she said. “I had more time on my hands: what is my excuse for not doing this?” As GKH’s 2021 list proceeds through the publishing pipeline, Mapondera-Talley and her colleagues will be launching a digital newsletter this fall, called Passport Africa, that provides children with content about Africa.
The press will debut in March 2021 with Gogo’s Garden by Mapondera-Talley, illustrated by Chase Walker, a Liberian artist; it is a picture book inspired by Maperonda-Talley’s grandmother, “with whom [she] spent countless hours in the garden.” Gogo’s Garden is, Mapondera-Talley explained, “a tribute to generational families and a farm-to-table story.”
In June 2021, GKH will publish Pamima’s Journal, a middle-grade novel by Nigerian writer Diseph Ruth Otto. It’s a tale about a 10-year-old Nigerian budding environmentalist who feels trapped between her overachieving older brother and spoiled little sister. In fall 2021, GKH will publish another picture book written by Mapondera-Talley, I Am Legacy, illustrated by Malawian artist Khama Lwanda. It pays homage to legendary figures in African history: “political activists, musicians, women’s rights advocates, environmentalists, novelists, and more. It’s a love letter and reminder to my fellow brothers and sisters to reflect on whose shoulders we’re standing on.”
Mapondera-Talley also intends to write sequels to her 2018 picture book and publish them under the GKH imprint. Makanaka’s World has sold 5,400 copies to date, and Mapondera-Talley has made school visits and presented at conferences and book fairs. While the first volume in the series was set in Morocco, the next volume will explore Zimbabwe, and the third will explore the North Pole. Mapondera-Talley promises the series will focus upon countries on all continents, not just Africa.
Reflecting upon her new venture, launching a publishing company far away from New York City’s media hub, Maperondera-Talley insisted, “I’ve learned a lot about publishing without being in New York. Even in the Midwest, I can be a force to be reckoned with, but I have to do the work. I just have to keep my eyes and ears open.”