"I was feeling something I had never felt before,
a feeling I think I could call absolute triumph."
Seventh grader Mango Delight enjoys track, Beyonce and hanging with her best friend, Brooklyn. An unexpected win for her on the track team seems to make her best friend jealous. Then Brooklyn gets an expensive new phone, and Mango feels a strange distance growing between them. When Mango accidentally breaks her friend's new phone, she suddenly finds herself the target of Brooklyn's plans for revenge.
Hoping she will embarrass herself, Brooklyn secretly signs Mango up to audition for the school musical--something totally out of Mango's comfort zone. Instead of embarrassing herself, she lands the lead. This puts her on a path to figure out what kinds of friends she really wants in her life, and what kind of friend she wants to be.
Mango Delight is filled with realistic, complex, diverse characters. Readers will be drawn in by the drama of Mango's situation and find themselves rooting for her to be confident in who she is.
Today author Fracaswell Hyman stopped by to answer my 5 questions.
Be sure to enter the giveaway for a copy of Mango Delight below the interview.
Welcome, Fracaswell Hyman, thank you so much for visiting LibLaura5!
- You come from a background of writing, directing and producing both for theater and television. This is your first novel for kids. What brought you to write Mango Delight?
I have a ten year old daughter, and I like to read what she is assigned to read in school, so that we can talk about the books and I can help her become a better reader. Through third, fourth and fifth grades, I noticed two things;
#1 – On average, only one out of four books assigned were about girls. Most of the books assigned were adventure stories about a boy and his dog, his horse, his survival skills or his sports dreams. In my experience writing for children’s television the prevailing “wisdom” was that ‘boys won’t watch what girls watch, but girls will watch what boys watch, therefore write for boys.’ I believe the same philosophy goes for companies that publish books and has a lot to do with which books are chosen as a part of school curriculum. As the parent of a girl, I think that is unfair that girls have less opportunity to read about themselves, and it puts our boys at a disadvantage when it comes to understanding girls and women.
#2 – Very few, if any, books about African-Americans were assigned at all. If they were, they were about fleeing slavery, the civil rights movement, or some incident dealing with race. I wanted to write a book where a girl of color was at the center of the story, a book that was contemporary and a book that was about the kind of issues that I see my daughter and her friends facing today. I wanted to write a book that represented the diverse group of friends my daughter has, a book that invited boys, girls and readers of all ethnicities to experience, identify and enjoy the story.
- I hope readers of Mango Delight... like and identify with Mango. I hope they find her funny, confounding, emotional, thoughtful and real. I’d like the reader to begin to think deeper about the kind of friends they want to have and the kind of friend they want to be. Hopefully, the reader will reflect on the things that they do and say and how those actions affect others.
- Food is almost a background character in Mango Delight. I will definitely be trying to make grilled cheese ‘Mango style’ in the future. Where does your food inspiration come from?
I grew up in New York City, a literal melting pot when it comes to food. I was bussed out of my predominantly African-American neighborhood for school and because of that, I had friends of all ethnicities. One of the most vivid ways to explore our cultures was through food. Food that tastes good, whether Asian, Puerto Rican, Jamaican, Polish, Italian or Iranian welcomes you into another culture and broadens your ability to appreciate and identify with that culture. Mango is Jamaican-American and the food her family eats represent the mixture of Jamaican and African-American culture. Mango’s father is a chef and because of that her palate is a bit more sophisticated than the average middle schooler and she is encouraged to experiment and create her own recipes. I hope the readers feel empowered to try different foods and create their own unique recipes.
- Arts education for kids... is essential. The arts stimulate the right hemisphere of the brain where imagination, intuition, rhythm, feelings and visualization live. In schools today, especially areas that rely solely on government funding, the first thing cut out of the budget is the arts curriculum. I am convinced that that does a huge disservice to our kids. Yes, STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) are important, but without the arts how do we teach our children to take the leaps necessary to innovate? So, as I parent, I look for schools that add the “A” that turns STEM into STEAM, because the arts are what give our country the advantage when it comes to the ingenuity that has made America the world’s leader in innovation.
5. Sharing the books we love is a way we share about ourselves and connect with each other.
What is one book you read and loved lately?
Trevor Noah’s, Born A Crime, is an amazing look at what life was like in South Africa for a mixed race boy. It exposes the idiocy of the racism, sexism and patriarchy of a society built on the ability of one people’s misuse of force and laws to subjugate the “other”. Trevor Noah’s childhood experiences are harrowing, heartbreaking and, because he is such a brilliant entertainer, astonishingly hilarious. Also, harking back to the whole idea of experiencing a culture through food, when I go to South Africa I am looking forward to eating a goat head, eyeballs and all.
What is one book that has been important in your life?
The Learning Tree, by writer/photographer/director/journalist Gordon Parks had a huge impact on me as a boy. It was released in 1963, but I didn’t read it until I was about ten or eleven years old. I was compelled to pick up the paperback book at the library, because it had a boy who looked like me on the cover. It was the first book I was exposed to that was about the coming of age of an American boy who’s skin and hair were like to mine. The book is still important to me, not because of the specifics of the story, but because of how it made me feel to read a book about a character who looked like me. It was a validation to see that the life and experiences of a boy like me was acknowledged in print just like The Hardy Boys, Encyclopedia Brown and all the other favorite characters I read about as a child. I think about that feeling when I sit down to write and I hope every child has the chance to read books that validate who they are, where they come from and what they can become.
Thank you so much for visiting, Fracaswell Hyman!
Visit Fracaswell Hyman's Website: fracaswellhyman.com
|Mango Delight Discussion Guide|