You’ve written many books and columns, so why this book and why now? What are you hoping kids will get out of it beyond the facts of a famous person’s life?
I love writing for children as much as I do for adults. I’ve written several books for children and young adults. My children’s book, What Color Is My World: The Lost History of African-American Inventors, taught kids about the many black inventors and innovators that are often overlooked in the classrooms yet who affected our everyday lives. I also wrote a couple middle school books about a group of school kids from diverse ethnic backgrounds who play basketball together and solve mysteries.
Becoming Kareem is my most personal book because in it I detail my struggles growing up—literally and figuratively—to develop from a classic Good Boy trying to be what others want me to be to finding my own voice and becoming who I want to be. But it’s also an exciting story about how I went from being a pretty klutzy kid to a successful athlete.
Social turmoil and the Civil Rights Movement were the backdrop for part of your career and something with which many fans associate you. What parallels do you see between that era and what’s happening in America today?
There’s a lot of talk today of how divided we are as Americans. But that’s not necessarily a bad thing.
More people are now galvanized to speak up and become more active in politics. Political conflict can force people to become more articulate and informed about their beliefs, and that leads to people getting past their initial aggressiveness and arrogance and start finding common ground.
The level of political and social involvement today is very reminiscent of the beginnings of the civil rights, women’s rights, gay rights, and anti-war movements that pushed America forward. It’s actually very exciting to see how America will define itself over the next few years.
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