With her 10th birthday coming up, Nandi is eager to receive a special gift that she's never asked for before, something that makes her feel like she's really growing up and becoming more like her big sister Vanessa. She and her buddies Anara and Lila have some very important studying to do for school, but Nandi's excitement about her birthday causes her to lose focus and head down a path she wasn't expecting to go.  In the end, it's her Grandma Janie who teaches her a very important lesson and gives her the best gift she's ever received. The unexpected gift her grandmother gives her is not only a gift for Nandi, but for you as well! 
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Genre: Children's Book (8-11)

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Nandi's Unexpected Gift Book Reviews

"In Nandi's Unexpected Gift, Ama Kuma creates a character and a community full of Black love and Black beauty where children not only thrive to be their very best, but also see their beauty reflected in their culture and the nurturing of mamas, grandmas, teachers and friends, especially in the face of life lessons that yield the greatest gift of all: Love. All children will see themselves in Nandi and her struggle. At time when representation of Black children in American publishing is lacking, Ama Kuma gifts us Nandi's Unexpected Gift, a story that is, in the words of Alice Walker, a 'temple of our familiar.'"
--Tony Medina, Poet, Children's Book Author, Professor of Creative Writing at Howard University 
"As a mother to a young girl, I look for diversity in the books I choose for her to read. Ama's story Nandi's Unexpected Gift not only celebrates the beauty of our young brown girls, she captures the sense of family, and our values as well. Nandi's Unexpected Gift is a story for young and older audiences. I was able to share and enjoy this story with my daughter along with the beauty of seeing a young girl who mirrored her reflection. This is a timeless story, by a truly extraordinary author. I can't wait for the next story in Nandi's journey." 
--Elle Henry, Managing Editor/Owner, Tres Chic Edits 
"Nandi's Unexpected Gift gives its readers a gift: a story that brings to life intriguing and thoroughly human characters whose time together captures a slice of their lives and finds joy and wonder in the ordinary elements that make up their days. The adept way in which the story entwines the characters' conversations and the accounts of their actions makes this story one that will draw in readers and convince them to turn the pages to find out what happens next." 
--AuthorHouse Editorial Dept 
"There is a certain urgency to the life of a young African American girl discovering what makes her unique in a world that seems to demand that everyone fit some standard that is based on how we look or what we wear. It is a journey shared by many youth, one often too mysterious and difficult to understand. But here, in Nandi's Unexpected Gift, author Ama Kuma creates an intimate space for discovery through a familiar experience rendered anew through the life of Nandi, one super smart and adventurous young African American girl. 
Nandi is delightfully engaging as she counts raindrops during thunderstorms, climbs trees, makes up lyrics to the jazz her grandmother plays at home, and basks in the love of her family. Set in the lush landscape of Polk County, Florida, this story illuminates an important rite of passage in Nandi's life as her tenth birthday approaches. There are unexpected challenges for her to face, even in the magical realm of her dreams. Avery-Liell-Kok's illustrations reflect the vibrant lives of the characters revealed so lovingly by Ama Kuma's writing. 
And the book is certainly a crucial affirmation of the spectacular lives of African American girls. It centers, lifts, and celebrates them. It is one of those children's books that will be remembered for years to come; the kind that you hold onto far into your adult years. It is a book you pass to others, knowing they will find themselves in the pages and hold onto what's discovered there. It is a treasure of a book, an absolute gift of a story." 
--Nina Angela Mercer, Playwright/Interdisciplinary 
Great Gift Book: Nandi's Unexpected Gift by Ama Kuma
Genre: Children's Book (6-11). Beautiful Illustrations Inside. 




When her mother finally pulled up in the driveway, Nandi jumped to her feet and sprinted to retrieve the carefully crafted list from under her pillow. Before her mother even made it to the front door, Nandi was already at the entrance, jumping up and down, flailing her arms about, and yelling, "Mama, Mama, I finished my birthday list!" 
Her mother sighed as she rubbed Nandi's cheek and replied, "That's wonderful, baby doll, but give me a chance to get settled for a minute before I take a look at what you got, okay? Today was a long day at work, and I just need some peace and quiet. Also, I need you to grab another umbrella and help me get the rest of the groceries out of the back seat." 
Reluctantly, Nandi put her list down and ran back to her room to get an umbrella. She didn't realize all the noise she'd been making had woken her grandmother from her slumber. 
"Hey, now, Di-Di, what have I told you 'bout runnin' in the house?" her grandmother said. "Child, one day you gonna fly into a wall like a lost bird or knock over a lamp." 
"Sorry, Grandmama Janie," Nandi replied respectfully. "I'm just excited to show Mama my birthday list. I finished it up last night." 
"That's fine and dandy honey, but you still can't go around runnin' like a wild boar. You almost scared your poor Grandmama to death. I ain't no spring chicken no more," she said with a heavy sigh. "Now let me take a look at this list that's got you actin' all crazy." 
( Continued... ) 
© 2016 All rights reserved. Book excerpt reprinted by permission of the author, Ama Kuma. Do not reproduce, copy or use without the author's written permission. This excerpt is used for promotional purposes only. 
Nandi's Unexpected Gift by Ama Kuma
Genre: Children's Book (6-11)





Intimate Conversation with Ama Kuma 

Ama Kuma was born Alexia J. Hogan in Orlando, FL. The pen name "Ama Kuma" was adopted after a trip to Ghana in 2007. As a child, she loved to read, sing, dance, and climb trees. Her passion for language and art continued to grow as she grew older, and she loved to learn about people from all walks of life. 
She studied English at Howard University in Washington, D.C., and African Studies at New York University before returning to Polk County to teach elementary school. 
Ama currently resides in her hometown of Orlando where she enjoys writing, painting, singing, playing the piano, and going wherever the wind takes her. Nandi's Unexpected Gift is her first published book. 
BPM: What made you want to become a writer? How long have you been writing? 
I've always had a healthy appetite for literature. I got an award for being the outstanding English student of my 12th grade class, and I majored in English at Howard University. I've written poetry and short stories here and there since middle school, but the urgency of writing never hit me until I taught elementary school and saw firsthand the need for diverse books for our children. 
BPM: How do you think you've evolved creatively? 
I'm not afraid to be candid and honest anymore. I don't place pressure on myself to impress anyone. My goal is to simply speak from my heart. Because of that, my creative process has become organic, cathartic, and very rewarding on a personal level. 
BPM: Do you view writing as a kind of spiritual practice? 
Absolutely. The written word is extremely powerful, and with the right intent, writing has the power to transform, heal, and empower both the writer and the reader. 
BPM: How has writing impacted your life? 
Writing has actually saved my life on a few occasions. Whether it be journaling my feelings, writing poetry, or writing stories, writing has always helped me to stay balanced emotionally and mentally. I'm able to process my feelings about the world and myself in a healthy way. 
BPM: What was one of the most surprising things you learned in creating your books? 
It sounds strange, but the most surprising thing I learned was that there was absolutely no limit for my ideas. One idea just flowed right after the next, and the story seemed to write itself after a certain point. It was like the book became its own living, breathing organism. It felt like I had created an alternate reality rather than just a book. I didn't know I could come up with so many ideas. 
BPM: Where do you see yourself as a writer in five years? 
I'd love to see myself on the New York Times Bestseller list. Not because I want the title, but because I have this burning in me to write meaningful, relatable stories that people can enjoy. 
BPM: How do you find or make time to write? Are you a plotter or a pantster? 
I'll answer this question with some wise words from Octavia Butler: First forget inspiration. Habit is more dependable. Habit will sustain you whether you're inspired or not. Habit will help you finish and polish your stories. Inspiration won't. Habit is persistence in practice. To be a solid writer, you have to be inspired to be inspired, if that makes sense. 
BPM: How did you choose the genre you write in? Have you considered writing in another genre? 
I chose to write exclusively for children and young adults because I'm an activist and I want to contribute to closing the diversity gap in the publishing industry. I think it would be cool to write for adults, but I don't feel it's urgent right now. 
BPM: Tell us about your most recent work for young readers. Available on Nook and Kindle? 
Nandi's Unexpected Gift is my pride and joy. It's a down-home Florida story, filled with motherhood, sisterhood, and overall girl power! It's a book that's great for all children as its primary themes deal with cultivating inner beauty, humility, and personal power -things no child should live without. It's currently available on Amazon in hardcover, paperback, and Kindle. I also have signed copies available through my website, 
BPM: Give us some insight into your main characters or the speakers. What makes each one so special? 
Nandi is the star of the show and she has a lot of spunk. She's an extremely lovable child who has a natural wonder about the world around her. She's the definition of a free spirit, but not even she can escape society's obsession with physical beauty. In the story, she learns to how to hold on to herself with the help of her friends (who are more focused than she is) and her family. Her older sister Vanessa is the cool teen she aspires to be like, and her mother and grandmother offer sage wisdom and love. And each character is a reflection of Southern beauty. 
BPM: What was your hardest scene to write, the opening or the close? 
I revised the closing scene about a trillion times! It was difficult to write the close because I wanted to be sure the story was good to the last drop. It was also my final opportunity to hammer out the moral of the story. 
BPM: Share one specific point in your book that resonated with your present journey. 
As a woman, I constantly have to remind myself that I am beautiful inside and out. I have to accept my flaws and uniqueness and live out loud. That's what Nandi had to learn, and it's what I have to re-learn over and over again in my own life. 
BPM: Is there a specific place/space/state that you find inspiration in? 
Florida, baby! I'm a 5th generation Floridian on both sides. I was born near Eatonville in Orlando, FL., and I feel at home in this state, from Miami to Tallahassee. Like Zora Neale Hurston, I see so much beauty here and there's so much to write about. 
BPM: Are there certain characters you would like to go back to, or is there a theme or idea you'd love to work with? 
I'd like to flesh out Nandi's father more in the next book. I want to explore the beauty of the father/daughter relationship because I didn't do that in Nandi's Unexpected Gift. That's an entirely new terrain that I think readers will enjoy. 
BPM: Do you want each book to stand on its own or do you prefer to write series? 
I know I want to have a Nandi series, but I'm also outlining for my first YA novel which will stand on its own. I guess each project has a different demand. 
BPM: Does writing energize you? 
Writing is life itself. I need to write like I need to drink water. 
BPM: Do you believe in writer's block? 
No way! I think there are times when ideas flow more freely, but for a passionate writer, the ideas flow even if it's at a faucet drip pace. 
BPM: Do you try to deliver to readers what they want or let the characters guide your writing? 
I completely let the characters guide the writing. I write from a place of empathy, so I try to develop very intricate characters that readers can naturally resonate with. 
BPM: Is there one subject you would never write about as an author? 
For children, I'll never write about death. I think there are some skilled children's writers that can approach that subject with skill and sensitivity, but I don't think I'll ever do it. For teenagers, I could do it, but I wouldn't even write about the death of a goldfish for children. 
BPM: Is there a certain type of scene that's harder for you to write than others? 
Not really. Once the story takes a hold of me, my emotions just flow and sway with wherever the story goes. It's a very natural experience. 
BPM: What was the best money you ever spent as a writer? 
I'd say the best money I ever spent as a writer was on illustrations. To see an idea come out so beautifully in color is an amazing feeling. 
BPM: Have you written any other books that are not published? 
I've written a few chapters for an adult novel, but I haven't taken the time to develop it. I also have another children's manuscript laying around, and my computer is loaded with unpublished poetry. I have every intention on developing all of it in the future, but I can't overwhelm myself. I can only hone one project at a time. 
BPM: What projects are you working on at the present? 
I'm currently outlining for my first YA novel. It's still in the fetal stages, so I can't reveal the plot, as its most likely going to change. I'm really excited about it though. I can't wait to bring it into fruition. It's going to be very raw and candid. 
BPM: What is your preferred method to have readers get in touch with or follow you? 
I love interacting with readers on Facebook. It's a great way for readers to get to know me as a person and vice-versa. I have a page for my book (@NandiUGift), but I also encourage people to follow my personal page and friend me. Just search for Ama Kuma and I'll be your friend for life! 
BPM: How can readers discover more about you and your work? 
Readers can discover more about me on my website, 
Twitter: @ama_kuma1 
Instagram: amakuma_author 
Nandi has been inspiring girls all across the country, and she loves meeting new little faces. Grab your little ones a copy of Nandi's Unexpected Gift today! 




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