October marks Black History Month and EALING.NEWS meets Joy James, a local author who writes non-fiction children’s books and who has developed a series of books that explore Black inventors and provides inspirational stories of who they and what they have achieved including Lydia Holmes who patented wooden pull toys and John Lee Love who invented the portable pencil sharpener.
On October 28 2022 at 11am, Joy will be giving a storytime session at Ealing Library in Ealing Broadway which will explore 16 amazing Black inventors through history. Click here to book a free place.
EALING.NEWS finds about more about Joy and her writing.
How and when did you first start to get into writing books and is there someone you admire that gave you the inspiration to write?
I enjoyed reading and writing from a young age and loved doing English comprehension exercises in primary school. I remember writing short stories and poetry in my teenage years but never thought about becoming an author or poet. I read a fairly wide range of genres and admire many authors, from Jane Austen to Kazuo Ishiguro.
How long have you lived in Ealing and been connected to it?
I have lived in Ealing Broadway since the 1980s. It’s been interesting seeing the changes in the area over the years but a lot has stayed the same too. I studied my degree at the University of West London while it was transitioning from Ealing College of Higher Education to Polytechnic of West London and finally Thames Valley University. I have moved away and lived in other London boroughs (Barnet and Harrow) for short periods but have always returned to Ealing Broadway which I think is one of the nicest areas in London to live in.
What do you love about Ealing and what are you favourite places to eat and go to?
Ealing has so many plus points. It is well placed with easy travel into central London as well as to other parts of the country. There is a wide range of shops and restaurants, lovely parks and lots of activities and entertainment for everyone. I love how culturally diverse and rich in culture Ealing is, with varying vibes around the borough. Favourite places to eat include Hare & Tortoise, Monty’s Tandoori and The Grange pub. The upgraded Ealing Broadway train station and Dickens Yard and Filmworks developments are impressive – it will be good to have a cinema again, although we now have the Ealing Project arts centre which has cinema screens. I like to support local art and the Pop Up Gallery in The Broadway is always worth a browse.
How important is Black History Month and how long have you been involved in it?
Black History Month helps to bring to the forefront Black issues that have been marginalised, just as there are other important social issues that are highlighted at certain times of the year. I have become more directly involved in Black History Month since my books were published. I do readings and talks at local schools and libraries and will be doing a storytime session of my latest book ‘Amazing Black Inventors’ at Ealing Central Library on Friday 28 October 2022 at 11.00am.
Tell us a bit more about your new series of books on Black Inventors. What inspired you to write this and how long has it taken?
When my children were younger I wanted books about Black role models but couldn’t find anything out there. My husband is a Londoner with family from the Caribbean so this was important to me. I started to research role models and came across fascinating information about Black inventors around the world. The information wasn’t in an organised or child-friendly format so I started to put together mini biographies and stories about each inventor. I admire resourcefulness and finding solutions to problems so hearing about these inventions intrigued me. I still couldn’t find the books I wanted while my children were growing up and finally came to realise that perhaps I should try to write something instead.
By late 2019 I had a rough draft of my first book. I started to look at publishing it and was heartened by the interest it received, including from a large publisher that used to be based in Ealing. What started off as only one book has grown into a series of six books for different ages groups. Two were published in 2021 (‘101 Black Inventors and their Inventions’ and ‘Brilliant Black Inventors’), two this year (‘Another 101 Black Inventors and their Inventions’ and ‘Amazing Black Inventors’) and the final two will be out next year.
What issues do you come across in Ealing that you think should be improved and made better?
I think that Ealing does quite well broadly speaking, and residents themselves generally work towards improving their communities and neighbourhoods which also helps to make this a great borough to live in. There are the usual challenges of living in London that would be good to have improved, such as road traffic especially during school term time and rush hour. There also seems to be an increase in homelessness which is sad to see and would be good to try to solve.
As a BAME female writer, what have been the challenges you face to get published and how did you overcome them and what is the next project you are going to work on?
While there are more diverse books around these days, there is still marginalisation in getting published especially where traditional publishing is concerned. Although I did get interest in my work from a range of publishers I didn’t want to have to compromise my writing style or content and was able to find and work with people who enabled me to do this. I already have lots of ideas for further books and can’t wait to get started on these. My next project will be along the lines of Black historical figures in the UK and Europe.