Alliah L. Agostini has worked as a marketing professional with iconic brands and start-ups. But she says that motherhood brought her back to her first love, children’s literature.
“Honestly, my children inspired me. I think it might sound cliche, but it’s true. I’ve always loved reading, and I especially loved it when I was a kid. So I wanted children to see themselves and their heritage reflected in the stories they read,” she tells ESSENCE.
Agostini is the author of The Juneteenth Story: Celebrating the End of Slavery in the United States, a picture book highlighting the events that led to the day that came to be known as Juneteenth and follows the progression of Juneteenth until it became a national holiday in June 2021.
She also recently penned her debut fiction book BIG TUNE: Rise of the Dancehall Prince, which celebrates community, Caribbean culture, and Black boy joy. Her forthcoming book is “Oprah Winfrey: A Little Golden Book Biography,” which will give children an insight into the life of the revered media mogul.
She is telling stories about Black history, culture, and diversity through books at a time when many are trying to suppress or erase it.
This mom of two says that some of her unusual experiences when buying books for her kids inspired her to start writing her own. “We’d read all the time, and I was so excited because there were many more books with main characters of color. But then I started reading these stories, and I realized how many of these books were not written by Black people,” Agositini tells ESSENCE.
The Buffalo, New York native of Guyanese heritage says that those experiences made her realize that there are so many diverse stories about Black history, culture, and people that she would love to see told and decided that she would write them herself.
“I knew that there was still so much more to the African American experience and to the experience of African American children,” she says. “For me, I love writing stories that may not exist that children and families will be able to enjoy and hopefully learn from as well.”
Agostini shared that she reached a point of self-reflection during the COVID-19 pandemic, which pushed her to go from the daily grind as a marketing professional to devoting herself to writing.
“I wanted to do something that’s meaningful where I’m exercising my creativity but also making an impact for my children and others like them,” she said.
As a Black author in America, Agostini also shared her thoughts on the current climate in which books are regularly banned from classrooms and libraries nationwide.
“I think it makes the work we do even more important, especially as a mother of young children,” she said. “The fact that people are so intimidated about it makes it clear how important it truly is,” she said.
Despite the challenges, Agostini says she appreciates that she is in a space to write the kind of books she wishes she had growing up. “Now we can give them to the next generation. I mean, they have a great starting point, right? It’s only going to get better. We hope, and we hope, and we press on,” she said.