Writer and educator La-Donia Alford Jefferies released her first book, Homecoming, a children’s book about historically black universities, in April. Jefferies teaches science at High Point Central High School and is an adjunct professor at NC A&T University, where she graduated in 2010. The illustrator, J’Aaron Merchant, graduated from the HBCU Savannah State University. Homecoming can be purchased at Wonderland Books in Greensboro or online at the book’s website.
1. What inspired you to write this book?
Well, my mom taught at A&T and at Winston-Salem State University. She was actually at WSSU for 40 years and my dad is an alum from NC A&T. I also went to A&T and graduated in 2010. I wanted to introduce kids to HBCUs and HBCU homecomings at a young age rather than them learning about it in high school. Growing up, my parents would take me to HBCU homecomings when I was 2 and 3 years old. I have wanted to introduce my own kids to that since they were able to walk.
2. Why is it important for kids to read this book?
It’s important because I’m a high school teacher now and part-time adjunct teacher, and students ask me where I went college all the time. I tell them A&T and use the acronym HBCU and they didn’t know what that was, and I was blown away. It’s important to introduce the acronym early on so they would know what it is and can consider them as a place to go to college. Some people have this idea that HBCUs are inferior, and that’s not the case.
3. What has the response been like so far?
I’ve already sold 300 books. I’m self-published. The response has been overwhelming. I have people tell me that when they read the book they can smell the homecoming, that they feel the love. Adults have told me that when they read the book they could not stop smiling. Homecoming is such a staple. People would say, “The book reminds me of my homecoming.” And I wanted to include kids in that. They’re there too. It’s just as much about them as it is about their family. It’s a book that all generations can enjoy.
4. How do your kids like it?
They love it; they’ll say, “This is mommy’s book.” They’ll request it as their bedtime story. Recently when we were in the car on a trip, my daughter had option of the iPad or the Homecoming book, and she chose the book! She said, “It’s because I wanna see me.” That’s when it stood out to me how much that representation matters. I was blown away. She’ll point to the A&T Four and she’ll be like, “Mommy I know that. I know where that is.” And that’s important. I keep a copy of the book in the car. And that’s what I wanted. I wanted them to feel that love and be accepted.
5. Do you plan on writing more books? What are your plans for the future?
I’m actually working on a second book now. I’m hoping this will be a series. The second book will be about what happens on a college campus. Everything from graduation to special nights in the cafeteria. [Kids] only see the colleges from the outside. But this book will show them why college is important. I think that’s a great concept. There will definitely be more books to come.