Friday, March 13, 2020

Q&A with Nansubuga Nagadya Isdahl

Nansubuga Nagadya Isdahl is the author of the children's picture book Sing to the Moon. She also has written the picture book Sleep Well, Siba & Saba. She works in the area of international development in East and Southern Africa.

Q: You note that Sing to the Moon was inspired by rainy days in your own childhood. How did those memories come together as you wrote the book?

A: Yes, the book was inspired by magical days (rainy and otherwise) spent with my family. I centered the book on two separate but related memories that I’ve always carried with me.

The first is the memory of time spent listening to my grandfather talk about the world. It was clear he was man of boundless wisdom and so I always tried to take the time to listen to him.

The second revolves around rainy days spent at my aunt’s house. Oftentimes when there was no electricity (which happened often), the only entertainment we had was the stories that we would tell each other. I love that time for its unrushed simplicity.

I fused both of these memories into one narrative that became Sing to the Moon.

Q: The book takes place in Uganda. How important is setting to you in your writing?

A: Setting is always a character in my writing. This is not intentional, but I’m so affected by the spaces and places in which I live that they just insert themselves, almost by force. Uganda is a particularly important setting as the birthplace of my parents.

Q: In our previous interview, you said, "There is so much beauty everywhere in the world. No place, country, or continent should be overshadowed by the limited perceptions people hold of it." What do you hope readers take away from this book?

A: I think in our constant haze of movement and distraction, I would want children, especially, to remember that sometimes doing simple things can bring much joy. There is something special, sacred even, about being able to entertain ourselves and in finding our own stories – as opposed to always reaching for other things.

Q: What are some of your favorite picture books?

A: I have two toddlers and so there is always a new favourite. But I loved as a child and I now love for my children Where the Wild Things Are by Maurice Sendak.

Q: What are you working on now?

A: I am currently working on a middle-grade adventure novel (set in East Africa!). It’s a contemporary story with a touch of magical realism.

Q: Anything else we should know?

A: Only that I am honoured to be able to share some of my inspiration. Thank you. 

--Interview with Deborah Kalb. Here's a previous Q&A with Nansubuga Nagadya Isdahl. Sing to the Moon is a winner of the Children's Africana Book Awards.

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