Features On the Upswing

Tami Charles: Bringing Diversity to Young Readers

Photo courtesy of Tami Charles, Illustrations by Bryan Collier

Author Tami Charles’ recently released children’s book “We Are Here” has earned its place as a number one best seller on Amazon and was named one of Barnes & Noble’s Most Anticipated Books for January but becoming an accomplished author did not always seem like a path within reach when Charles herself was a young girl.


“Growing up, I loved reading books,” Charles said. “My mom was a teacher at my elementary school, and she was a strong advocate for literature. As a child, I secretly wanted to be an author, but I didn’t think I could. I thought that to be an author, you had to be either rich or really old, or both!”


Charles instead set her sights on a career path that she was very familiar with thanks to her mother: teaching.


“Following in my mother’s footsteps, I became a teacher,” Charles said. “Reading and writing stories with my students reignited my childhood author dreams. I would write at 4 a.m. before school and then well into the night afterwards.”


With her passion reignited, Charles finally decided to pursue her lifelong dream of becoming an author.


“I faced lots of rejections over the eight years that I pursued publishing, but I didn’t give up! I got my first ‘yes’ with my debut novel, ‘Like Vanessa,’ which was published in 2018, and I haven’t stopped ever since,” Charles said.


The books that Charles writes aim to expand the minds of her readers by delving into important topics like race and culture on a level that young readers can understand.


“As a child, books gave me purpose and they introduced me to other worlds,” Charles said. “I think it’s important to write for children and young adults so that they, too, can imagine what is possible for them through the pages of a book. Children deserve access to books where they not only see themselves and their experiences reflected, but also books that provide an opportunity to learn about other cultures, too. In my opinion, diverse books are valuable for all readers.”


Charles’ most recent book “We Are Here” is a follow up to her 2020 book “All Because You Matter.”


“‘All Because You Matter’ stemmed from a conversation that I had with my son when he was in kindergarten,” Charles said. “He’d learned about Dr. King in school and wanted to know why ‘the bad guys’ treated Dr. King unfairly. It was then that I realized that parents must navigate tough topics with their children. So, I wrote ‘All Because You Matter’ as a starting point, to spark important conversations, while reminding young readers of their importance in this world.”


“We Are Here” is meant to continue that important conversation in 2023.


“‘We Are Here’ also was inspired by conversations with my son during the pandemic,” Charles said. “Older and wiser, he saw headlines and news reports that concerned him. His questions, yet again, reminded me of the time he was in kindergarten and learned about Dr. King. So, for ‘We Are Here,’ I aimed to build upon the narrative of the first book, this time celebrating the history and contributions of notable black figures. You’ll see nods to Dr. King, Muddy Waters and Marian Anderson to name a few. These are people who made an impact not just here in America, but across the globe.”


Charles is currently on a book tour for “We Are Here,” meeting young readers and their parents and educators across the United States.


“Book tour life can be quite exciting!” Charles said. “We started promoting months before ‘We Are Here’ was published. Scholastic really prioritizes getting the word out, in advance, to tastemakers in the industry—our beloved educators, librarians and book sellers. So far, I’ve traveled to Rhode Island, Salt Lake City, Raleigh, St. Louis, Columbus and Anaheim, with stops in Chicago, Houston and New Orleans to come.”


The road doesn’t stop there; Charles is already hard at work on a third installment of the series.


“I’m excited that there will be a third book in the series, entitled ‘United Together.’ This will be published with Scholastic in 2025!” Charles said.


When purchasing her books, Charles encourages readers to support their local independent book shops. Some of her favorite New York-based independent book shops include Books Are Magic and Books of Wonder. You can also find her books at Barnes & Noble, Target, Amazon and wherever books are sold.


To find out where Charles will be appearing next, visit tamiwrites.com and click “What’s New!”.