As New Yorkers, we often forget to appreciate and consume the vast history, which surrounds us.
Immigrants approach our city with eyes wide open, particularly those with a voracious appetite for history, and author Zetta Elliott is no different.
“When you’re an immigrant and you’re new in the country everything is so new – I would walk around with my mouth wide open. I couldn’t believe there was so much history,” Elliott, whose father is from St. Kitts and Nevis and originally from Canada, said.
Through working with middle-school aged children, she realized that they were far removed from history, particularly African American history.
“I was working with a group of seventh grade girls and they had zero interest in the history of their community,” she said. “I was fascinated because I was doing my dissertation on Brooklyn’s history of racial violence but the girls were still like it seemed interesting but it wasn’t relevant to their daily life.”
Inspired by her research and Octavia Butler’s novel, “Kindred” — a time travel story — Elliott decided to blend history and the mysticism of magic and time travel to make history more approachable to kids.
The author and self-publisher has crafted a series blending history and magic for kids to associate what has happened in the past in connection to the present, like the Black Lives Matter movement.
“This book ‘Dayshaun’s Gift’ is a part of a series, City Kids series, and it’s a group of multicultural boys and girls that have adventures in the city that blends history and magic,” she explained.
The second installment, “Dayshaun’s Gift,” follows a young boy who travels back to the 1863 Draft Riots in New York after putting on his grandfather’s old gardening hat. During the story, Dayshaun learns “about the importance of urban farming and self-sufficient communities when refugees from the draft riots seek sanctuary in the free black community of Weeksville.”
To capture young boys in middle school and ensure they develop a love for reading, Elliott is particularly interested in crafting characters that speak directly to young boys.
“I go into a lot of schools doing school visits, I meet a lot of parents, and a lot of teachers, librarians and they all say the same thing that we need more books about black boys,” she said.
Elliott intends to crank out more books apart of the City Kids series before the year wraps.
“I’m trying to get book three out before the end of the year, and that’s also time travel set in Queens New York,” Elliott said.
Elliott’s books are available on Amazon as well as her website, www.zetta