For The Soul: Author Vincent Kelly Approaches Diversity From A Child’s Mindset

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Photo by Eric England for Nashville Scene

For the Soul is a collaboration between the Nashville Scene and local culture website Urbaanite that uncovers local gems in Nashville.

Vincent Kelly is a husband, a father of two, an HR professional, and a children’s book author. His first book The Awesome Things I Love won the 2020 Pinnacle Book Achievement Award, and publisher great You Books just released his second, All People Are Beautiful. The book focuses on diversity, and Kelly hopes its life lessons will resonate with both youth and adults. , Vincent has just released his second children’s book  Both books are available online.

What inspired you to become a children’s book author?

I kind of stumbled into it. By day, I work as an HR regional manager and by night, I’m an author. I’m also a husband and a father of two sons, and my life is so eventful and interesting because of them. They tend to inspire me a lot. I was at home in December 2018. We’d just finished dinner, and the boys were running around like they usually do and something just hit me. I looked at my wife and said “I want to write a children’s book.”  My wife knows I’m a creative and I dream big. She turned down the TV and asked me what the book would be about. I start walking her through my thoughts and she actually starts to get really excited about the idea. I stayed awake that night and finished the book. I wrote my first book in an hour and a half. It’s called The Awesome Things I Love. I woke up the next morning and went to work. I let a coworker read it and they said “Vince, I think you’ve got something here.” I found an illustrator, got with a traditional publisher, and the rest is history. The book came out last year in the midst of the pandemic, but that then inspired me to write my second book. So much happened last year in terms of diversity. We elected the first African American and Asian American woman to the second-highest seat in the country. It was a huge win, but then we also saw tons of racial injustice that sparked a response from the entire globe. Everybody came together and I thought it was beautiful. Out of that moment, I just stayed with the idea that all people are beautiful no matter what they look like. That was the birth of the second book.

Do you feel people are becoming more or less comfortable discussing this topic?

I’m an HR person, so I’m always thinking in terms of strategy. I designed the book to be fun and interactive. I wrote the book for parents but also for educators. The book shows that diversity is more than just the color of our skin. It’s about our cultures, our languages, our hobbies, It boils down to is the awareness of our differences, the acceptance of those differences, and the respect for those differences. Those differences help the world become a great place to live and to love, and I think that’s how we do really great things. The diversity conversation is one that you can’t talk about too much but you also can’t talk about it too soon. I think it’s powerful, it’s useful, and it’s needed, especially for right now.  I think people have a natural apprehension of difficult conversations. Racial tension presents a difficult conversation. I think we have to be open enough to have the conversation, even if it’s clumsy. I think we could benefit from approaching diversity from a child’s mindset. It’s a big conversation where we can all learn something in the process.

How can parents and caregivers introduce your book into their homes?

The illustrations [by Cha Consul] are done in a way to grab the child’s attention. They incorporate things that kids love already and make the child stop and pay attention. It has fun and bright colors and plenty of life lessons so it draws their attention that way. However, I also created an interactive resource that is full of activities to complement the book while also helping to land the conversation even more. There’s a sing-along, there’s a read-aloud of the book, crossword puzzles, about 10 different activities altogether. For the classroom, I also developed what I call a diversity cube. It’s a cube and on each of its sides, it has different diversity cues like age, culture, hobbies, language. You can do it one on one or with the whole group to really land that conversation.

What life lessons can children and adults walk away with after reading your book?

I think one of the biggest lessons is respect. In November, we celebrate World Kindness Day. Even though there’s a designated day for kindness, kindness is something that we should show every single day. I think the acknowledgment, acceptance, and respect for diversity shows that diversity is a reality. There’s nowhere you can go where diversity doesn’t exist.

Photo by Eric England for Nashville Scene

 

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