28 & Beyond: Kimani Tru

It can be argued (feel free to do so in the comments, as a matter-of-fact) that when it comes to YA for African Americans, once you step out of the traditional – literary fiction of the historical and realistic variety, much of what’s being marketed, currently, falls into two new categories – hood or christian.

That means, adding to the usual portrayals, readers are now presented with the trials and tribulations of growing up young in the hood (and this can be an urban hood or a rural/suburban one) or books with a less edgy more wholesome, christian layer to them. What’s still missing, in mass quantities anyway, are the portrayals that lie between the two.

Oh will you never be happy, you’re asking.

Actually I’m getting there. Because Kimani TRU fills the void between the two nicely.
This year’s 28 Days Later contenders were ripe with Kimani TRU authors. So many, more than half of the YA authors featured would have come from the line had we selected them all.

We featured, Monica McKayhan, but two of her Kimani TRU peers were also among the top choices, Earl Sewell and Joyce Davis.

In Joyce Davis’, YA debut, Can’t Stop The Shine, the story centers around two bickering sisters who put their differences aside to help one of them win an American Idol-like contest.
In an age where reality TV is now the norm among programming, a story about dream pursual is timely and relevent to teens of all colors.

Another bonus – much like Tia William’s cast in It Chicks, the teen protag is a student at an elite performing arts high school.

This mini-influx of books revolved around performing arts students is just in time for the Fame remake…you know you’re going to watch it!

A writer and editor for African American lifestyle mags (Upscale, Heart & Soul and Honey among them), it’s no surprise that Davis would showcase some element of the entertainment field. I hope there’s more like Can’t Stop The Shine planned. Even without trying, there are many lessons to be learned about sacrifice and growing as you chase dreams and who better to cover them then someone who talks to dream chasers (and grabbers) for a living?

Earl Sewell offers two stories of change and redemption revolved around sixteen-year-old Keysha.
In Keysha’s Drama and the follow-up, Lesson Learned, which was released this month, Sewell tells the story of a young girl abandoned by her trouble-making mother. But it’s less a tale of woe than what can happen when you’re cast out of one end of the spectrum and thrown into another.

The reader watches young Keysha rebel against the good life with her father, step mom and step brother, until being the bad girl hits a wall.

African American teens in the suburbs will relate well to the rules of engagement when it comes to choosing a clique. Do you hang with the multi-culti crowd that’s “goody-goody” or the homogenous one that’s “cool.”
Between Sewell and Davis’ works lives a cadre of books dealing with everything from the mixing of an interracial family (How to Salsa in a Sari) to the historical fiction with a contemporary flare from Beverly Jenkins.

What Kimani TRU offers is the black, white and all the greys in between that make up the African American teen experience.





The Buzz on Kimani TRU Books

“I recommend Belle to die-hard Beverly Jenkins’ fans, lovers of historical romance, and readers looking for a page turner to cuddle up with.” – APOOO BookClub

Jaded is a good, young adult novel that can be appreciated by all ages. I recommend it to readers who love a fast moving book with a message.” –
APOOO BookClub

“The characters, storyline and language were very age-appropriate for the age group intended and I would recommend this book to any African-American high-school girl that needs encouragement to read more.” APOOO Bookclub on Can’t Stop The Shine

HOW TO SALSA IN A SARI is a fast-paced read with plenty of twists and turns that will leave you asking, “What will Issa do next?” Buy. Read. Enjoy.” Author, Tera Lynn Childs


15 thoughts on “28 & Beyond: Kimani Tru

  1. Urban, hood or Christian.
    Ah, African Americans. People of such extremes…! It really does make for a very narrow portrayal, and a very weird one, at that!

    I thought when KimaniTru first came out that it was primarily romance — I didn’t realize that it had sister stories, etc. Thanks for the heads up.

  2. Tanita, I thought the same thing about Kimani TRU as well. But right now, I’d say they’re offering the most well-rounded view where commerical/pop fiction is concerned.

    This is a timely issue. Just yesterday, I read an EW article about Tyler Perry and the usual cultural divide that movies like Madea causes in the Black community. The article hit it on the head when it said Madea is primarily targeting church-going, working class women, so those who don’t fall into his primary target audience may feel left out.

    Same with books. I don’t fit on the hood end and would sometimes like things a bit more gritty than Christian fiction can offer – so that’s why I started writing YA to offer the “other” view. The key now is to have this “other” portrayal as accepted as the standards. We’re getting there…slowly.

  3. I love the Kimani Tru line of books! You’re right, I do find that they tell tales somewhere in the middle and I appreciate that approach. More importantly, I’m excited to see our teens of color responding so well to these and other books written to appeal to them.

  4. My daughter read one of these and didn’t care for it and I think we fit ‘other.’ I read a sample on their site once and wasn’t impressed either. However, I do agree there is a need for contemporary fiction like this. Maybe when I originally checked out the line, I simply chose a text that didn’t work for me. Now that these books are more readily available and they are increasing their line, I need to revisit them.

    Lastly, doesn’t matter if I personally like them, I like our readers reading so thanks for putting this back in my face so I’ll revisit them. If girls who use our library will read these, I’ll buy them.

    Paula, they do like your work. 🙂

  5. Susan, I’m glad to hear they enjoy my work. I never tire of hearing that 🙂 Email me your snail mail so I can send you a copy of the last book in the series.

    As far as Kimani TRU, because the line releases a book every month, I do believe you’ll have to assess each one on its own merit. Minus each story revolving around teens of color, there’s no real connection between them subject-matter wise. So there is the traditional urban fare pop among things like Can’t Stop The Shine. Definitely revisit.

  6. The teens at my lib LOVE the Kimani Tru books (and Paula, they check out yours a lot, too!). I am SO GLAD that this line of books exists now. There are people from many different backgrounds in my library community, and their teens have heritages from all over the world. It’s nice to see books that offer teens who “look like them,” or “come from where they came from” without being Christian or hood lit. I also know that libs in the nearby city school district are buying KT books for their high schools. Great post!

  7. Thanks for featuring KimaniTru. I agree with you, Paula. It’s about telling stories that reflect the diversity of our experiences and backgrounds as a people. My first YA novella was published with KimaniTru (in the anthology HALLWAY DIARIES).

  8. Urban hood or Christian – I don’t fit or read any of those caterogies. The Kimani Tru books do well at the bookstore I work at, especially the Monica Mckayhan books and 16 Isn’t Always Sweet by Cassandra Carter. The first Kimani Tru book I read was by Mckayhan and I really enjoyed it, after that I went on a Kimani Tru kick. Though the books were hit or miss, I like want Kimani Tru is doing and more importantly teens are reading. I really want to get my hands on a copy of Josephine by Beverly Jenkins

  9. @Deena – always nice to hear my books are getting in the mix. The libraries have shown my books much love and I appreciate it so much.

    @ Debbie – you’re welcome. I love/respect what KT and authors writing for them are doing.

    @Doret Urban hood or Christian – I don’t fit or read any of those categories Exactly. And I know there are teens out there who feel the same way. I know we can’t write a book to fit every single individual reader, but we most certainly can fill in more blanks than we do.

  10. While I do have the Kimani Tru books in my media center, I have to admit I have not read any…yet! They are all written by very different authors the books are all quite different. Some are push the envelope a little more than others. I was suprprised to see that with my students, “How to Salsa in a Sari” seems to be the most popular book. I’ll have to make that one my first read!

  11. i love theses books it makes me relize how good of a life i have i could read dat book in 1 day without even stoppin i read almost all these boook it da BESTT

  12. My question for KT authors (and you too, Paula is, can’t you write faster??? My library patrons eagerly anticipate the next release, beg me to go shopping as soon as it hits the bookstore, and line up to put a hold on it if they didn’t get there first! Our copies are well loved and well used.

    Actually, I do have one more question: why such limited printing runs? We’ve lost only two copies in the last two years, but both are out of print already. Hopefully the publishers will see the wisdom of reprints now that there is such a market.

    1. LOL. Love to hear about the demand. I write relatively fast, but I can’t begin to say how challenging it is to write 2 books a year. Most authors are expected to do at least one a year, so two or more is considered fast.

      For some reason Kimani Tru does limited print runs. I’m not quite sure why. I too noticed that some of their books (even popular ones) are no longer available. I assume it’s because they want to keep content fresh, so they’re constantly looking ahead to the next batch.

  13. I am a middle school librarian and our students love these books – but I have to be careful since we span 6th – 8th grade and some topics are not appropriate. The Hallway Diaries, Can’t Stop the Shine and Salsa in a Sari are just perfect. Which titles in the series are okay for this age group? We have the Bluford High series too, which are very popular.


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