I was recently introduced to the book ‘ My Young Adventures: Meet Mya & Family‘ which is a Children’s picture book series that features a black protagonist. I managed to catch up with the fearless young woman behind the Bryan House Publishing to learn a bit more about her journey and how Mya’s character destroys any boundaries that have been put in place for Ethnic Minority children, and offers a depiction of childhood that is positive and encourages learning.
As a child growing up I watched and read a lot of Asterix, being originally from a French speaking colonised country, as this was what my family grew up with and was popular amongst children and adults in my culture. There were certainly no prominent black female characters that I recall let alone ones as fearless and courageous as Mya. I know I was fortunate to have a strong courageous mother as it really helped shape the woman I have become today as she was my role model. Children today are so lucky to have these options and characters such as ‘Mya’ which they can relate to and represent the modern day society.
Read below for what Hena had to say about her journey into the publishing world and how her collaboration with Jeannelle Brew to create the character Mya came about.
Tell us a bit about yourself and background?
As you should know, my name is Hena Bryan, and I am the founder and CEO of my Bryan House Publishing (BHP) I am a Jamaican born 21 year old woman who moved the UK at the age of 3 years old. I spent a majority of my childhood/teenage years in Birmingham where I lived with my family. I grew up in a very Jamaican household and because of this was very cultured. I naturally steered down the academic route, I studied English literature, Psychology and Law at A-level before going to The University of Kent to Study English and American literature and Creative Writing. I graduated this summer with a 2:1 and of course a fantastic publishing house.
How did the collaboration with Jeannelle Brew come about?
Jeannelle and I were very good friends before we decided to collaborate. I always thought that she was a fantastic writer and I’ve watched her grow in that field. During summer 2016, when I published BHP’s very first book ‘Blue Raptures’ by Eshe Mwilima, I was a little lost as what to do next. As I am a woman of faith, I prayed about it and soon found myself researching children’s books. This was quite strange as I swore against publishing children’s books; my experience as a child lead me to believe that they were useless. However, after my prayer I was certain God wanted me to go down the route. I reached out to Jeannelle, who was in South Africa at the time, and pitched the entire series idea to her. I was amazed about her reply because she had a very similar idea so we came together to make our ideas stronger, a year later we have My Young Adventures: Meet Mya & Family.
Where did the inspiration for the main character Mya come from?
I believe that Mya is a perfect mix of Jeannnelle and myself. Mya is witty; silly yet mature; eager to learn and inquisitive; bold and beautiful and cheeky – similar to us. We also spent time making sure Mya was relatable to everyone, especially BAME children and people of colour, Mya is everyone.
It seems the book includes a range of important life lessons, how did you decide on the narrative?
We wanted to create a book series that explored beyond the narrative of ‘love your hair’ or ‘love your skin,’ we wanted to show self-love in action. Mya is a young girl who has the ability to learn; who wants to be better; and who is accepting and unrestricted. Mya represents the image of black children that we do not see, images of us excelling in education, of us coming from stable and supportive families. Mya does not have to worry about loving her hair or her skin because she loves herself. Her narrative was created to show what happens next, or should I say what is happening next.
What is it that makes Mya’s family amazing?
Mya’s family is amazing because each member is culturally ambiguous, therefore regardless of where you are from; Ghana, Nigeria, Jamaica, Congo, etc. You will see some resemblance to your own family. On the flip side. Mya’s family is depicted as the foundation of her excellence, we show a family dynamic that is supportive of who she is and who she wants to become.
Why do you feel a book such as Meet Mya is not only important but necessary in today’s society?
It is no secret that the publishing industry lacks representation of BAME/POC and because of what is written about us isn’t directly from us. The images of ourselves that have been fed to us through newspapers, magazines, novels – literature in general aren’t our own. Jeannelle Brew creates an image a beautiful image of the young black girl who is unrestricted. We wanted an image that would inspire young children – boy or girl – to do reach for the stars. A series such as My Young Adventures is for society and we hope for it to be an accurate representation of the world we live in – child friendly of course.
What can we expect from the remaining eleven yet to be released books in the series?
We hope to bring to society, one book at a time, conversation starters. We want children to engage with the world and to explore Inclusivity and diversity. We have plans to discuss politics, money management, gender etc. In our texts.
‘My Young Adventures: Meet Mya & Family’ is currently available on Waterstones.com and on Amazon (Below)