Vada Azeem Talks, As He His Set To Debuting As A Children’s Book Writer.

October 12th, 2017 | by Obinna
Vada Azeem Talks, As He His Set To Debuting As A Children’s Book Writer.


As a teenager, Vada Azeem started having visions of a small boy climbing a towering mountain peak in an attempt to touch the sun.

“It kept recurring and I didn’t know why,” said the 34 year old Azeem.

He then adapted the image into his debut book The Boy Who Tried to Touch the Sun which will receive its public unveiling at the Columbus Museum of Art on Sunday, October 15.

Azeem also recounted that the image of Ty’re King being shot and killed by police in Olde Towne East still haunts him, He had mentored King roughly four years ago after being introduced to the youngster while working with some of his friends from Champion Middle School. Following King’s death, Azeem immersed himself in his book with renewed vigor, determined to get it into the hands of the next Ty’re while there was still time.

It gave me a sense of urgency,” Azeem said.

“I think that’s the main thing that hurts with him. I know he was a good kid, and I know he was a kid that could have turned into a teacher, a mentor, for other kids. … He was a kid who could have kept reaching, but that was taking away from him.”

Azeem said that  “Everyone who’s read it has had a slightly different take,”  because according to him, it holds different meaning for different people.  Going without food or spending days in confinement can easily be related to real-life issues such as poverty and mass incarceration, both of which affect the black community at statistically higher rates.

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“The children in the types of communities I grew up in, they’re already accomplishing things that kids who are better off can’t,” Azeem said. “Some kids don’t eat at home, and not only did they not eat, they probably didn’t get a good night’s sleep. Then they get into a classroom setting and some of them are getting Cs, even with all that going on. Imagine if they ate and got a good night’s sleep. That’s one thing I kept thinking: You’re already doing the impossible. Just go further.”

I wanted it to be simple because I wanted the young people who read it to be able to get it the way I got ‘Where the Wild Things Are,’” he said on his employing a minimal color palette for “The Boy Who Tried” — Azeem limited himself to five colors — the artist worked in a loose style, attempting to make “the art look the way a Dilla beat sounds,” as he explained, referencing the late DJ and producer’s ability to craft jazz-inflected hip-hop beats.

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On its surface, The Boy Who Tried to Touch the Sun is a simple tale about the power of perseverance and the necessity of striving for unreachable goals. But, as with Where the Wild Things Are, which explored grown-up concepts such as alienation, learning to control one’s emotions and the parent-child bond, there are larger themes that play out as the story unfolds.

Each day, Anu (the name means “mercy” in the Yoruba ethnic group in Nigeria), the boy in the story, ventures into the jungle and climbs the mountain in an effort to touch the sun. On one trek, Anu, who is black, comes upon a town populated with white citizens, who initially react to his presence with fear. The town’s mayor tasks Anu with three impossible challenges, including going seven moons without food, learning all the words in “The Book” and spending seven moons locked away in a cage, all of which he completes with ease.

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 “I think Tomi Ungerer molded me, and Maurice Sendak molded me, and Snoop Dogg and Popeye and ‘The Twilight Zone.’ All of those things molded who I am today. Those little things … become a big part of you,” he added on influences in his life.


(The illustrated book is currently being shopped to publishers with hopes of a full release.)




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