By TONIA HILL
Hyde Park native and Chicago Public Schools (CPS) graduate, Imani Josey is celebrating the release of her debut novel The Blazing Star.
The Blazing Star is a young adult novel, and it follows 16-year-old African-American twin sisters, Portia and Alex on an adventure in which they teleport from Chicago to Ancient Egypt. The two sisters build their relationship as they learn to work together in finding their way home. The novel shares lessons in history, love, and friendship.
Josey has always had a passion for writing; she is a third generation writer. Her grandparents worked at Ebony Magazine, and her mother was a senior editor. Her one-act play “Grace” won the 19th Annual Young Playwrights Festival. Venturing off into writing a book was not a surprise to anyone in her family said, Josey.
The book took five years to complete, but the foundation for the story has been in her head since childhood and as Josey grew so did The Blazing Star.
Once the book was complete, Josey had a hard time finding a publisher to take on her project. There are not many agents in the industry that are diverse said Josey, “they could not connect with the voice.”
“Far too often people of color don’t read about themselves in novels, especially in the YA fantasy genre, and this story changes that. It showcases our imagination and our magic,” said Josey in a written statement.
After a year of looking for an agent, she decided to publish The Blazing Star independently, and the experience she said has been rewarding. Most young adult readers are not teenagers according to Josey.
“The market is 18-45 year-olds. People enjoy reading young adult [literature], experiencing those firsts with the protagonist…their first crush, the first time being on their own…relying on themselves. Everyone gravitates to that, said Josey.
So far, the book has received positive feedback from readers all over the world. Readers in Egypt and Pakistan reached out her to learn more about The Blazing Star.
Josey said the young adult literature has a long way to go with being inclusive to diverse voices.
“Black girls are getting to explore a relationship that’s not focusing on the pain points of the black experience, said Josey. Traditional publications think that black people want those things [stories]…we want to see the entire spectrum of our humanity.”
What’s key in The Blazing Star is the relationship between Portia and Alex said, Josey.
“Portia and Alex they have to learn skills and realize that they are special in their own ways and that they compliment one another,” said Josey.
The Blazing Star was released on Tuesday, Dec. 6., and it can be purchased on www.imanijosey.com, and on Amazon in paperback ($14.95) and ebook ($4.99) formats.
Josey graduated from Whitney Young High School in 2004. She has a bachelor’s degree from Howard University and a master’s degree in communications from Northwestern University.
Josey won the titles of Miss Chicago and Miss Cook County for the Miss America Organization, as well as Miss Black Illinois USA. She is also a certified fitness instructor and professional dancer, having danced professionally for the Chicago Bulls as a Luvabull cheerleader.
“I’m proud that I will be able to tell a story that we aren’t used to hearing, the adventure of two African American young women learning their history and working together to unlock their future,” said Josey in a written statement.”