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July 27, 2018

The Samuels' Picture book hero Amani wins hearts and helps children on the autism spectrum and their families.

What is the story behind The Amazingly Awesome Amani?

It's based on our 11-year-old son, Trey Amani, who is on the autism spectrum. We wanted to raise awareness about autism while writing a book that kids of all ages could relate to. We also wanted to shine a spotlight on an issue that is not being addressed openly in the black community. We also wrote it for our six-year-old daughter, who brought to our attention the need to have open dialogue about our son's challenges.
Who do you most hope will read this book?

Our ideal readers include families who are dealing with a child with autism and who are in denial; children in general, and not necessarily those on the spectrum, who have low self-esteem, who have issues communicating with other kids, or who get bullied; and adults whose first reaction is to laugh at, move away from, or point a finger at a child who is on the spectrum. Kids are always watching the way we conduct ourselves, and this influences their choices. We hope that the book will encourage people to be more empathetic.
Why or how do you think this book is particularly relevant now?

We are living in an age where patience and tolerance are needed more than ever.

Children are being diagnosed with autism and other spectrum disorders more frequently. They are being harassed, laughed at, or bullied in school with devastating consequences. Kids and adults need to realize that a person who communicates or acts differently is no less of a human being. The fact that the boy in this story is African-American is even more unique and important. Amani is still "normal," and so is his family.
How did you draw on your real-life experiences as parents of a child with special needs?

We lived through what we are writing about. We were the parents in denial that our child could possibly be autistic. We were angry and frustrated and blamed ourselves for how our son "turned out." Once we got past that stage, we were able to get him the services he desperately needed. We do not want to change anything about our journey. In fact, we feel a responsibility to be as honest as possible about our process.

What is the one thing you most want readers, other writers, booksellers, publishers, or agents to know about you or your book?

The Amazingly Awesome Amani is the first in a trilogy of books that we plan to release in 2018. We are also working on a resource guidebook for parents to inform them of their options in terms of resources, services, and education. Please visit our website for more information.