By: Alieu Ceesay
From the playroom to publishing, Madam Emily Joof, a mother of two, embarks on an inspiring journey into the world of words. Drawing on her experiences as a third culture kid and the boundless creativity of her children, she founded her micro-publishing house, Mbife Books. This venture is dedicated to crafting inclusive children’s books that celebrate the rich tapestry of the African Diaspora.
With 14 children’s books to her credit, Emily’s literary endeavors extend beyond borders. Her works have been published in Sweden and the United States, with translation rights secured in the United Kingdom. She envisions and creates stories that mirror the diverse world she and millions of children globally inhabit, where diversity is not an exception but the norm.
As an educationist deeply committed to children’s issues, Emily sheds light on her foray into writing. “My motivation to start writing was my children,” she explains. “They had been to The Gambia and back home to Sweden, asking for a book that would showcase the fruits they had enjoyed in The Gambia. Finding none, I decided to put pen to paper and submit my writing to publishers.”
One of Emily’s notable works, “Mangoes and Monkeybread,” receives acclaim as a Teachers Pick recommendation, endorsed by numerous educators based on feedback from hundreds of teachers. Emily wears multiple hats, not only as an author but also as the CEO of the Mbife Foundation. She expresses optimism that each publication by the foundation will contribute significantly to promoting and preserving Gambian culture. “We hope every book we publish will preserve and promote our cultural heritage by sharing aspects of our culture.”
Despite the plethora of writers in the country, Emily’s books stand out, particularly for their focus on the age group of 0-10 years. Her dream of recognition is materializing, with two of her publications earning spots on Amazon’s selection, earning praise from educators and readers alike.
Reflecting on her journey, Emily acknowledges the challenges of publishing, which she adeptly overcame by establishing her publication foundation. Looking ahead, she envisions a landscape filled with libraries with Gambian stories accessible to children through library programs and reading initiatives.
Writing novels to teach children and preserve Gambian culture marks a significant milestone in the country’s education sector. Support and encouragement from both authorities and society are crucial in ensuring the success and longevity of this cultural and educational endeavor.
In her own words, “Those are great achievements for me because there are millions of books written by other writers, but my book has been selected. I am grateful for that, but the most memorable is when people say, ‘Is that me, the author?'”