Sundays with Schoolhouse Friends--Little Free Diverse Libraries: An Interview with Sarah Kamya

Earlier in the week I locked myself in my bedroom, crossed my fingers and said a prayer to the parenting gods that I would be left undisturbed. Then I made a call to a young woman woman I’ve been excited to talk to for quite some time: Sarah Kamya, Founder of Little Free Diverse Libraries and school counselor extraordinaire.

Here’s the meat and potatoes of our chat. I hope you all enjoy reading it and support Sarah in the important work that she began not even a full year ago.

TP: When did you start Little Free Diverse Libraries?

SK:  On June 6, 2020. When there was nothing to do, I’d go on these walks and pass by libraries in my town. I’d see these classic books, the same ones—books that really don’t have very much depth and diversity. Like, books about southern girls who ride horses. It felt like I was seeing the same books everywhere. I also just wanted books to educate the white people in my town. I wasn’t really thinking about the Black people because there are so few. 

It’s important for Black and brown people, like adults too, to see themselves in books. Books like yours, where the main characters have Brown and Black skin…and they rule by it. 

When I started Little Free Diverse Libraries, it was the week of George Floyd’s murder, and so people were starting to donate money to all of these different organizations. And so I said, “I will buy a book on your behalf and put it in the Little Free Library to help educate people.”  Because people were eager to do something and most could afford $20. At first I was telling people what books I was buying with their donation. 

Then it just blew up and I couldn’t tell them what books I was buying on their behalf anymore.

I only buy books from Black-owned bookstores, though I do have an Amazon wish list.

I don’t know how I found your book, Tallulah the Tooth Fairy CEO, but when I got it, I was like, I need 100 more. 

One night my mom, dad and I sat on the couch, read it, and just cracked up. You go into a bookstore during Black History Month and they’re all grouped together, the “Black books”, and it’s like there’s a big spotlight on these books and it’s kind of in your face. And it makes me think, 

“I get it, but do you get it now…bookstore? Bookstore shoppers?”

TP: How long have you been a school counselor?

SK: It’s my second year. I graduated from NYU in 2019 and I got…

TP: *Breaks into song*

“I believe the children are our future.

Teach them well and let them lead the way!”

Wait, what? You just graduated? I am so impressed. Look at what you’ve done and accomplished out the gate. That is…wow.

SK: “If it needs to get done, I get it done.”

TP: Um, that's a mantra and a sermon.

SK: I apply that approach to the littlest things and biggest things.

TP: What has the response been to the Little Free Diverse Books initiative?

SK: For the most part, extremely positive.

In some towns it’s happened that people will say, “All books matter.”

TP: Wait what?! Are they posting little signs saying that or they just verbalize such nonsense?

SK: No, they’ll just say it…and they believe it.

TP: (laughing) Unbelievable. You can’t make this stuff up! But it cracks me up because it reminds me of the boardroom scene in Tallulah the Tooth Fairy CEO…

TP: What did you want to be growing up?

SK: I wanted to be a school counselor.

TP: Aw, you’re living your dream! Is it everything you wished for it to be?

SK: It is.

TP: What else would you like to do career-wise?

SK: If I were to do anything else, it would be to work with children in some capacity…maybe a community-based organization that helps to uplift girls in some way.

TP: When I see photos of the Little Free Diverse Libraries, they’re all so adorable and cozy. Are people making those or are they for sale somewhere?

SK: You can build your own. Little Free Library also sells them—they’re about $300, or you can build your own. Looking back, I would have built my own. It would have been something nice to do with my dad. I’ve donated about 9 to different schools. They have them all over the world. There’s even an app where you can check to see if there are any available in your town and in the area where you live. There are four very close to my home.

We’re looking to put more of them in lower income areas. Because book access is a privilege so many don’t have. They’re such a cool way for kids to access books.

I leave hand sanitizer in a lot of the boxes as well.

TP: It warms my heart so when I see you mention or post about Tallulah. I really am grateful for the support. What’s your favorite part of the book?

SK: When Tallulah gets drinks with Mrs. Claus.

TP: Ha! That’s probably the page I get the most negative feedback for—I guess some parents think kids seeing adults at a bar…adulting…is a slippery slope to misguided debauchery for young children. I think those people, along with the wit-deficient folks on Goodreads who give Tallulah low ratings, are in desperate need of a drink.

SK: I read, feel, and tell the story better with kids because I feel personally connected to it. 

TP: Do you write books at all?

SK: I enjoy it. I want to write a book. I would love to, maybe one day. 

Maybe next summer. I have the summers off, which helps.

TP: What was your favorite book growing up as a child?

SK: My parents were big readers to me; they would read to me at night.

A series of Unfortunate Events books and Junie B. Jones were read to me.

Amazing Grace, I remember that book. I can’t believe how long it’s been around. The story is so true, still. I remember A Snowy Day.

TP: Where would you like to see Little Free Diverse Libraries go in the future?

SK: I think I want to keep getting the library boxes to school because it’s a great way to continue the conversation and for the schools that have them, it’s like a stamp that says, “This is where we stand and this is what we believe.” If the books are in a Latinx area, I want to get Spanish books in there, same for LGBTQ books—I want to continue to be a resource for others. I want to help schools set them up. I just want to keep loving and sharing and showing these books that I wish had been around when I was little.

TP: Wow. I’m so impressed and inspired and let me assure you you’re a big deal. The publishing house that rereleased Tallulah in 2019 emailed to let me know you’d mentioned Tallulah the Tooth Fairy CEO as your favorite book, and I was like yeah…she promotes the book all the time—unlike y’all. So thank you, truly, for all of your support and each time you’ve featured Tallulah. For Black authors, there’s a whole game that’s played and rarely if ever talked about regarding the major publishing houses. So every time we receive acknowledgement, support, and success in any way, it truly helps to validate our presence in spaces where so many, to this day, think we really ought not occupy.

I mean that.

You are doing A LOT to spotlight Black/BIPOC authors.

We don’t get the same level of support at the major publishing houses when it comes to book deals, touring, promotion—all of that. 

So having grassroots support is paramount and really goes a long way.

Thank you.

SK: Thank you. Your book truly was the book that kept me going when things got hard for me. If there are a thousand books on the table, I always look for yours.


Find and follow Sarah Kamya and all the goodness she’s gifting the world through Little Free Diverse Libraries here.

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