As a former school teacher in Baltimore, David Miller found that Black and Brown boys tended to lag behind girls in reading. When he became an author, Miller focused on writing books with dynamic, Black male protagonists to provide some much-needed representation in the literary world.
“I think that one of the ways that we can get boys excited about reading is when they see themselves on the pages of books,” he told Travel Noire. “I get emails and I get notes on Instagram from parents saying my son never wanted to read. We saw one of your books, and now he wants to read anything you write, and we want to get connected to other authors who focus on male characters. So representation matters.”
Miller’s latest book, Chef Toussaint, follows a nine-year-old culinary savant who has realized his dreams of becoming a master chef. Chef Toussaint Palmer, or Chef T as he is known, makes appearances on the Food Network and leaves customers at restaurants across Georgia salivating as he makes his grandmother’s signature dishes like pecan pie, macaroni and cheese, candied sweet potatoes with almonds, and apple cinnamon French toast. The message? There are no limits to what we can accomplish.
Miller’s books also take a backdoor approach to teaching history by integrating important historical figures in the plot. In this case, Chef T is named after Toussaint Louverture, a general in the Haitian Revolution. American educator Booker T. Washington appears in Gabe and the Green Thumb. He is currently working on a book titled Winnie the Wizard of Wallstreet, a nod to the South African anti-apartheid activist and politician Winnie Madikizela-Mandela. She was also the former wife of Nelson Mandela. The book will reference Magdalena Walker as well, who was the first Black woman to own a bank in the United States.
“When I was a school teacher, I would talk to students about their aspirations and what their goals were, and it was always basketball and football. So, in Chef Toussaint and some of my other books, I want to inspire children to understand their full greatness. They can be anything that they want to be, and although they may have never met a chef, it’s a possibility. All of my books are really designed to raise awareness around history, and also to inspire children who have forgotten how to dream.”