Priscilla Mante on believing in yourself, representation and her debut book ‘The Dream Team: Jaz Santos Vs The World’
Amidst the Euros and with the Olympic Games still to come, it is an exciting summer for sport fans and author Priscilla Mante has the perfect book for tweens to get swept up in the football fever!
A black girl playing football and Woke Babies are here for it!
The Dream Team: Jaz Santos vs the World, tells the story of a girl named Jaz who creates her own girl’s football team after her mum moves out, leaving her family behind. Jaz must create a new football team to become the star her mum always wanted her to be. But the team struggles when no one at school takes the girls team seriously. Can Jaz pull off the perfect football team and convince her mum to come home?
Woke Babies spoke with Priscilla to discuss her debut novel, discussing all things from becoming an author to what it means to play football “like a girl.”
Have you always wanted to be an author? Yes, my earliest memories include acting out stories with my toys, and by the time I was 9 I made a promise to my future self to write at least one book for children.
‘Jaz Santos vs the World’ is about someone who decides to create her own girl’s football team, what inspired you to write this? My vision started with a character called Jaz Santos, a brave, mischievous and anxious girl grappling with changes in her life who learns to dream irrespective of the obstacles she encounters. I wanted something that showed creativity, perseverance and teamwork and decided the process of forming a football team would be a fun way to show this, partly due to a childhood love of playing football.
When was the first time you saw a character in a book that looked like yourself? I was an avid reader who spent a lot of time in the local library and had a lot of books at home, but I didn’t see a character who looked like me until I was about 10.
Jaz’s mum is bilingual, why was that important to include? I grew up with two languages and that is the case for many ‘third culture’ children/children of immigrants. That hasn’t been illustrated much in British children’s literature so I wanted those children to see that aspect of their lives represented and celebrated. I also wanted to provide children who only speak one language with an insight into what it’s like for bilingual children.
What does it mean to play football “like a girl” to you? Jaz Santos says this to put a positive spin on the words of the boys who use this as an insult. Some of the world’s best football players are women, so both Jaz and I see it as something to be proud of!
Why was it important to show that enjoying something is just as important as being good at it? It’s massively important for the well-being, and health of every individual to find enjoyment in things that nourish and uplift you, irrespective of your aptitude. We live in a very goal-orientated society and it was vital to communicate you don’t need to be the most skilled in something for it to have value in your life or for you to have value. I also wanted to drive home the message of inclusivity in sports and how you don’t need to win to have fun. Sometimes enjoyment is even more important than ‘success’ – my happiest memories of competitive sport are not of the races that I won at athletic meets, but of the weekly matches I played in with my ever-losing school hockey team!
What’s one piece of advice you would give to young girls who are told they can’t do something? The limitations people place on others are merely a reflection of their own outlook in life, those beliefs don’t define or limit what you can do or your potential. If you’re passionate about something, have the courage to dream and don’t give up because of what someone else has said!
What do you think parents and children can do to help increase awareness of diversity and promote inclusivity? Make a conscious decision to seek out books, magazines and other media which showcase and celebrate diversity, share recommendations of inclusive media with their friends and family and leave online reviews if they enjoyed something. Where diverse literature isn’t readily available in schools, local libraries or bookshops it’s helpful to bring this to someone’s attention and make a point of requesting it, because some people genuinely don’t notice this and are unaware of the effect a lack of representation has on people.
The Dream Team: Jaz Santos Vs The World is available to purchase on our website.