East Orange teacher has published 12 books — a lifelong dream

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

EAST ORANGE, NJ — By the time he was in the fifth grade, Abba A. Onyeani — who is an eighth-grade English language arts teacher at Cicely L. Tyson Community School of Performing and Fine Arts — knew he wanted to create and write about his own fantasy worlds.

“I thought it was cool to create my own characters and make them say and do imaginative things,” Onyeani said. “I was making up superheroes and giving them superpowers. By the time I was in middle school, I was creating my own comic books and paying attention to dialogue. I also read a lot of comic books and Greek mythology.”

Onyeani shared that his passion for writing stems partially from his late father’s influence. 

“I was inspired by my dad; he was a self-starter, a kind of ready-to-go guy. Coming from Nigeria, he was an entrepreneur in publishing. He trailblazed a newspaper and wrote a book. That inspired me to also write with the mindset that I could do it and self-start something as well,” Onyeani said. “My father would say you have to have multiple sources of income. … Try to write everyday. I would see and watch him. He wrote methodically. He came out with articles and subsequent books that he then published.”

With 12 published books already under his belt, Onyeani is still working toward his ultimate goal. 

“I want to reach a goal of about 50 books. That’s a nice number,” he said. “I think that goal-setting is healthy. It helps you to strive for something more.”

Consistent in his efforts, he writes daily. He explained that he comes up with a thought and an idea for a book and spends a few hours per week writing, waltzing between his laptop and phone. Onyeani’s interest in multiple genres further inspires his work. His interest in fiction, young adult, children’s books, science fiction and certain biographies has already been incorporated into his writing. 

“I think that creating books, especially children’s books about black characters, allows for kids to see themselves in books and use their imagination to take them to new potentials and new heights,” he said. “My ultimate goal is to create books that allow for kids and all readers to see themselves in genres that have been traditionally overlooked, such as science fiction and vampire fantasy novels, like ‘Twilight.’ I was inspired and wrote a book called ‘The Vampires of Mystic High School’. It’s about a young man named Noah, who has to navigate through high school and deal with the world of vampires and mystic monsters. It’s pretty new.”

As a husband and father of four, Onyeani said two of his children’s books stand out for him. 

“My favorite books written so far include ‘Self Discipline Is My Superpower’ and ‘Mommy, Can You Please Comb My Hair,’” he said. “It’s a tie between them since my children gave me the inspiration for them.”

In between writing, Onyeani speaks at engagements, including a recent panel discussion sponsored by the East Orange School District. 

“We discussed the importance of diversity in children’s books and why it’s so awesome for children to see themselves in stories,” he said.

Photos Courtesy of Mirvetk Tonuzi