Dr. Alphonso A. Buie “would have never thought” the title ‘doctor’ would be incorporated into his name. But now, after years of education, he has become an educator himself.
Originally from the west side of Chicago, Illinois, he graduated from Chicago High School for Agricultural Sciences and then Lincoln University of Missouri with Bachelors and graduate degrees. After a doctorate in Philly and years of work in just about every corner of the hospitality industry—from restaurants to airlines—as well as a job abroad in Beijing, China, Dr. Buie has landed in the Atlanta area. Now, at Athens Technical College, he serves as program chair for the Hotel, Restaurant, and Tourism Management Program as well as interim program chair for the Culinary Arts Program.
“It was definitely not the best side of Chicago [growing up] in the 80s; there was just so much going on in the world,” he told Georgia Voice. “But luckily I had a lot of educators who invested in me, so that’s kind of why I give back now.”
And give back, he has. Alongside his career in hospitality and education, Dr. Buie is an author of three books—two children’s books and a self-help book—that contribute to educating children and communities about different types of family structures, people, and ways to find success.
Dr. Buie’s two children’s books, My Two Dads and My Two Moms, follow children as they discuss their parents and normalize their non-traditional family structures. Each book contains an image of a healthy, happy child with two dads or two moms, and shows how these children grow up just as any child would. The books highlight varied aspects of the children’s lives, such as their favorite foods to eat and activities to do with their parents.
Showcasing different family structures, particularly with BIPOC characters centered as they are in My Two Dads and My Two Moms, provides important representation. And by putting this representation into a children’s book in a palatable, family-friendly way, Dr. Buie is trying to expose children effectively to these ideas and help develop young hearts and minds from the start.
“As you read things, you learn, and that exposure kind of guides your thought, I think,” he said. “We are a diverse construct—that’s just what America is—and that representation should show in every aspect of our society, and so that’s kind of what I wanted to do with My Two Dads and My Two Moms…just show ‘hey this is a family where the kid is happy and he’s enjoying his family and it just happens to be two dads.’”
Children will continue to grow up in an increasingly diverse world, notes Dr. Buie, and he wants them to be prepared for that as well as excited to see themselves and their experiences in his work.
“If you go to any child’s classroom, it’s going to be diverse family constructs,” he said. “And I’ve seen it happen, where children are just so happy to see themselves and their family structures.”
Pivoting from the children’s literature arena, Dr. Buie’s latest work of fiction, Stuck, is a self-help book told through the lens of a story. While following the main character Marc as he tries to overcome workplace and personal challenges, the work of short fiction incorporates and teaches various concepts.
“I wanted a creative way to develop a self-help book,” Dr. Buie said. “I think so many times, we give people information, but we don’t necessarily give it to them in a format that is practical, so I wanted to show a character actually utilizing the five different skill sets that I put in the book.”
By creating a practical way of understanding these skills, Dr. Buie hopes to provide people with tools to navigate the situations that arise in their lives. Like with his work with children’s lit, he strives for expanded representation. Not only is Marc, the main character, queer, but Dr. Buie also included a character in the book whose sex, gender, and sexual orientation are not even mentioned at all.
“The character’s sexuality or sex didn’t matter in the grand scheme of things to the story, which is what I wanted,” he said. “It’s just that little hint of, ‘Hey, you really don’t care as much as you think about someone else’s sex or sexuality, and maybe calm down just a bit on that subject.’”
Through its representation and practical educational use, Dr. Buie’s body of work so far pushes toward acceptance and understanding, both in children and in adults. It seeks to creatively teach lessons, while being enjoyable.
“I think literature brings people together through comprehension of worlds that you would not necessarily encounter otherwise,” Dr. Buie said. “When you’re reading a book you are kind of interested to see where it goes, so that’s what I want to do: I want to inform people, I want to entertain people.”
Dr. Buie hopes that his work contributes to this development and growth. He sees the world evolving and wishes to be a part of that change for the better.
“We still have those negative naysayers or negative theories on how people should live their lives and who should be in existence and who shouldn’t,” he said. “But I see a shift and change and there’s been a lot of growth, especially as a Black gay man.”