Sasha Ariel Alston is changing the face of coding, one book at a time. 

In 2017, at 19 years of age, she published Sasha Savvy Loves to Code, a ground-breaking children’s book about an intelligent,10-year old Black girl named Sasha who falls in love with coding. That book, which has sold more than 10,000 copies, was followed up with Sasha Savvy Starts it Up in 2020. It chronicles Sasha as she starts a business with her friends, which is supported by her mom, a software developer, her dad, a chef and entrepreneur, and her older brother.

Sasha Ariel Alston was kind enough to take the time to talk with We Rep STEM about her books and the importance of representation in STEM. Read on to learn more about the author behind the Sasha Savvy series, in her own words.

What inspired you to become a children’s book author?

I had my first internship at Microsoft while still in high school, and I appeared on a radio show to discuss my experience. The host asked me to explain what coding was. 

I thought that if he didn’t know, then younger kids might not know as well. 

I decided to write a book because it was already evident from my participation in STEM activities that not many girls were involved, and I wanted to encourage and inspire them to give these areas a try.

After I wrote the book, I was really excited about my accomplishment and tried to get it published.


Was publishing a book an easy process?

Unfortunately, I was rejected by many agents, so I decided to publish it myself. I raised $18,000 through a Kickstarter campaign, published the book, and it went on to become a bestseller that has been sold around the world.

Can you talk a bit about the process of writing a book? How did you come up with the idea, the character, the lessons, and the look and feel of it?

I’ve always enjoyed writing but I didn’t truly become interested in being an author until I knew I had a story to tell with a mission. I researched and learned just how much there is a lack of diversity in STEM, specifically technology.

I also discovered that girls’ self-esteem decreases as tweens and their interest in STEM also drops at this time. I decided that I would target girls in this age group to inspire and encourage them. My books, although not true stories, reflect parts of my life, what I’ve experienced while learning to code and becoming an entrepreneur.

For example, the main character, Sasha Savvy, is from Washington, D.C., my home town. it was important to have the authenticity of living in D.C. in the details and images. Also, like me, Sasha Savvy attends a camp and a hackathon and later starts a business. Using my own experiences, I show girls that even though these things may be challenging, they are also fun and can provide cool ways to be creative and solve problems.  

What can kids expect to learn from Sasha Savvy Learns to Code and Sasha Savvy Starts It Up?

The books provide information to anyone interested in learning about coding and entrepreneurship through fun stories. They are introduced to career possibilities they may not have thought about.

Also, since there is a lack of visible and relatable STEM role models available, especially women and people of colour, my books provide students with these important representations.

When I speak to girls across the country, I highlight people that look like them that are already in the industry using technology in diverse ways. I share about people like Bozoma Saint John who is the CMO at Netflix; Karlie Kloss who is a fashion model and founder of Kode by Klossy and Serena Williams, who is not only a tennis champion but an outstanding businesswoman and investor. This way they can learn about where STEM can take them if interested and focused. Because as the saying goes, you cannot be what you cannot see.

What message do you have for kids who are interested in pursuing a career in STEM?

Although STEM subjects require a lot of focus, studying, and practice, I would say: don’t give up if you are passionate about it, and you feel it is the path for you. When I was an information systems major in college, I faced many challenges, but I kept going. I had the support of my mother and a few role models, but I had to put in the work myself.

It had to be part of the dreams that I wanted to make come true. Inspiring youth and providing my community information and resources turned out to be my biggest motivation.

So I would tell kids – Find out what motivates you and then dream big. Amazing things will happen if you sharpen your skills, have a positive attitude, and work hard.

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Note: Minor grammatical edits were made to the original text.

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