The 8-year-old girl who wrote a book about her natural hair is encouraging others to love themselves amid calls for better representation of black people and more “identity-affirming” characters in children’s literature. I hope you will be inspired by
Tiana Akoh-Arrey, from South East London, wrote her first book at the age of 7, titled My Afro: Twin Best Friends, due out in December 2021, about a best friend with the same type of hair as hers. . She, like her, “while everyone else has straight, silky, or curly hair.”
Speaking to PA news agency during Black History Month in October in the UK, Tiana said: to look beautiful. ”
In her first year, Tiana enrolled in a writing program called Mrs. Wordsmith, where she began to confidently write her own “little book.”
She gave her work to her mother, Dorothy, 39, who contacted Conscious Dreams Publishing.
With the help of a publisher, the book has sold over 700 copies, and “means a lot to me,” says Tiana, who plans to publish more.
“I’ve had a lot of comments on social media, and little girls around the world have shown pictures of my book, saying they love books and feel empowered to wear an afro to school.” I’m really happy to say that,” she added.
Although “at first surprised” that her book had been published, because of her age, Tiana said she wanted other young girls to find the courage to “follow their passions.”
“Even as a child, you never know where you’ll end up in life, so follow your passion and use your imagination as something useful in life,” she said.
“More importantly… love yourself and accept others. We are all unique.”
Enomwoyi Damali is an educational psychologist and author living in the United States. LewishamSouth of London.
“Books should be like mirrors,” said the 59-year-old.
“When you pick up a book, you should see something positive about yourself.
“Every day, every week, every year, if you pick up a book or see someone who doesn’t look like you, it affects your well-being and your identity, consciously or subconsciously. And a sense of believing that you can aim for achievement.
“So it’s very important to have a positive representation in the book…so if you pick up the book as a young black girl and the mirror is reflecting back on you as a young black positive character. When you see it, it affirms you…and your identity.”
The author has published three children’s books and was inspired to write after the death of his father, Cornelius Yearwood, at the age of 78.
The book features a central young black female character called Nzingha and her diverse group of friends, exploring themes such as friendship, kindness, identity and loss. shared cultural heritage. ”
“None of the books I loved as a child, The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe, and the Adventure series, looked like me or lived like me,” she said. .
“And as a child, subconsciously, I felt that there was something wrong with it. did.”
She said the “best” comments she received about her book were from children, and the “best of all” comments were from girls who said Nzinga looked like her.
“You know, she’s never seen a book with a character with brown skin and dreadlocks. Seeing the joy and pride on her face when she said that, this is what I see through my book.” I think that’s what I wanted to achieve,” she added. .
The road to publishing her book was not easy.
“I reached out to a dozen traditional publishers and either got no response or said, ‘That’s not what I’m looking for,'” she said.
“I was a little disappointed, but I believed the message in my book. We found it, the beginning of a long and successful partnership, destined to go on to publish three more Nzingha books.”
Founder of Conscious Dreams Publishing, Daniella Blechner, 42, from West Norwood, south London, said she initially “strengthened her aspirations by connecting with editors, typesetters and illustrators and guiding them through the publishing process.” He said that he supported such writers as “labor of love.” She’s been working full-time as a teacher.
“I love mentoring and literature, so I thought maybe I could combine the two and create Conscious Dreams Publishing,” Brechner said of the 2016 launch.
“It wasn’t something I consciously planned to do, but I realized that so many people’s voices were muted or spoken in an inauthentic way that they weren’t being heard. I am the platform for these unheard stories and voices.”
She added that the publishing industry is largely “white, middle-class men and women,” lacking “diversity from the bottom up,” and needs to change.
“While we’re waiting for that change to happen, we’re making our own change here, and it’s not happening fast enough in mainstream publishing,” she said.
“Even after a surge in black authorship in 2020 after George Floyd and a campaign to publish more black authors, that number is now down 23%, and in 2018, the number of children’s Only 1% of fictional protagonists are of Bipok (black, indigenous, people of color) background, and only 7% currently.
“For our future generations, it is very important to reflect the realities of the diverse societies we live in. Their stories matter. Representation matters.”
Do you have anything to say?You can do it Contact us.
sign up for newsletter Get updates sent directly to your inbox.
https://www.thisislocallondon.co.uk/news/23035066.tiana-8-hopes-book-will-inspire-others-black-history-month/?ref=rss Tiana, 8, hopes the book will inspire others this Black History Month