Your child can be anything!
I am a very happy bunny today. Today is the first step (or perhaps the second? Realistically I’m halfway up the staircase) towards a new future. I’m very nervous but extremely excited. To add to my happiness, I had some incredible Air Mail earlier this week.
When Davina emailed me explaining that she had left her post at the voice ( she interviewed me for this piece) moved to another county and written a children's book, I was like get in! I love how Black Women, just get shit done, regardless of road block or circumstance.
When she sent me the press release for the book, I was all over it like a Nigerian over jollof at a buffet serviced wedding.
Although my time spent in publishing was short, it was more than enough time to confirm common knowledge, that it’s an arena that is as white as standard A4 Paper. Anytime I saw another person of colour (and for ref I mean, any shade past tan), I wanted to spud them, hug them, embrace them like Beyonce does Jay and then sit for hours picking their brain about how they’re surviving in such an industry. Of course I never acted upon my plans. It was more like, gazes held for as long as the lift would allow, sharing telepathic stories regarding a white colleague questioning our ever changing hairstyles.
The problem with the publishing industry, like all others is if you don’t have a multicultural work force, the work you put out will only represent one set of people. With that said I can attest that in my time spent in publishing, I never personally worked on a book by a black author. Things became even more noticeable when I moved to the children's department. In kids publishing, it’s easier to find book related to dinosaurs that shit than it is to have a black child as the heroine. Growing up, I remember siting through the tales of Biff and Chip, Titch and The Very Hungry Caterpillar only being ably to draw a line of similarity towards the fact that the caterpillar liked chocolate cake. As a child, I was never read a story where could hear and see that the main character looked like me.
Things have changed. i can go into Waterstones and head to the ‘black section’ for Esme. Here we will find five to ten books which have been in re-print for years because they safely tick the ‘give the minority something to chew on’ box. I have re-read these books to Esme so many times, she knows what awaits on each page. While i’m thankful she has more options than I, it’s still not enough.
So Imagine my delight when I saw the front cover of ‘Riley Can Be Anything’ A black boy on the cover? Even more remarkable. As I leaned over Papa B’s shoulder, the premise of the story tugged at my heart. Riley, encouraged by his cousin, dreams about his future job. These include but aren't limited to a doctor, jazz musician and pilot. By the end of the book, Esme would finish each paragraph “Riley can be anything!” with an authenticity only reserved for kids who have not yet dealt with the inequality of the world in which they live.
Without giving praise based on racial bias, I will review the book based on Esme’s reaction as her judgement is untainted. She loved it, ate it up, hell she needed it. Fo the last two nights, it’s been all about Riley and now Esme wants to play a saxophone in his jazz band. The black woman in me is also very for a young black boy being bale to display his innate joy and dream about being anything before society commits him to an idea of sagging pants and rock slinging.
As a parent, I constantly thinking about the conscious and unconscious things that can dent the confidence of my child. Since we began reading to her at bedtime a year ago, I made a commitment to find books that explored the diverse world in which she lives. I am really thrilled to add ‘Riley Can Be Anything’ to our bookshelf.
And because I like to spread love, I’m also giving you a chance to add the book to your shelf! I have one copy of ‘Riley Can Be Anything!’ to giveaway. To be considered just leave a comment below or on the related Instagram post letting me know what books you read to your kid at bedtime. The competition will close at midnight on May 26th, so get to typing!
Many thanks to Davina Hamilton for thinking of me to spread Riley’s message. You can find out more about her and pre-order ‘Riley Can Be Anything’ here.