So this is the first children’s book that I am featuring on the blog. I know a lot of the people who actually read the blog and keep up with it have children. And it’s vital for children to see themselves in media. The earlier they see themselves positively, the better it is for their self-esteem and it keeps their interest too. Despite what some critics of diversity might have you believe, seeing yourself visually is important. It is a sinister, subversive matter when people try to suggest that the skin color of characters shouldn’t matter. That is simply racism by omission and it harms our children.
This book doesn’t play into that notion thankfully. The illustrations are vibrant, colorful and make the backdrop of Cuba look absolutely amazing. Through its tiny references, this book is unabashedly embracing a locale that is often demonized in America. I loved seeing this beautiful country come to life and displayed as something besides for a so-called “communist prison camp”. America finds a way to always portray the worst parts of other cultures like Mexico, Cuba, and many African countries. Let’s call it for what it is, it’s propaganda. It makes books like these even more important for people who might never see Cuba, but can see it properly through this book.
Another issue this book tackles is the notion of hair. As Adiche has said previously, “hair is political”. Why? Because American culture attacks the beauty and “rightness” of hair in other cultures all the time. It is a psychological attack on our kids right from the very beginning telling them that their hair doesn’t meet a certain level of beauty and therefore, they aren’t beautiful. And people with lower self-esteem are less likely to demand changes in the social and political atmospheres. This is why media is important and why books like this are vital.
The character of Dalia is a vibrant, spirited young girl who is unafraid of people’s opinions and believes in the beauty of what she’s doing with her hair when even no one else does. She remains me of so many young girls who are ready to go out and tackle the world before they’re told over and over again that they shouldn’t. When I closed the book, I couldn’t help but to think how far would a young woman like Dalia go in life? What changes could she bring about? There’s such promise in this children’s story. Grab it for your kids and show them that beauty isn’t defined by the American “default”.