Sometimes when you’re sowing “ahead of your time,” you can burn out before harvest season.
I’ve known for a long time that I wanted my book, I’m Proud to Be Natural Me!, to be an enduring classic children’s book. Over the years, I have spoken to people of all cultures, colors, and countries and they all said the same thing, that the message of my book is for all children. The first ever feedback I received on my children’s book was from a blond haired, blue eyed friend in Scandinavia. She told me that the message was universal. And honestly she surprised me. I truly wrote the book with the thought of how underrepresented children who look like my daughter are in children’s books. I wanted children to see themselves in the pages. I wanted children to recognize the hairstyles and identify with the complexions of the characters.
I knew what it was to flip through a hundred cable channels and find just one show with a positive image of a Black person. I knew how many stores I would have to visit to find a Black Barbie. I remember how disappointing it was to search for party supplies when her birthdays were approaching. And I chose to intentionally be a part of the solution to the lack of representation problem.
So I worked for years designing products that celebrate natural hair and diverse complexions. I attended tons of natural hair events and book fairs. And I revised my book I’m Proud to Be Natural Me! at least 8 times. I have always known it is meant to be an enduring classic. And now boys and girls, children of various hair lengths and complexions, individuals with albinism, vitiligo, and every shade of melanin in between will have a book where they can see themselves. And this book doesn’t just display beautiful illustrations, it features an ongoing affirmation from cover to cover that helps children gain self-acceptance while they enjoy the story.
This book is a huge part of my legacy. Pretty much all my work to date evolved out of it. And as much as many have asked when I’m coming out with the next children’s book, I could never fully dedicate myself to the new ones because this one wasn’t established. I know what it is, and I know what it’s mean to be….
So today after my day nap, I had this really healing and inspiring epiphany. I realized that being a pioneer, as one of the first authors with a natural hair themed book, it was uphill and extremely niched. However, now, naturally curly hair is everywhere I look. I love seeing us freely embrace our hair, and witnessing the broad acceptance my generation didn’t experience.
This journey has been long, and it’s been hard emotionally, as I’ve had more conversations than I can count about how “it’s time to do another one.” I wanted to move on but I couldn’t. I wanted to see this one succeeding and selling. I wanted to see it in the hands of way more children. I wanted it to be as I envisioned, grand scale.
As I finish up the cover on this (hopefully final) version of I’m Proud to Be Natural Me!, I realize that all this time I’ve been looking at my book as a flower, wondering when it would bloom. Now, I realize I was planting a grand tree. And in my head I hear Donald Lawrence singing, “the wait is over, walk into your season.”
Marlene Dillon Empowerment Specialist
Author of I’m Proud to Be Natural Me!
BTW I’m Proud to Be Natural Me! is available on Amazon. Link in comments. The new version will be released soon via Ingram Book Company making my book available for libraries, stores, bookstores, etc. Keep an eye out and ask your local library to for it.