2021 report by the Guardian says, “…33.9% of children of primary school age in England are from a minority ethnic background…” while only “8% of children’s books have a minority ethnic main character.”
I had many conversations – with many people – on this subject, but I don’t think I fully grasped the importance of representation until my initial book consultation with a nine-year-old British/Ghanaian writer.
Her parents had approached me to turn her story into a book… During the consultation, I asked this young writer what she wanted her protagonist to look like. In the draft I received, the main character was faceless, while her best friend was described as blond and blue-eyed.
Again, this talented young writer is a beautiful ebony girl…
Our soon-to-be-author struggled to answer my question, guessing that the main character could have brown hair… maybe… maybe not… Finally, I asked, “Wouldn’t you like the main character to look like you?” Suddenly, as if a light bulb went off in her head, she said, “Yes!” Her mum, who was present during the consultation, instantly affirmed…
What’s my point?
If there were fair black representation in British kids’ literature, I would not even have to ask this question. It dawned on me that this is truly important. BAME children must see themselves – not only in picture books but in chapter books too. No one should have to tell this young, intelligent Black British girl that it’s okay for the protagonist of HER OWN story to look just like her… The book consultation helped me understand how important BAME representation in kids’ literature is.
So, one of my main goals during the developmental editing stage of “Diary of a Tween” was introducing the colour black and cultural nuances. That’s how this inspiring story about friendship – now enriched by a well-developed black protagonist, a significant ethnic minority presence, and a narrative that celebrates the African diaspora experience in England – has become not just another BFF story.
The “Diary of a Tween” book launch took place in November last year at St John’s Primary School in Redhill, Surrey. Watch a 10-min video about this diversity and inclusion book project on my YouTube channel, and please share your thoughts with me.
“Diary of a Tween: Not Just Another BFF Story” by Doreen-Zilpah Quansah is available on Amazon now.
Get it for all your 9+-year-olds. 😊