Lantana Publishing are known for their wonderful collection of diverse, inclusive titles, so it’s no surprise that they’re responsible for the publishing of Maryam al Serkal’s empowering story: ‘Mira’s Curly Hair.’ I am thrilled to be part of its blog tour and to be hosting a special piece by Maryam about how her daughter helped inspire her writing.
Mira hates her frizzy, curly hair. It just sticks out all over, wherever it likes! She has tried everything to make it straight and smooth like her mama’s. But when the pair are out for a stroll around their city, an unexpected rain shower means that Mira will never look at her mama’s hair the same way again.
As someone who has had a rather strained relationship with their very curly hair over the years, I could fully understand Mira’s frustration at the lack of control she has over her beautiful natural locks. Like Mira, I have come to accept that my hair looks best as it is!
It is so important for other young people to see people like themselves reflected back at them in the stories they read. It helps them realise that other people face the same struggles they do, look like they do, and live lives similar to theirs. Rebeca Luciani’s gorgeous illustrations radiate the warmth and colour of Dubai, without the beautiful setting overpowering the characters and story itself.
Now we are lucky enough to hear from Maryam about how her own little girl’s dislike of her natural hair inspired her to write this image-positive story:
“When I saw my little girl struggling to accept her curly hair, I had a flashback to my childhood years. I saw the shy, reclusive little me, so desperate to be part of any play group, being teased for having darker skin, curly hair and thick glasses. I was also very skinny.
People always tell me how much my Mira looks like me at that age. She has beautiful olive skin, shiny curly brown hair and big brown eyes that she doesn’t have to hide behind glasses. I don’t think she is anything like me. She has the most amazing sense of humour. She’s popular and everyone wants to be her friend.
So when she started telling me that she wanted to get her hair streaked when she was 7, I nearly choked on my coffee!
I wondered where in the world she got that idea from. She said that she saw something on YouTube when she was with her cousins over the weekend. I knew that no matter how many restrictions I had on all the devices we had at home or whatever I did, I wouldn’t be able to control the flow of information that would reach my children. So instead of trying to control the huge tsunami of unwarranted information coming our way. I had to help my child see how wonderfully amazing she was just the way she is.
It was a challenge for me to come up with a way to do this that would really resonate with her. I finally thought of enlisting the help of some of her friends.
On her birthday, I sent out invitations to her friends for her birthday party. In the invite, I asked each one of her friends to write one thing they liked about the birthday girl in their greeting cards to her. Just one. After her party, when we got home, she opened her presents and read each card.
Funny, kind, considerate, lovely tan, beautiful eyes, curly hair, goofy smile, are some of the things her classmates and friends wrote to her.
She wrote thank you notes to her friends and I made sure to remind her to mention one thing she liked about them in her note.
I try to always remind her to read the cards when she complains about anything she wants to change about herself and feel the urge to whine about it. I found that the best way to teach my children to celebrate their beauty, be it inner or outer, is to be grateful and content with what they have. It’s never too early to teach a child gratitude. Of course, it is highly entertaining for me to hear some of the things they were grateful for: Mira was grateful that she wasn’t caught when she sneaked in a piece of chocolate before dinner and Bader, my son, was grateful he beat his old score on a video game!
We do this as a daily ritual, before bedtime and as soon as we wake up, and now it’s a habit. I can see how happy and contented my children are now, especially Mira.”
What a wonderful way to instil a great sense of positivity and self-belief in your children. I am sure that ‘Mira’s Curly Hair’ with resonate with plenty of readers of all ages – some of whom dislike their hair and some who have another feature they’d quite happily change. But it’s important to realise that the appearances of others may not be quite as they seem – an important thing to remember in this time of endless selfies and filters.
*Many thanks to Lantana Publishing for sending me this title to review and for inviting me to be part of this blog tour*