Tag Archives: Tamarind Books

Jah’s hair and hair in general.

When I went out with Jah into the city centre of Leicester, not only did I receive criticism about his name, but also about his hair, his matted locks – again always from black people.

Jah and hobby horse

“You should have his hair cut.”  They sometimes clicked their teeth with disapproval, or shook their heads.

These comments were hard to deal with.  We spoke to our social worker, but she was reluctant to broach the matter of Jah’s hair with his birth father.  In those days we expected that the adoption process could begin fairly soon.  She didn’t want to annoy him or do anything that would delay his signature.

One could write at length about hair.  There must be plenty of magazines that feature hair.  I suppose that some people with luscious hair are happy about that.  However, my observation is that many people wish their hair would be different.  Often curly-haired people say they would prefer straight hair and vice-versa.

I remember attending a family wedding, where about five young teenagers were present. They all normally had curly hair, but someone had brought a hair-straightener with them and one by one each teenager appeared with unusually straight hair. I expect they enjoyed the experience of feeling different. Personally I missed their naturally curly locks.  I thought they looked much prettier before.

My daughter-in-law tells me that her mother told all her daughters that their hair is their crowning glory.  I like that positive approach to Afro-Caribbean hair.  And I love the beautiful and varied hairstyles they adopt.

images_006 

cornrow plaits

 

 

 

 

 

 

Some people view Afro-Caribbean hair with less enthusiasm.  They record the struggle they have had over tangled hair and the long process of having the hair put in plaits. – a process that can take at least a couple of hours.  Fortunately Mia, our granddaughter – Sam’s daughter – is quite happy about the plaiting, as she is allowed to watch a dvd during the process and she LOVES watching films!

My short, straight hair can only be varied when it is newly cut. It progresses through the following phases:-

  • Short, newly-cut and smart  (I like to think)
  • OK. Settling down (I like to think)
  • Looks fairly good (I like to think)
  • Suddenly gets straggly and looks urgently in need of trimming (I know!)

During our early days with Jah we made an exciting discovery.  There was a group called “Harmony” that had been formed to give support to multiracial families, both adoptive and natural.  We found their meetings so helpful.  I can see now that any foster parents of black or mixed-race children should have automatically been given to information on hair and skin care.  I hope they are given this information today. We had to find out things bit by bit.  We were fortunate to have eventually discovered the Harmony group.

Harmony badge

One family we met at a Harmony meeting had done well with their daughter’s hair.  They had a friend who showed them how to do cornrow plaiting.  I was glad that Sam and Jah were boys and could get away without having their hair plaited, although of course I knew that some boys did choose to have complicated hairstyles.

Here is a book that I think sounds fun and would be enjoyable.  (Usually I do not like to suggest that a book is to be recommended mainly for girls or mainly for boys, but in this case I think this book would appeal more to girls)  Princess Katrina and the Hair Charmer, by Christina Shingler [Illustrated by Derek Brazell] [Paperback]  Tamarind Books

Christina Shinglerhttp://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/1870516680/ref=rdr_ext_tmb (Author), Derek Brazell (Illustrator)

I have seen the following information about “Happy Hair UK”. It was published on an interesting blog – Mixed Race Family.  See below, with Elizabeth White’s permission:

Mixed Race Family  http://mixedracefamilies.blogspot.co.uk/

For global people who are mixed race, belong to a mixed race family, are starting a mixed race family or who are from the global human race and are interested in learning more about the experiences of global mixed race families.

 

Happy Hair UK

mixed-race girl's hair

Happy Hair UK’s  mission is to make every child with Afro/Mixed (Kinky to Curly) hair feel happy with their hair. To make Afro/Mixed hair manageable using natural products whilst keeping hair care to a high standard. We want to make Black/Mixed children’s hair care accessible in all areas of the UK. And if it cannot be accessed to provide tips, advice and support.
We will achieve this by hosting free events to promote and educate people about black/mixed hair care.”

I’ll be back soon with news about Jah’s hair.

Diversity. Where are the books that reflect our multiracial society?

When I thought about writing a blog, I imagined that I would write quite a lot about my reflections on being a multiracial family and multiracial issues today.  I still intend to, but for the last few weeks I have been describing the early days of our younger son’s introduction into the family.

Arriving LeicesterAs he was nearly four years old at the time, I found that there was a lot I wanted to say and the feedback is that people have been interested. I shall resume the story in the next blog post.

However, an issue has come up in an internet discussion group that I feel I want to comment on.   It relates to a question I have been asking myself and others for decades – namely Where are the books that feature black and mixed-race children? 

Please  believe me that I am not the only person concerned about this.

The flurry of correspondence that arose on this matter all began when somebody quoted an article published in the New York Times

 “According to a study by the Cooperative Children’s Book Center at the University of Wisconsin, of the approx. 5,000 children’s book published in 2013, just 93 were about black characters, 57 were about Latinos.”  She commented  “Thanks to the New York Times for putting this on the front page of the Sunday Review”.

The view among British contributors to the discussion is that the situation is no better in the UK.

I know that there are some excellent black and ethnic minority writers. There are also other authors who have written about characters from diverse backgrounds.  Since the writers and books exist, is the problem with the bookshops? Why don’t they stock such books?  Our Willesden Independent bookshop certainly did stock them, but sadly it had to move to another area when their rent was greatly increased.

OR is the problem that there are not enough ethnic minority writers?

OR is it that such books would not sell?  If so, why not?

Way back in the 1970s and 1980s we felt concerned about the lack of books portraying black or mixed-race children. We searched everywhere for such books to share with Sam and Jah. We found one or two, mostly from The USA.

books photoI kept searching. It was obvious to us that the boys needed to see children like themselves in books.  If not, what is the unspoken message?  Is it that they are not important enough to feature in stories? It is depressing to realise that this is still the situation today in 2014! MalorieThe current Children’s Laureate Malorie Blackman uses the phrase “A mirror to every child’s life”.  She has mentioned that when she was growing up, she longed to see a child in a book who looked like she did.  She herself has written books for children of most age groups and is truly an inspiration to all.

The lack of representation of children from all ethnic groups is not only a problem for children from ethnic minority backgrounds.  I am sure that good books portraying children of every race and colour and background should be available for everybody to read, not only for children who are from ethnic minorities themselves. We are all human beings and we live in an inter-connected world.

Here –  as a shameless plug – are two of my books that are still available.

Sammy Flying cover This book was inspired by Jah who always wanted to keep up with his older siblings.

JJ cover for Buzz This book was inspired by Sam’s school friend who frequently had to look after his little sister.  I remember one day, when both boys said to me rather sheepishly  “We have to take N. to the park to see the ducks”.  As teenagers, they thought that they had left such childish behaviour behind them.  In the end I think they quite enjoyed the experience.

The topic of books for children of all colours and creeds is one I shall want to return to.  For now I’ll give you a link to the Letterbox Library.  This is a marvellous resource of books that celebrate equality and diversity.

http://www.letterboxlibrary.com

Here is another important resource.  Tamarind Books, set up by the visionary Verna Wilkins

www.tamarindbooks.co.uk

(Next blogpost will be  “Back to reality after the long summer holiday. Return to our Leicester home.”