Lupita Nyong’o’s Children’s Book About Colorism Is So Needed


Yesterday Oscar-winning actress Lupita Nyong’o shared on Instagram the first pages of her children book Sulwe, illustrated by Vashti Harrison. Lupita has been talking about her new project for months now and will finally be discussing it on May 31 in New York at the BookExpo Children’s Book and Author Breakfast, alongside other authors. The Us star has always been outspoken about colorism within communities of color and discrimination against people with darker skin, and she’s addressing all of that in this must-needed children’s book.

Lupita shared the cover of her book earlier this month on Instagram and spoke about the message she hopes to get across. “I wrote #Sulwe to encourage children (and everyone really!) to love the skin they are in and see the beauty that radiates from within,” she posted.

The book which is being published under Simon & Schuster Books for Younger Readers is set to come out October 1, 2019. It’s aimed at children ages 5 to 7 and tells the story of a 5-year-old girl growing up in Kenya who struggles with being the darkest skinned person in her family.

“Sulwe is a dark-skinned girl who goes on a starry-eyed adventure, and awakens with a reimagined sense of beauty,” Lupita wrote in her initial announcement on Instagram back in January. “She encounters lessons that we learn as children and spend our lives unlearning. This is a story for little ones, but no matter the age I hope it serves as an inspiration for everyone to walk with joy in their own skin.”

It makes sense that Lupita would prioritize writing a book like this. She touched on Black beauty back in 2014 while making a speech at the Essence 7th Annual Black Women in Hollywood Luncheon.

I want to take this opportunity to talk about beauty. Black beauty. Dark beauty. I received a letter from a girl and I’d like to share just a small part of it with you: ‘Dear Lupita, it reads, ‘I think you’re really lucky to be this Black but yet this successful in Hollywood overnight. I was just about to buy Dencia’s Whitenicious cream to lighten my skin when you appeared on the world map and saved me.’ My heart bled a little when I read those words. I could never have guessed that my first job out of school would be so powerful in and of itself and that it would propel me to be such an image of hope in the same way that the women of The Color Purple were to me. I remember a time when I too felt unbeautiful. I put on the TV and only saw pale skin. I got teased and taunted about my night-shaded skin. And my one prayer to God, the miracle worker, was that I would wake up lighter-skinned. The morning would come and I would be so excited about seeing my new skin that I would refuse to look down at myself until I was in front of a mirror because I wanted to see my fair face first. And every day I experienced the same disappointment of being just as dark as I had been the day before. I tried to negotiate with God: I told him I would stop stealing sugar cubes at night if he gave me what I wanted; I would listen to my mother’s every word and never lose my school sweater again if he just made me a little lighter. But I guess God was unimpressed with my bargaining chips because he never listened…”

Sulwe is a much-needed book. We’ve made a lot of progress, but unfortunately, we still live in a world run by Eurocentric beauty standards. A world where young Brown and Black girls are told they aren’t enough because of the color of their skin or the texture of their hair. It’s important to build girl’s confidence up at a young age and let them know that the Eurocentric beauty standards we’re still conditioned to believe are in fact, just lies. There is no such thing as an ideal skin tone, nose, body, or hair texture. None of that is real. Colorism is also an issue that still very much exists in Brown and Black communities. We see it so much within the Latinx community and it’s toxic and damaging for everyone. I salute Lupita for writing a book like this that’s going to change the lives of our youth. It’s time we break the colorism cycle once and for all!

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