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Sulwe

 



Sulwe was published October last year, and we discovered it in our Children's House library after lockdown.

Inspired by award-winning actress Lupita Nyong'o's own childhood, tt talks about a little girl struggling to see herself as beautiful as her lighter-skinned friends and family members. 
She tries everything to lighten her complexion, until she will embark on an allegoric journey that will lead her to see herself as a part of the world: a beautiful, very necessary part of the nature that inhabits it.

My daughters liked it so much that she asked to purchase a copy to keep at home, and we've been reading it A LOT of times since then.
We have several books featuring people of colour, some of which tackle the same topic of self-love in relation to skin tone, but  this one is the first one that captured their attention so deeply.
In my experience, young children may not necessarily be interested in such topics as they acknowledge diversity without prejudice, unless adults instils it in them. The key to make such books work and engage a variety of readers (not necessarily darker-skinned ones) is having a good, strong story behind which can facilitate identification in the characters.

I have read reviews about this book saying that it suggests negative feelings and concepts to children who might not have the same issue at all. To this, I'd reply that it is our responsibility as parents to help our children explore the reality and to understand it. 
Sulwe does not encourage self-doubt. While acknowledging the girl's struggle in seeing beauty beyond stereotypes,  it navigates the reader through a totally original way of looking at colorism, resorting to the concept of complementarity of light and darkness, day and night.

These take the form of two inseparable sisters deities, a light-skinned one and a dark-skinned one, both illuminating planet Earth. I really liked that the sisters were depicted with the same features, as if they were twins, as this isn't a book about race.

A super strong, empowering story with irresistible, gleaming illustrations, Sulwe is a compelling allegory about beauty and self-love. A must have for all parents!
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Sulwe [Octber 2019]
Written by Lupita Nyong'o
Illustrated by Vashti Harrison
Reading age: 4+
Themes: Identity, Diversity


 


 

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