Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Why I do What I Do

Last night, my fourth-grade daughter stayed up later than usual, finishing up her "A Woman I Admire" essay. She went on the computer and searched for images of Raven Symone, her inspiration, and printed them out. My daughter loves Raven because Raven acts, sings and designs clothing. She is not skinny and she is not afraid to be brown. And she is one of the only young women on mainstream television that look like my daughter.

This morning, as I was driving my girls to school, the fourth-grader looked at the picture of Raven Symone in her hands, crumpled it up and put it in her pocket. In a soft voice, she said, "Sometimes people say Raven is ugly." Then she looked up at me and I could see the sheen of tears in her eyes. "I don't think I'm going to talk about Raven, Mommy."

Even as my heart was breaking and I was doing all I could to remind my daughter of her beauty in the minutes before she headed off to school, I knew I had lost this battle. So much of this is bigger than I am. But I was reminded, with a surge of remembered pain, why I write what I write -- to counter some of what my girls see in the world, every minute of every day.

It will wear at them and they will not come out unscathed. But I can do my best to teach them how to fight. And part of that, I can do through my stories.


Helen's Book Blog said...

This breaks my heart! My daughter is a fifth grader and I know how badly they want to be accepted by their peers, not different from the other kids, but to start so young. And, to think that Raven is not beautiful.... My daughter is biracial and so far she feels good in her skin, but as she reaches the preteen years I hope that continues

Anonymous said...

This made me cry.
What you are writing is very very important.
Thanks for sharing.
-Ellie Ann

Neesha Meminger said...

@ Ellie and Helen -

thank you for your comments. Stories are so important, aren't they? We're surrounded by stories and it's so important to be aware of what we/our children are ingesting as truth.

This one had a happier ending in that my daughter smoothed out her picture and went up and talked about Raven, even as nervous as she might've been. I was jumping-up-and-down-thrilled and oh-so-proud of her (::beams::), but I also wondered how many girls go through similar moments every day, and who is around to encourage them in those moments.

Sadder still to think that little girls have to be "brave" enough to admit to loving themselves as they are.

Let's keep getting those stories out there, ladies. There is a lot of work to be done.

Helen's Book Blog said...

I am so proud of your daughter! That takes guts to be brave and even more to admit it to oneself!

Shveta Thakrar said...

This broke my heart, Neesha, but I'm glad your daughter was able to give her original presentation. *hug to you both* Yep, that's why we do what we do, even when it seems like there's no point in bothering.

Patricia JL said...

Good to hear your daughter got the courage in the end. Let's work hard to bring down the barriers so this isn't something anyone has to face.

Neesha Meminger said...

@Helen - forgot to mention that my girls are also biracial...I know I'll have a whole set of issues I have no experience with coming up. Will just have to rely on my gut instincts and my love for those girls to lead me through :).

@Shveta - thank you for the hug! I will take it and pass it on to my daughter. Keep working on your story!

@Patricia - OMG, I love your jewelry. I am so going to buy that capri flower ring. As soon as I find a ring sizer online to measure these scrawny fingers...

Patricia JL said...

Neesha, thanks for the compliment! ^_^

Robert Trujillo/Tres said...

I hella feel you on this one! i have a 6yr old and I have a hard time trying to find positive cartoons, comics, and books w/ characters or boys that look like him. Your work is super relevant and revolutionary. Im an illustrator first and foremost, but im realizing that i must also write the stories i want to tell because theyre not being written yet! Positivity! fORWARD!

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