Why I wrote “Bokky for Breakfast”

In my last post I explained “how” I wrote “Bokky for Breakfast”. Here I will cover “why” I wrote it. Growing up, I rarely saw images that looked like me on TV, in books or toys. I grew up in the 1970s in the midst of the “Black is Beautiful Movement” and at that time, the blacker the skin, the better.

Previous to the 70s there was severe backlash against being dark skinned in society. My mother told me of a hurtful rhyme she heard growing up “If you’re white, you’re alright, if you’re brown, stick around, if you’re black, stay back.” In the 1970s darker skinned people felt empowered to embrace and be proud of their skin tone. This was a good thing because no one wants to feel alienated.

However, I was a kid at that time, and knew nothing of the intracultural politics that were occurring. What I noticed is that dolls did not come in my shade. They were either white or dark brown. Books with black characters usually had dark brown skin too. I remember visiting my mom’s family in Brooklyn, New York when I was young. People in the neighborhood would stop on the sidewalk to remark how pretty my sister was and admire her dark brown skin. Unfortunately, these grown ups rarely commented about me and I felt left out or non-existent. I was led to believe from those experiences that my shade of black was not beautiful.

When I was about 6, I found a toy catalog that had a doll that looked like me. I excitedly called my grandma and asked for that doll for Christmas. “Grandma, I want a HIS-pa-nick”doll!” I told her. “HIS-pa-nick?” She asked. I handed the phone to my mom and pointed to the doll in the catalog. My mom chuckled after reading Hispanic on the page. My mom explained to my grandma what I was trying to say. That Christmas I received an Hispanic doll with a skin tone like mine for Christmas. I was ecstatic!

Because I grew up feeling excluded and invisible I decided to write books I would have appreciated having as a child. It sounds cliche but representation matters. As parents, we owe it to our children to ensure that they feel seen, valued, appreciated and beautiful just as they are. Our words may be the only validating words they hear.

After I had my daughter,I thought it would be nice for them to read books featuring characters with their complexion,freckles, and light brown eyes. Unfortunately, I delayed writing Bokky for Breakfast until after they were grown. Hopefully now young kids with similar features will have just such a book to read and enjoy.