This 40 page celebration of diversity within the label “brown” is a sweet and powerful book that shows how the color of our skin is beautiful and perfect while at the same time making it clear that who we are and what we can be is not defined by our appearance. The book shows adorably illustrated brown children finding strength in different cultures, clothing, religions, languages and dreams, which will hopefully empower children everywhere (and of all colors) to take labels that may have negative connotations and turn them in to positive affirmations of identity and strength. There isn’t a story with a plot, but with the regular inclusion of a girl with a scarf on, and the mention of a mosque, I thought to highlight it. The book is perfect for preschool and up.
The book starts with a little girl identifying herself as brown, beautiful and being perfect. It then stretches to her being love, friendship and happiness.
From there it branches out to a whole cast of kids identifying the variety of things they can be, from a writer to an electrician to a prime minister. the same kids then do and make and work on things before identifying where they come from and what languages they speak.
The kids all have different hair on their heads and faces and even no hair at all. They live in different dwellings, they like to do different things.
Brown people are not a monolith, the kids show that they eat different foods in different ways, that they wear different clothes.
People with brown skin are roommates and teachers and friends and classmates. Some go to temple or church, others a mosque or shrine, some not at all.
The book ends with a close up of three smiling faces proclaiming, “I am brown. I am amazing. I am You.”
I’m sure people will argue that if you switch out white for brown the book would be deemed racist, and you are correct it would be. But as a group that is marginalized as “other” and often the darker brown you are with in the brown subset moves you “value” and “worth” down, makes a book celebrating the strength and beauty of “brown” so necessary and heart warming. I personally am the lightest “brown” imaginable being only half Pakistani. So, believe me I have privilege in the desi community, but I don’t find this book offensive at all. I’ve read this book at least a dozen times and my impressions alternate between beaming with pride and tears that so many beautiful people feel less than because of skin color and yes, anger too, that people are MADE to feel less than. May we all be more inclusive, more loving, and more open to the diversity of the human being. Ameen.