Cover Reveal: Mira’s Curly Hair by Maryam al Serkal, ill. Luciani, Rebeca
Never before has the presence of hair in children’s picture books been under as intense a scrutiny as it is now. In 2018 alone we saw titles like My Hair Is a Garden, Don’t Touch My Hair, Can I Touch Your Hair?, and other books. In 2019 the trend continues, but the titles we’re seeing are branching out beyond African-American hair. On April 4th, Lantana Publishing will release Maryam al Serkal’s tale about a little girl that wishes her curly hair were straight like her mama’s. Filled with vibrant art and images, it’s about embracing your natural hair, no matter where you’re from. I had a chance to ask the author, an Emirati writer in Dubai, about the book’s origins and art:
Betsy Bird: Thanks so much for letting me ask you some questions about your book. We’ve seen this really interesting uptick in picture books that look closely at hair the past few years, specifically the hair of African-Americans. This book comes at a similar subject but at an entirely different angle. What inspired the book? And, in a related question, what does your own hair mean to you?
Maryam al Serkal: The inspiration for telling this story came from my daughter, Mira. When she was three she didn’t like that her hair was not “behaving” as she said. I had a habit of always wearing my hair straight and she was upset that her hair didn’t do the same. Of course I was straightening my hair and hadn’t really realized that she had never seen my hair in it’s natural state.
I saw her try different things to get her hair straight.
In the end, I decided to wear my hair naturally and she was so happy that my hair was curly like hers.
My hair has always been a struggle for me. But after many years of trying to fit into the mainstream mold of straight hair, I was relieved when I started to embrace and celebrate my curls and waves.
BB: What did you think of the art by Argentianian/Spanish illustrator Rebeca Luciani. You live in Dubai. Is the story set there as well? Do you feel the art captures that?
MAS: I absolutely love her illustrations. Although the story is set in Mira’s home town of Dubai which is a beautiful multifaceted city that has many traditional and modern aspects to it, the story is about Mira.
Many picture books that are set in Dubai seem to have the city overshadow the characters but Rebeca did amazing work in capturing the essence of the story and main character, and she used the city of Dubai as a beautiful subtle backdrop.
BB: What do you personally feel the role of a woman’s hair is right now? How would you like to change (or not change) attitudes in the future?
MAS: I think that hair represents different things to women in general. It is, in fact, used as a form of expression. I can tell you that in the past when I used to straighten my hair, I was trying to fit in. The perception was that straight hair was beautiful, graceful and sought after. As time progressed and perceptions changed, I began to realize that my hair was a reflection of who I was and that once I started accepting myself, that was where true beauty lay. I want my daughter and all little girls to embrace their hair whether it’s straight or curly. Every single one of us is beautiful no matter what our natural hair looks like.
BB: Finally, what are you working on next?
MAS: I have a few more children’s stories based in Dubai that I would love to share with the world in the coming year.
Many thanks to Maryam for answering my questions, and Verónica Thames for setting it up.
And now, of course, the cover:
Filed under: Cover Reveal
About Betsy Bird
Betsy Bird is currently the Collection Development Manager of the Evanston Public Library system and a former Materials Specialist for New York Public Library. She has served on Newbery, written for Horn Book, and has done other lovely little things that she'd love to tell you about but that she's sure you'd find more interesting to hear of in person. Her opinions are her own and do not reflect those of EPL, SLJ, or any of the other acronyms you might be able to name. Follow her on Twitter: @fuseeight.
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