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'Sulwe' Book Cover

Lupita Nyong'o Releases Debut Children's Book 'Sulwe,' an Ode to Dark-Skinned Kids

The actress says she wrote the book to help children learn to "love the skin they're in," pulling from her own childhood experiences with colorism.

Lupita Nyong'o's highly-anticiapted debut children's book, Sulwe is finally here.

Sulwe is all about self-love, the protagonsit is inspired by the actress herself (and even wears a dress the same that's the same shade of "Nairobi Blue" as the one she wore to the 2014 Oscars).

The book was illustrated by Vashti Harrison, who colors its pages with whimsical drawings of young Sulwe. Here's an official description of the book:

Sulwe has skin the color of midnight. She is darker than everyone in her family. She is darker than anyone in her school. Sulwe just wants to be beautiful and bright, like her mother and sister. Then a magical journey in the night sky opens her eyes and changes everything.

The actress has been promoting the new book with several interviews and appearances. Last week, she appeared on BBC Newsnight where she spoke openly about her experience growing up in a world that places more value on lighter skin and Eurocentric features. "Colorism is the daughter of racism," said Nyong'o.

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Photo by Hamish Brown

In Conversation: Lemn Sissay On His New Book About Re-claiming the Ethiopian Heritage Stolen From Him by England’s Foster Care System

In 'My Name Is Why,' the 2019 PEN Pinter award winner passionately advocates for children in the institutional care system, and in turn tells a unique story of identity and the power in discovering one's heritage.

It took the author Lemn Sissay almost two decades to learn his real name. As an Ethiopian child growing up in England's care system, his cultural identity was systematically stripped from him at an early age. "For the first 18 years of my life I thought that my name was Norman," Sissay tells OkayAfrica. "I didn't meet a person of color until I was 10 years of age. I didn't know a person of color until I was 16. I didn't know I was Ethiopian until I was 16 years of age. They stole the memory of me from me. That is a land grab, you know? That is post-colonial, hallucinatory madness."

Sissay was not alone in this experience. As he notes in his powerful new memoir My Name Is Why, during the 1960s, tens of thousands of children in the UK were taken from their parents under dubious circumstances and put up for adoption. Sometimes, these placements were a matter of need, but other times, as was the case with Sissay, it was a result of the system preying on vulnerable parents. His case records, which he obtained in 2015 after a hardfought 30 year campaign, show that his mother was a victim of child "harvesting," in which young, single women were often forced into giving their children up for adoption before being sent back to their native countries. She tried to regain custody of young Sissay, but was unsuccessful.

Whether they end up in the foster system out of need or by mistake, Sissay says that most institutionalized children face the same fate of abuse under an inadequate and mismanaged system that fails to recognize their full humanity. For black children who are sent to white homes, it often means detachment from a culturally-sensitive environment. "There are too many brilliant people that I know who have been adopted by white parents for me to say that it just doesn't work," says Sissay. "But the problem is the amount of children that it doesn't work for."

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