A Racist Hip-Hop Children's Book Inspired This Mom To Write Her Own Children's Book Celebrating Black Women
"ABC's For Girl's Like Me" highlights powerful black women like Issa Rae, Loretta Lynch and Tyra Banks.
If you want something done right, a black woman must do it. Meet Melanie Goolsby, a 31-year-old project manager, whose troublesome encounter with a racist hip-hop ABCs book helped inspire her to create a much more appropriate version for her daughter and other black girls.
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Get into ABCs For Girls Like Me, an illustrated and illustrative book Goolsby wrote to celebrate black women from A-Z.
We chatted with Goolsby about that racist book, how her own experiences with a lack of representation factored into her decision to become an author and how her own daughter feels about her mommy's book.
It all started when Goolsby bought a hip-hop ABCs book for her then one-year-old daughter. However, she soon found she had nothing but major side-eye for the content inside.
Her concern over the book led her to researching both it and its authors. In the end, she said she discovered the book was written by a racist couple in Australia.
"The hip-hop book included some great artists, but what they chose to highlight about those artists is what set off red flags for me," Goolsby told Blavity. "Very gossip related and stereotypical. I thought to myself, 'These musicians are of great talent and have done so much more than what is being called out in this book ... If I, a black woman, wrote a book, what would I want kids to know? What would I want my daughter to know? Not this!'"
One particularly interesting thing about ABCs For Girls Like Me is Goolsby chose to focus on living black women rather than black women who have passed away. Notable women such as Issa Rae, Tyra Banks and the first black woman attorney general, Loretta Lynch, are featured.
"The process to find a woman for every letter was quite challenging, mainly because so many women have names that start with the same letter," Goolsby said. "I initially wanted all first names to start with the letter but that wasn't working out, so then I said first OR last name which proved to work much better, but X was still really hard! Once you get the book you can see how we got creative for X!"
And what does Goolsby's own daughter think about the book?
"She LOVES the book!" Goolsby exclaimed. "There’s an illustration of her on the 'Dedicated To' page, and EVERY time she opens the book, she goes to that page and says, 'It’s me!' And then picks other illustrations and says 'Its Mommy” (even though it’s not), but it just speaks to how much representation matters. For her, now, seeing herself (or women that look like Mommy) in a book is not an abstract idea. It's real."
Goolsby's ultimate goal with the book is to inspire black girls by providing a platform to honor women who look like them, something she lacked in her own childhood.
"My goal with this book is for little black girls to see themselves in a wide range of talents and career fields," she said. "I want girls to finish the book feeling like, 'If all these women can do, make and create all of these things, I can, too' or 'I can find my OWN thing to do, make or create.' I selected some well known women, but also some not so well known women with the intent to show that even if what you don’t get recognized on TV or the radio, that doesn't take away the value or importance of what you do. It still matters and is impactful. I remember finding and researching Rosemary Roberts Cloud, the first black female fire chief in the U.S., and thinking WOW! How amazing is it that she’s never seen someone who looked like her in this position, but she still put in the work and attained it!"
And if you think Goolsby is done giving voice to marginalized groups via literature, think again! She's just getting started! Goolsby also plans to write an ABC book for young black boys and books for Latinx children in both English and Spanish.
ABCs For Girls Like Me is now available for pre-order on abcsforme.com, and will be officially released on August 15!
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