Meet the author challenging perceptions of race and gender

Meet the author challenging perceptions of race and gender

PICTURED: Tola Okogwu

TOLA OKOGWU is a British blogger and author of the Daddy Do My Hair? book series for children.

Launching her third book in the series Kechi’s Hair Goes Every Which Way in May 2018, Okogwu wants to tackle the relationship between young black girls and their natural afro hair in a vibrant, entertaining and educational way.

“For me it starts with teaching the next generation that they are beautiful just the way they are. By showing them positive representations of people who look just like them in the media, in the books they read and toys they play with, said Okogwu.

Kechi’s Hair Goes Every Which Way tells the story of Kechi’s beautiful big hair and how her daddy has to make sure she gets ready in time for school.

“We live in a world where black people are often only shown in a negative light and that includes our natural hair and skin colour. For black people, hair is so much more than just what grows out of our heads. Along with our skin colour, it’s the biggest signifier of the differences between us and other races and for the longest time we’ve been made to feel that there is something wrong and unattractive about it.”

The Daddy Do My Hair? series was inspired by the relationship between Okogwu’s husband and daughter and is designed to challenge some of the perceptions and preconceptions around race, gender roles within parenting, bullying, friendships and relationships.

Through her books and wider writing, she constantly seeks to create ‘mirrors and windows’, allowing everyone the opportunity to read books that are reflective of their own experiences, backgrounds and cultures.

Okogwu is passionate about parenthood, the role of fathers and strongly believes that resources for parents should be freely and widely available. Her journey as a black author has not been an easy one – the traditional method of publishing made it extra difficult to get published as a BME author or write books featuring BME characters.

“Unfortunately, there is this very myopic and stereotypical views of BME authors and their work. There is this expectation that as a BME author you can only write about BME issues e.g. racism, black history, colonialism and if you try to step outside of that box, people don’t know what to do with you.”

The success of Daddy Do My Hair? series proves that there is a market for diverse books and diverse authors, it is not a trend or even a niche and it’s time that the mainstream society knew about it.

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