January 24, 2018
Kick-ass actress (and person) Lupita Nyong’o is writing a children’s book
by Alex Primiani
Famed actress and activist Lupita Nyong’o will publish a children’s book with Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers next January, Lovia Gyarkye reported for the New York Times yesterday. While an illustrator has yet to be announced, the book already has a title: Sulwe, which in Nyong’o’s native Luo language means “star.” If her own life is any indicator, it’s going to be beautiful, feminist and proudly black.
Sulwe will tell the story of a five-year-old Kenyan girl who has the darkest skin in her family. Uncomfortable with her complexion, she begins to lose confidence, until a magical journey through the night sky—along with words of wisdom from her own mother—renews it, instilling self-love and a growing understanding that beauty can be found in all shades. Can I just say: YES.
The Kenyan-Mexican actress, who rose to prominence after winning an Academy Award for her supporting role in Steve McQueen’s “12 Years A Slave,” has used her time in the spotlight to advocate for female empowerment and equality in Hollywood, particularly for women of color. Her work for young black women and her criticism of colorism became big news in 2014, with a stirring speech she delivered upon her acceptance of the Essence Breakthrough Performance Award.
For Ms. Nyong’o, the decision to touch on these heavy and often difficult themes in a children’s book was obvious. The story plants seeds in a child’s mind, allowing for later access to lessons that children “don’t necessarily recognize when they are reading the books,” said Ms. Nyong’o in an interview. When thinking about her own journey into acceptance and self-love, Ms. Nyong’o cited reading with her mother as critical to her development.
With the publication of this children’s book, targeted at girls between five and seven years old, Nyong’o hopes to reach kids just before they start letting outside stereotypes and opinions get the better of their confidence. It’s around this age, she says, that “you learn all the things that you spend the rest of your life trying to unlearn.”
Alex Primiani is the associate director of publicity at Melville House.