Never in my wildest dreams did I think I would be an author. Whilst I enjoy writing, and have often toyed with idea of writing a book, it wasn’t something I took very seriously. Even my becoming a blogger was a happy accident. What ultimately propelled me into the world of children’s literature was becoming a parent. As a mother, it is incredibly important to me that my daughter is able to see herself represented in the toys she plays with, shows she watches and most importantly, the books she reads. But it wasn’t until I began trying to find these toys and books that I realised how scarce they really are. The lack of diversity and inclusion in children’s literature is huge and it didn’t take me long to exhaust the few diverse books for her age group I was able to find. It briefly occurred to me that I might have to write one myself, but I still wasn’t ready to take it seriously…yet.
My eureka moment came one day, whilst browsing through Instagram. I saw an illustration of a black father, doing his daughter’s hair and it struck me as a very powerful image. The reason it resonated so strongly with me is because it reminded me of the relationship between my husband and daughter and how passionate he is about playing an active role in her life. I work three days a week so my husband takes our daughter to nursery on those days. He’s had to learn to do her hair and I remember a time when I had to teach him how to tie a hairband via Facetime. The moment I saw that illustration, the title ‘Daddy Do My Hair’ came to me and the book was written very shortly after.
At its heart, the book is about celebrating fatherhood, black identity and afro hair. There are lots of children’s books about fatherhood, several which feature Black characters and even a few on hair, but there aren’t many that cover all three at once. I wanted to show a different view, one that better represents the diverse and culturally rich world we live in. My aim with the Daddy Do My Hair Series is to show how beautiful the father-child relationship is and that it can take many forms.
Once the book was written, I was faced with the problem of how to get it published. I initially tried the traditional route and after a few months of rejection emails, my husband suggested I self-publish. This required me to objectively step back and assess how confident I was about the quality of my work and my ability to sell it. I had to decide if I believed in it enough to put time and money behind it. Once I did, with the backing of my incredibly supportive family, I set up a publishing company with my mother and that’s when the real work began.
The process of publishing this book has been interesting and fun. It’s taken a lot of hard work to get to this point but it’s been more than worth it. I was lucky to find an amazing gifted illustrator, Rahima Begum, who completely brought Beth and her father to life. I also had to get the book professionally edited, source a printer, set up websites and social media and a myriad of other things. The hardest part by far however, has been the marketing and distribution side of things. It’s still incredibly difficult as a self-published author or small independent press to get attention for your books and to get them stocked by booksellers. And if people don’t know your books exist or can’t easily find them, how can they buy them? Luckily, being a blogger has not only given me a great network and audience, it’s also taught me the power of bloggers and influencers. As a result I’m using a more creative marketing approach, which so far is proving fairly successful. We’ve attracted the attention of celebrities such as Idris Elba and Lance Gross and endorsements from Thandie Newton and June Sarpong. We are also working to make the book as widely available as possible by placing it in new and non-traditional places such as British Curlies.
I see the series as more than just books and I’d love to see Daddy Do My Hair become a global brand, which promotes and celebrates fatherhood and cultural diversity. I passionately believe that everyone should have the opportunity to read books that are reflective of their own experiences, backgrounds and cultures and this is my opportunity to help make that happen.
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