Author and illustrator Sharee Miller didn’t see a range of diverse characters in the books she read as a child, so she made her own as an adult.
Greg Bledsoe and his Family Geography Project caught up with Miller in Jersey City, New Jersey, to talk about his journey and his popular children’s book “Princess Hair”.
“When I draw, I feel a sense of relief,” Miller said, noting that she gets lost in her imagination in the process.
“My mom loves telling me the story of when I was younger before I even knew how to write, I would dictate stories to her and ask her to write them for me.”
She now writes her own inspirational tales for young black girls using watercolors, colored pencils and pens. Miller self-published his first book “Princess Hair” in 2014.
“I was inspired to write Princess hair after going through my own natural hair journey, ”Miller said in an interview with brilliantly.
“I stopped chemically straightening my hair and let it grow naturally. When I was growing up there weren’t a lot of depictions of girls and women with natural hair, and so I really had nothing to encourage myself to like what came naturally.
“As an adult, I finally saw images of women loving their natural hair and it inspired me to kiss my natural hair,” she said. “I wanted to go back in time and show myself how beautiful and versatile my hair is. I decided to do Princess hair for the next generation of girls baring their hair so that they feel empowered to love their hair.
“If we look back at how princesses have been portrayed in the past, they generally have the same characteristics: long, flowing hair and a lack of agency. Often, princesses are portrayed not as characters, but as items that a prince can acquire or save, but we start to break that archetype. Princesses are more diverse and more autonomous.
“Hair is an important part of this revolution because it represents more than diversity, it represents personality. The more individuality and personal style we can give to our characters, the more opportunities we give readers to identify with our characters, ”she said.
Miller told Bledsoe that “Princess Hair” is about teaching little black girls to love their hair.
“I haven’t really grown up enjoying my hair,” she says in the clip below. “The things I was drawing did not look like me. All of my main characters would be white.
Miller says it makes her sad to know that children today still struggle with similar identity issues that are often triggered by lack of media representation.
“Princess hair is a celebration of our differences, ”she said.
According to Miller’s website, she is the author of numerous picture books, including “Don’t Touch My Hair” and “Michelle’s Garden,” published by Little Brown for young readers. She is also the illustrator for The Shai And Emmie Series, written by the actress. Quvenzhané Wallis and Nancy ohlin published by Simon and Schuster, and “The Excursion” published by Homebound Publications.
Miller is currently working on his first series of graphic novels “Curlfriends”.
Hear more from Miller in his interview below.
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