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Lupita Nyong’o. Image from NPR.

Oscar-winning Kenyan actress Lupita Nyong’o has announced a new children’s book titled Sulwe. The book, reports The New York Times, will be published in January 2019 by Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers.

Sulwe, which means “star” in Lupita’s native language, Luo, follows a 5-year-old in Kenya who has the darkest skin colour in her family, which leaves her uncomfortable and in pursuit of a way to lighten her skin. She then “embarks on a whimsical adventure in the night sky that, coupled with advice from her mother, helps her see beauty differently.”

Like her heroine, Lupita, as a child, faced an uphill task trying to accept her skin colour. In 2014, at a “Black Women in Hollywood” event, she delivered a powerful speech that went viral, a resonant message about image, representation and skin colour in Hollywood. “And my mother, again, would say to me, you can’t eat beauty. It doesn’t feed you,” she said. “And these words played and bothered me. I really didn’t understand them until finally I realized that beauty was not a thing that I could acquire, or consume. It was something that I just had to be. What actually sustains us, what is fundamentally beautiful, is compassion for yourself, and for those around you.”

With Sulwe, Nyong’o “hopes to target children in these precarious years, that time between 5 and 7 years old when ‘you learn all the things that you spend the rest of your life trying to unlearn,'” with the intention of helping them to “reimagine what it means to be beautiful.”

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About Otosirieze Obi-Young

View all posts by Otosirieze Obi-Young
Otosirieze Obi-Young is a writer, journalist, & Deputy Editor of Brittle Paper. The recipient of the inaugural The Future Awards Prize for Literature in 2019, he is a judge for The Gerald Kraak Prize and was a judge for The Morland Writing Scholarship in 2019. He is Nonfiction Editor at 14, Nigeria’s first queer art collective, which has published volumes including We Are Flowers (2017) and The Inward Gaze (2018). He is Curator at The Art Naija Series, a sequence of e-anthologies of writing and visual art focusing on different aspects of Nigerianness, including Enter Naija: The Book of Places (2016), which explores cities, and Work Naija: The Book of Vocations (2017), which explores professions. His work in queer equality advocacy in literature has been profiled in Literary Hub. His fiction has appeared in The Threepenny Review and Transition. He has completed a collection of short stories, You Sing of a Longing, is working on a novel, and is represented by David Godwin Associates literary agency. He has an M.A. in African Studies and a combined honours B.A. in History & International Studies/English & Literary Studies, both from the University of Nigeria, Nsukka. He taught English in a private Nigerian university. Find him at otosirieze.com, where he accepts writing and editing offers, or on Instagram or Twitter: @otosirieze. When bored, he Googles Rihanna.

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