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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, academic, literary journalist, and Deputy Editor of Brittle Paper. His fiction has appeared in The Threepenny Review, Transition, and in an anthology of the Gerald Kraak Award for which he was shortlisted. His work has further been shortlisted for the Miles Morland Writing Scholarship in 2016 and a Pushcart Prize in 2015. He attended the 2018 Miles Morland Foundation Creative Writing Workshop. He is the curator of the ART NAIJA SERIES, a sequence of themed e-anthologies of writing and visual art exploring different aspects of Nigerianness. The first, ENTER NAIJA: THE BOOK OF PLACES (October, 2016), focuses on cities in Nigeria. The second, WORK NAIJA: THE BOOK OF VOCATIONS (June, 2017), focuses on professions in Nigeria. He studied History and Literature at the University of Nigeria, Nsukka, is currently completing a postgraduate programme in African Studies, and teaches English at Godfrey Okoye University, Enugu. He has completed a collection of short stories, YOU SING OF A LONGING, and is working on a novel. He is represented by David Godwin Associates literary agency. When bored, the boy just Googles Rihanna. Find him at otosirieze.com.

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I hold a doctorate in English from Duke University and recently joined the Marquette University English faculty as an Assistant Professor. I love teaching African fiction and contemporary British novels. Brittle Paper is the virtual space/station where I play and experiment with ideas on how to reinvent African fiction and literary culture.

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