Lupita Nyong’o has a children’s book due to be released on October 15, called Sulwe. The 48-page story focuses on a young girl named Sulwe who goes on a journey to discover her own unique beauty.
“Sulwe has skin the colour of midnight,” the summary reads. “She is darker than everyone in her family. She is darker than anyone in her school. Sulwe just wants to be beautiful and bright, like her mother and sister. Then a magical journey in the night sky opens her eyes and changes everything.”
In an Instagram post on Oct. 1, Lupita shared a photo of her 5-year-old self and reflected on who she was at such a young age and how she felt about herself, given the lack of representation for girls of colour in children’s literature. “This is 5-year-old me,” Lupita captioned the photo. “I reflected on this little girl’s feelings and fantasies when I decided to write my children’s book, Sulwe. With this book, I wanted to hold up a mirror for her. Here’s why: As a little girl reading, I had all of these windows into the lives of people who looked nothing like me, chances to look into their worlds, but I didn’t have any mirrors. While windows help us develop empathy and an understanding of the wider world, mirrors help us develop our sense of self, and our understanding of our own world. They ground us in our body and our experiences.”
Lupita went on to point out that, even at a young age, girls are taught that light skin is preferred over dark skin, and that books like Sulwe can help to encourage self-love for darker-skinned girls everywhere. “Colourism, society’s preference for lighter skin, is alive and well. It’s not just a prejudice reserved for places with a largely white population. Throughout the world, even in Kenya, even today, there is a popular sentiment that lighter is brighter.”