Jyla Yu’s struggles with loving her naturally curly hair growing up became the driving force behind “My Hair: A Pride Story For Kids With Curly Hair.”
In a Q&A with the 19-year-old author, we unpack the root of her then hate for her naturally curly hair, and why changing society’s ideals around “good” or “pretty” hair is crucial.
Wow, 19 and an author… explain to us the process. Did you always see yourself as being an author one day? Why now?
Growing up I’ve always wanted to publish a books. I love writing; that’s actually my major. I got my love of writing from my mother. She always wanted to write a book; but, never published it.
Why do you think we need more images like us for children to aspire to and break society’s ideals?
We need more picture books with black faces and brown faces in it, because kids can’t keep growing up and not find books of themselves at library, and schools. Kids are visual learners. What they is see is what they want. And they are always seeing white faces or black faces with straight hair. That makes them question the beauty of their skin and hair.
Also, a lot of young Black girls go through these phases where they hate their curly hair and skin. I know I did. If I was a parent this would break my heart. Children also bully kids, because of our complexion and hair. If black children are able to see themselves in literature, tv, and other forms of media they’ll never question their beauty. Not even when others do.
What was the thought process behind the book and what purpose does it solve?
I wrote this book when I first started embracing my curly, natural hair. I want kids to read this story and other stories like it, and never question the beauty of their hair. This story was created to solve self-hate problems in our community. I know if my mother read more black bedtime stories, I would’ve loved my self just the way I am.
W4TC:Why, in your opinion, haven’t there been any books like this?
There aren’t many books like this for many reasons:
1) publishing a book is expensive. The process costs between two-to-three thousand dollars. (That’s the bare minimum.) People may be scared of not getting a return on their investment.
2) To cut cost many people self-publish and/or use free ISBNs, which limit the reach of your book. You can’t put a book in a Library or on a Barnes and Noble shelf if the book is self-published.
3) The biggest reason why you don’t see a lot of books like this is systematic oppression/racism.
•) white publisher can’t find a market for this type of book; so they choose other books instead, because they’re easier to sell.
•) people are just now able to self-publish and use independent publishers. Before, you had to go to a big publishing house that took 50-to-70 percent of your profit. You also had to be accepted or denied. It still is easier to publish if you are White.
•) basically publishers aren’t quick to tell our stories.
What roles can authors play in advancing the lives, images and confidence of people of color?
Black authors and allies authors have to be okay with telling our stories. It does not have to be your sole focus, but any contribution will help. White people will read it to learn more and gain understanding of our struggle. Black people will read it to know they’re not crazy or alone. It will help the Black community build self-confidence and break away from self-hate. It will show Black people that they do matter and they are worth writing about.
Writers can especially help the children. They’re more receptive to information. Children’s books and media designed to build confidence in this group of individuals will help the community drastically.
With the current Black Lives Matter movement, why is it important that we talk about hair to our culture and white counterparts as part of the conversation?
Growing up in my household, my hair had to be tamed and professional. People who believe this are still raising children with the same principles. That means their children will likely teach the same lesson to their kids. And, thus the cycle continues. People are trying to break this cycle.
What side of history do you want to be on? If you are living today, you have a responsibility to help the cause. One way we can do this is by educated our people and our counterparts on our culture. And, in our culture; hair is important! We like to change it. We like jewelry in our hair, and more.
Black Lives Matter is focusing on a lot of aspects of living while black. We can help by focusing on a few aspects of the cause; like children learning to love themselves the way they are.
What are the lessons learned from your book?JYLA:
When reading this book, children learn to love their hair and any other insecurities. They learn that there are very influential people who have hair like them. Thus, they should embrace their curly hair.
Who is your target audience?
I target mother’s of black children; primarily girls, up to the age of seven. Black girls. My story has to appeal to mommies before it gets in the hands of the children. Their mommies aren’t always black. I target interracial adoptive parents. Anyone raising a black child.
Why did it take for you to leave home to embrace and love your natural hair?
Because, I was tired of having to be perfect. Hair straight, lipstick on, head high everyday. “You might find your husband where we going.” It’s exhausting. I like going to grocery store with my hair messy and pjs on. I couldn’t do this. I couldn’t be myself if conform to gender or racial norms. After my dad died, I couldn’t do it anymore. I would be myself. If that wasn’t accepted; I would create my home where I can be myself.
Why do you believe we are taught to hate our hair?
We are taught to hate our hair, because white culture hates it. Beautiful is straight, long hair. Professional is straight, long hair. Notice how I didn’t say “curly.”
We have to fix our selves to fit into this world. I have never went to an interview with my natural hair and been hired. Once, I wore my natural hair and black supervisor told me to wear it in a ponytail. There are schools that prohibit people to wear their natural hair too.
There was a young girl, Zulaikha Patel, who was kicked out from her private school for not straightening her hair. I say this because the system will make you hate your hair. And parents reinforcing the system will also make you hate your hair.
To purchase your copy of the kindle edition of My Hair: A Pride Story For Kids With Curly Hair on Amazon, visit: https://www.amazon.com/My-Hair-Pride-Story-Curly-ebook/dp/B088K51867/ref=sr_1_1?dchild=1&keywords=my+hair+pride+story&qid=1589394493&s=books&sr=1-1.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR (via Amazon)
Jyla Yu is a 19-year-old American children’s author, poet, journalist and short story writer. My Hair is Yu’s debut children’s book. She been published in Myriad 2020 Edition, Exposition 2020 Edition ‘Share Your Voice,’ and @Bllcklabel on Instagram, and more. She is currently attending college to be an English teacher and passionate about children’s literacy and self-love. Visit her website at http://yuhousepublishing.org/.