By Porter Anderson, Editor-in-Chief | @Porter_Anderson
Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers: October 1The Kenyan-Mexican actress Lupita Nyong’o—winner of a supporting actress Academy Award for her work in the 2013 Steve McQueen film 12 Years a Slave—is the author of Sulwe, a picture book set for an October 1 release by Simon & Schuster Books for Young readers, in the States and Canada.
It’s being offered for the first time for international rights sales this week at the Bologna Children’s Book Fair through CAA’s co-agents ILA.
Nyong’o and Harrison’s Sulwe is described as a book about self-esteem and colorism, which is preferential treatment of people of color whose skin is of lighter shades.
According to media messaging, Nyong’o has experienced the harmful effects of colorism and has spoken about how it hurt her self-image as a child.
“In Sulwe, she candidly shares the consequences of growing up in a world that favors lighter skin,” say the actress’ representatives, “offering a healing story that will entertain children from all backgrounds while providing a story that helps them see beauty in themselves and others.”
In promotional copy, we read that the title character Sulwe is a 5-year-old girl in Kenya. “Her name may mean ‘star,’ but her skin is as dark as midnight. Being darker than anyone in her family and class makes her uncomfortable. She’s determined to find a way to lighten her skin, until a reminder from her mother—and an unforgettable adventure in the night sky—shows her where her beauty really lies.”
In a prepared statement, Nyong’o is quoted, saying, “As a child, much like Sulwe, I was teased and taunted about my night-shaded skin. It made me feel unbeautiful, unaccepted, and impacted my confidence.
“It’s painful to see that the preference for light skin prevails. My goal in writing Sulwe is to provide young children with a path towards embracing their own beauty, regardless of what society tells them.”
And illustrator Harrison says, “It was truly a very special experience to be a part of bringing Sulwe to life.
“The story has an incredibly moving and powerful message, while at the same time shares a fun and whimsical adventure. I wanted to infuse every page with as much elegance and thoughtfulness as magic and wonder, so readers would want to come back again and again.”
As those who have followed Nyong’o’s career in film know, the Brooklyn-based actress and author’s first feature film was 12 Years a Slave, which brought her not only an Academy but also accolades at the Screen Actors Guild®️ Award, the Critics’ Choice Award, the Independent Spirit Award, and the NAACP Award.
Nyong’o earned a Tony nomination for her Broadway debut in Danai Gurira’s play Eclipsed, and her screen work includes Mira Nair’s Queen of Katwe; Star Wars: The Force Awakens; Ryan Coogler’s record-breaking box office hit Black Panther; and most recently in Jordan’s Peele’s critically acclaimed horror film, Us.
As Sarah Kim wrote Sunday at Forbes, Nyong’o has found some resistance to her work as Red in Peele’s Us, a character who suffers a neurological voice disorder called spasmodic dysphonia. The national association for the roughly 50,000 sufferers of the disability—with which Robert F. Kennedy reportedly contended—has issued a statement of disappointment that a character who deals with spasmodic dysphonia is, in the film, is an evil doppelganger.
Nyong’o has made an apology to anyone offended by what she says she feels is a character she “crafted with love and care.”
For her part, Harrison is a filmmaker, herself, and earned an MFA in film and video from California Institute of the Arts, where she worker her way into animation and illustration classes to learn from Disney and DreamWorks legends. There she rediscovered her love of drawing and painting.
Harrison has followed Little Leaders with Little Dreamers: Visionary Women Around the World , also from Little, Brown, published late last year.
More coverage from Publishing Perspectives related to Bologna International Children’s Book Fair is here.