Pickering High School student writes a children’s book about loving the traits that make us different
“The story is about a young black girl who, at first, doesn’t like her dark skin, her plump lips, or her kinky and curly hair,” explains Kiera Salmon, a Grade 12 student at Pickering High School in Ajax.
Last semester, Salmon took the Black Studies course where she was tasked with completing an Independent Study Unit (ISU). The ISU parameters were open to creativity, so Salmon decided she would write a children’s book entitled There’s Magic in My Melanin. Her older sister Jaida is in a post-secondary program for animation, and jumped at the opportunity to illustrate her younger sister’s book.
“The idea came from my own personal experience,” says Salmon. “When I was younger I definitely felt the same way as Nayla [the main character]. I never really saw myself represented in the media.”
There’s Magic in My Melanin tells the story of 11-year-old Nayla, who hates her physical features and wishes she looked like the girls in popular media who have long silky hair and blue eyes. Nayla’s grandmother comes from Jamaica to visit, and shows Nayla that she is truly beautiful just as she is.
The following is an excerpt from the book:
“Grandma Joy lifted Nayla’s chin with confidence. ‘Oh, my little Nayla, haven’t you heard? There’s magic in your melanin!’ Nayla was very confused. ‘Melanin? What’s that?’ she asked. ‘It’s the special ingredient that gives colour to your skin! It’s what makes your complexion look like chocolate.’ Nayla was still puzzled. ‘Even if that were true, how is it magic?’ Grandma Joy jumped up with excitement. ‘Your melanin is what lights up the room when you walk in. It makes you stand out in a crowd. It absorbs the sunlight in a unique way. It turns heads when you walk by. Your skin is magical!’”
Sharing the love
As part of her ISU, Salmon read her book to Grade 3 and Grade 8 students at Vimy Ridge PS in Ajax (her former elementary school), “One of the students in the audience had the same name as Nayla and she was a young black girl too, so the story really resonated with her. It was cool to see how the story impacted them. They began opening up about their own experiences.”
Salmon’s Black Studies teacher Nyla John says the story resonates with a lot of different people because, “You don’t have to be black. The message is simple and clear, if you have something that doesn’t look like the norm the feeling isn’t, ‘I have to live with this,’ it’s ‘this is what makes me beautiful, it’s what makes me stand out, and it’s what makes me ‘me.’”
Salmon adds, “I want my readers to know that kinky and curly hair is just as beautiful as long and straight hair. I want them to love and embrace who they are as a person, and to love the features they were given.”