By Kee Smith
The other day I was thinking about how much of an impact this book had on me as a child and how it carried over into me as an adult author. The thought encouraged me to order a copy for my daughter, who’s 10 years old, to read. Further than that, I felt like every black girl should read it at some point in their childhood. I think that we can all attest to the fact that for most of us, growing up Black carried some pretty heavy challenges with it. Growing up at all today is pretty challenging, too because a lot of these little kids are a-holes and will have you wanting to square up with them or their mamas for talking recklessly to your child.
“The Skin I’m In” by Sharon G. Flake literally changed my life right around the same age my daughter is. At 10 years old, I was struggling with the fact that I was “dark-skinned” and my peers were “light-skinned”. My lips were full and I had a head full of hair that went all the way down my back to my waistline. There was nothing I could say or do that convinced the other kids that I wasn’t mixed and I didn’t stand a chance at simply hearing “you’re pretty.” Nope. I was “pretty for a dark girl”. My mother of course thought I was beautiful. Outside of being my mother, she and my sister are both lighter than I am, so as far as I was concerned, she HAD to think I was beautiful.
Now, it’s been roughly 23 years since I’ve read Miss Flake’s powerful novel, so I can’t sit here and tell you that I remember the entire storyline, but I can, with confidence, tell you that it was the first novel I had ever read that impacted my life. It was the first time I was proud of the skin that I was in and it was the first time I had believed anyone who told me that I had a reason to be proud of my skin and who I was. I guess it’s true what they say about remembering how people make you feel. Miss Flake’s novel planted a seed of confidence into me as a child and as an adult embarking on the journey of authorpreneurship myself, I aspire to impact my readers by evoking emotion and encouraging self-assessment the same way she has done for me.
Beyond that, as my daughter reads this book for the first time, my hope is that she too receives the same seed of confidence. She doesn’t struggle with “being dark-skinned” the way I did, but there’s been a time or two where I’ve wanted to square up with an elementary school kid or their mama for talking recklessly to my baby. Of course, I instill new seeds of confidence into her every single day, but sometimes, especially right through these pre-preteen years, hearing or seeing it from someone else might hit a little different and they say it takes a village. If a book is part of my village, then come one, come all.
At this point, because of the lasting impact “The Skin I’m In” by Sharon G. Flake had on me as a child, I think it should be some sort of rite of passage requirement for Black girls as they grow into and learn who they are. Plus, it encourages reading for pleasure and as an author, I think that’s important too! I mean, sure, I went from Sharon G. Flake to Sister Souljah, but the point is that I was reading books, stimulating my mind, expanding my imagination, and learning empathy through characters & events I had never met or experienced before.
Kee Smith is a contributing writer and is a homie, lover, and friend and always “write” on time. Be sure to connect on IG @_ _ _lowkee