Wednesday, March 18, 2020

Review - I Am Brown

I Am Brown
by Ashok Banker
illustrated by Sandhya Prabhat
Date: 2020
Publisher: Lantana Publishing
Reading level: C
Book type: picture book
Pages: 40
Format: e-book
Source: library

I am brown. I am beautiful. I am perfect. I designed this computer. I ran this race. I won this prize. I wrote this book. A joyful celebration of the skin you're in--of being brown, of being amazing, of being you.

(synopsis from Goodreads)

This is a vibrant book that shows a diverse array of non-white kids doing and being a variety of different things. It almost works for me... except for two things.

I find the emphasis on skin colour off-putting. The rest of the book (the vast majority of it, anyway... more on that in a second) is great. Kids are shown doing activities, eating food, speaking languages, worshipping, accomplishing goals... and that's all great. But it's all prefaced by, "I am brown. I am beautiful. I am perfect." There's nothing wrong with that statement by itself. But books like this are inevitably going to be read by white kids, and that's going to bring up some complicated conversations (such as why it's not okay for them to say, "I am white. I am beautiful. I am perfect"). Because of the strength of the pictures, I don't even know if the skin colour needed to be mentioned in the text. It's pretty obvious that we're talking about brown kids here.

My second issue, though, really took me aback. The illustrations depict children. Sometimes, they appear to be talking about things they're going to do one day (be a doctor, a president, etc.); they're drawn as children acting out these jobs. But on the spread about clothes, there's a little girl wearing an actual wedding dress. The first thought that sprang to my mind was "child bride". Unfortunately, that's still a thing in some countries, and I was kind of shocked to see this in a picture book. While the implication might have been that she would wear a wedding dress one day, the fact is that there was a child drawn wearing a child-sized wedding gown. I just found that deeply off-putting.

It's a shame, because the overall premise of the book is good and it depicts so many possibilities, opportunities, and variations of human children within its pages. So... this one kind of got a mixed reaction from me. I'm not even sure whether I'd recommend it. I guess parents need to use their own discretion when deciding if this is something they want their kids to read.

Premise: 2/5
Meter: n/a
Writing: 2/5
Illustrations: 3/5
Originality: 3/5

Enjoyment: 2/5

Overall: 2.33 out of 5

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