Aisha, Grade 10, Publishes a Children’s Book!
During lockdown, Grade 10 student Aisha Boubacar, brought life to a project that had been percolating for some time: a children’s book, titled Crowned In Curls, in which she takes kids on a journey of self-discovery and self-love.
What inspired you to write Crowned In Curls?
I was inspired by my own experience growing up as a Black girl with very textured and coily hair in a western society. I have experienced a multitude of difficulties with my natural hair- primarily socially. My hair journey stems from the idea of accepting it.
In a society where Blackness and Black features are not recognized as beautiful or accepted, I felt inclined to write a book to inspire young Black girls to go on a journey of acceptance for their natural hair as well. Doing so, I want to participate in commercializing Black features as beautiful and things that not only Black girls should accept, but society as well. Hence Crowned In Curls.
Illustrations by Aisha Boubacar.
Who were you thinking of when you wrote it?
I reflected on my own experience as a Black girl with textured hair and I thought of how common this issue must be in our society for Black girls and women.
Oftentimes, we look up to caucasian beauty standards because that is what we are taught to do by society. I thought about how a young Black girl with no knowledge, awareness or connection to her identity might struggle to accept what she can’t permanently change about herself. I thought about how internalizing the very socially advertised caucasian standards of beauty might lead a Black girl to reach for perms and relaxers to “correct” her hair texture. Factually, this is something that I once dealt with which has been a part of my journey to self-acceptance. While writing Crowned In Curls, I kept these thoughts very close to me.
What do you hope your readers will take away from the story?
The basis of what I want anyone who reads Crowned In Curls to take away from this story is that it is essential to accept differences. This is applicable to someone who identifies as Black as well as someone who doesn’t. I wish to express the significance of diversity in our society and accepting those who don’t fall under conventional beauty standards.
Illustrations by Aisha Boubacar.
You also illustrated the book — and the pictures are beautiful and evocative. How did they come about?
Drawing is not a natural talent of mine, in fact I have taken no interest in it aside from Crowned In Curls. The invention process of Crowned In Curls started in June of 2020, during lockdown. Ideas for these illustrations came about almost instantly. I spent a significant amount of time studying how other authors managed to illustrate their children’s books. I analyzed what popular applications they used to do so. The most common one that stood out to me was Procreate. Procreate is a digital illustrating app, only available on iPads. It took a lot of trial and error. I started off by drawing the main character, Imani. I watched various tutorials on how to digitally design animated/cartoon characters using Procreate and I applied some of those tips to my artwork to come up with all the characters and illustrations.
The illustration process was in fact the longest part of the fabrication process for Crowned In Curls. It took me about nine months to complete these illustrations. Drawing isn’t my strength so it took very long to fully execute the ideas I had for each illustration. I also took several breaks to focus on school or any other events that were taking place in my life at the time. I noticed myself feeling discouraged at several points but I insisted on perseverance. When I fully applied perseverance and courage to the illustration process, I started to complete the drawings faster and more efficiently.
Having a book published is an incredible achievement! How did you make this happen?
Connections truly are valuable. On a family trip to Montreal in December of 2016, I was introduced to a wonderful publisher, Kate Lavut. I always loved writing and projects that involved doing so. I was in Grade 5 when I met Kate, and I casually showed her some writing projects I had done for school. She took great interest in my writing and offered herself as a contact I could have for whenever I decided to write a book. At that time, the idea of writing a book was one of my many unrealistic aspirations. And so when Kate told me this, I was extremely excited.
Fast forward to June of 2020, I reached out to Kate and expressed my interest to work with her to create my first children’s book. She was very willing to help me and she revised my scripts and rough drafts. She also gave me suggestions of elements to incorporate and elements to subtract. For about a year, Kate and I collaborated efforts to fabricate Crowned In Curls. Kate is the founder of a book publishing company, Paper Dog Press, where she publishes and prints her own books as well as others. She had all the connections to print Crowned In Curls so once I finished with the drawings, she was able to get the book printed by a local Montrèal printer in May-July of 2021.
Illustrations by Aisha Boubacar.
Have you done any book readings?
Due to COVID restrictions, my first official reading was just recently, on November 3rd over Zoom, for Linden's youngest students and some excited teachers! I am looking forward to a reading for the broader Linden community in the near future!
What has been the reaction so far from children and adults?
I have not had the opportunity to read Crowned In Curls to a wide range of children, however the few times I have, I’ve received compliments about the illustrations of the book. The majority of reactions I have received about Crowned In Curls have been from adults. Many adults that have discovered this book love the idea of a 15-year-old author. Others also love the idea of representing Black girls and our natural features.
You’ve had some early commercial success!
Another really cool experience I’ve had was a book deal that I landed with York University to sell copies at their bookstore as well as copies for their Children’s Study Course. I am so appreciative of all the kind and loving feedback I have received from many people and I look forward to commercializing Crowned In Curls to larger amounts of people so I could have more established feedback that I could also apply to my future books.
Have you always loved to write?
In fact, I have. Writing has always been something I enjoy doing, even in my free time. Writing has always been my form of expression and art to intricately express the way that I feel about things. It has also been a way for me to legitimize random, crazy stories I would make up. Conventionally, I used to write things like stories on cut-up pieces of paper and I would staple them together and read them to my parents. To this day, I use writing to escape my feelings and my headspace. I appreciate it as a healthy way for me to deal with things.
Do you have another book percolating?
At the moment that this is written, I don’t. I am devoting my time to focusing on reaching the basis of potential for Crowned In Curls. Once I feel as though everything is together in that sense, I will most definitely commence with writing another book.
How can we purchase copies of Crowned in Curls?
Paper copies of Crowned In Curls are currently available for purchase on https://www.paperdogpress.com/product/crowned-in-curls/
The Crowned In Curls Instagram account is @crownedincurlsbook.