FLINT, Michigan — A Flintstone born and raised, local author LaTashia M. Perry is spreading a message of inclusion, acceptance, and self-respect for black children.
Perry penned her first book — “Hair Like Mine” — after her daughter was teased by a child in å predominantly white ballet class. They told Perry’s daughter that her naturally curly hair looked “funny.”
“I woke up at 2 in the morning and just felt inspired and wrote out the whole book on an old notebook pad,” Perry says. She finished writing by 5 a.m.
And her ongoing journey as an author who helps children celebrate being black and understand each others’ differences began.
“The book took off way quicker than I had expected,” Perry says. “I had orders from all over the world — Texas, New York, etc.. and even Germany.” Åbout five months after its initial publication, a woman from Paris contacted Perry and asked if she could translate “Hair Like Mine.” It now is for sale at a store in Paris.
The book is being used in multiple area after-school programs and also has been featured for readings at Applewood by the Ruth Mott Foundation. Perry now finds herself giving seminars and presenting to schools.
“I wrote the books for my daughters, I wrote the books for other little black girls who have natural hair,” says Perry, who graduated from Flint Southwestern Academy. “Now I’m invited to come in talk to students about writing, but also about love and self-esteem.”
Perry says she continues to be surprised by how many people have found her stories to be helpful.
“I’ve gotten great feedback not just from black parents, but parents from every ethnicity, saying the book helped their children talk about and work through body image issues — and it wasn’t just girls but boys, too.”
Her writings now have expanded into a six-book series that also includes “Skin Like Mine,” “Imagination Like Mine,” “Dreams Like Mine,” Hair Like Mine coloring book and a new release. “Baby Like Mine” came out on on Thanksgiving day.
“Each book was written with purpose and tells a very personal story that I have experienced,” Perry says.
Perry also recalls her own struggles with body image and self-acceptance. She remembers being teased for being “too thin” and she remembers holding hands with her best friend, a white girl whose skin color Perry always thought was so pretty compared to her own. And, she remembers fighting her own natural hair.
“I would straighten my hair for so long, just straighten, straighten, straighten and I began thinking after I wrote the book, ‘How can I teach my daughter about self-love, when I’m not practicing self-love myself?’”
So, Perry cut off her hair and began growing it out without the use of chemicals or straighteners.
“When I talk to students, I get asked a lot: ‘Is that your real hair?’ and I laugh and say yes, but I just think it’s really important that they see someone who practices what they preach,” Perry says. “I want them to see that I’m a mom, that I’m a writer, and that you can accomplish your goals no matter where you start from.”
But more importantly she wants children to see that they, too, need to love themselves.
“How you were born doesn’t need to be altered to make everyone around you comfortable,” Perry says. “You were born beautiful just as you are.”
Perry’s books are available for purchase at Barnes and Noble stores as well as online at Amazon and Walmart.com. Her books also can be found at the Local Grocer, the Flint Children's Museum, and on her website www.4kidslikemine.com.
“I think this message is more important than just children's books. If I never made a dime, I would continue to do this work because it's so important for our kids to go into a store and see something positive about themselves reflected back,” Perry says.