Author Sulma Arzu-Brown preaches a message of cultural solidarity and self-acceptance, and the medium to her message is hair.
Arzu-Brown, a mother to two daughters, was floored when a caregiver suggested she chemically straighten her daughters’ tightly coiled hair, calling it “pelo malo,” or, “bad hair.” On that day she promised to find a book that would discourage the use of such terms, and, in turn, encourage children to cherish their own self-image.
When she couldn’t find such a book, she decided to write it herself. It’s called “Bad Hair Does Not Exist/Pelo Malo No Existe,” and it was written on the grounds of acceptance of ourselves, and of others.
“Hair is the family tree that we should learn about for a deeper appreciation of who we are,” Arzu-Brown said. “Embracing each other’s unique identity in the spirit of love and solidarity is necessary. This book is a great conversation starter about the cultures around us and should definitely be a part of every child’s first book collection.”
The book features copy in both English and Spanish. While the book displays bright colors and juvenile fonts, Arzu-Brown says it’s a message applicable to all ages.
“We live in a unique time period, where selfies are getting both the young and the seasoned more accepting of their own unique beauty,” Arzu-Brown said. “However, it’s still challenging to accept someone else’s. So this book is about teaching self-acceptance but is very heavy on creating a space that accepts others.”
The books’ pages depict people of all races, ethnicities, professions and ages, creating a rainbow of messages for all readers.
“For example, the illustrations highlight a grandmother passing on a cupcake recipe, a friend giving a birthday gift to another friend,” Arzu-Brown said. “We feature women in the stem and sports field. The only difference with ‘Bad Hair Does Not Exist!/Pelo Malo No Existe!‘ and the books my children have in their collection is the colors and shapes of the characters.”
Arzu-Brown recently launched the “All Hair is Good” initiative, aiming to put 10,000 of her books in schools to be placed in the hands of children.
“To whom much is given much is expected. Early this year, I launched the ‘All Hair Is Good Initiative,'” Arzu-Brown said. “The goal is to put 10K books in the hands of 10K girls (boys are welcome too) and proceeds of $10K will be [given] to community organizations and students in need of scholarship awards. The organizations supported are those that I’ve been fortunate to be a product of, my children are affiliated with and cultural & community organizations that at times get overlooked by corporate. It is also important to support the youth in my Hunts Point Bronx community so they know someone in their neighborhood supports their educational goals. In hopes of inspiring them to pay it forward some day.”
Books are $10 each. By purchasing one for yourself and one for a friend, you are helping to inspire children in New York City.