Children’s book about brown unicorn helps Black girls see themselves as magical
It wasn’t until Athena Clarke completed her children’s book that she realized the story mirrored her childhood experience of fitting in as a Black girl.
When she was in second grade, the 31-year-old school teacher moved into a neighborhood that was lacking faces that looked like her own.
Fast-forward to today, she sees many of her young students in Brooklyn, New York, trying to find their place in a world where they are underrepresented in cartoons, books and toys. She’s observed that many of these students of colors don’t even get the privilege of Black and brown teachers in their classrooms.
In her book I’m Unique, Clarke provides a mirror for Black girls to see themselves as magical without having to conform. The main character Unique is a brown unicorn with curly black hair. The story follows her as she tries to fit in after realizing she doesn’t look like the other unicorns.
“I don’t feel like children can put a label to ‘Oh, there’s no one who looks like me,’” Clarke told Hey, Black Mom! “They can’t pinpoint that feeling. …This book shows kids that there’s someone who looks like you.
“You don’t have to look a certain way for you to be magical.”
The 26-page children’s book published a year ago, and Clarke was surprised by its reach. She’s received support from friends and parents, even those outside of her classroom.
Of 4,034 children’s and young adult books received by the Cooperative Children’s Book Center from American publishers in 2019, 472 of them were defined as about black children compared to 390 in the 2018.
“Young Black girls can be in any area, whether it’s sport, whether it’s special needs, different variations,” said Clarke, who also serves as an ABA therapist. “We’re everywhere, but for whatever reason, our faces and our voices are not put in that demographic.”
Even when there’s a slight lull in book sales, someone reaches out with positive feedback, which reminds Clarke of her story’s significance.
She said those interactions warm her heart and even inspire her to write another book with a focus on diversity and inclusion.
“The moms are very happy to be able to share that story with their children, even from different demographics,” Clarke said. “I’ve been getting really positive reviews in terms of the book, which exceeded my own expectations.”
Check out the I’m Unique book HERE.