Thursday, February 16, 2012

Racial and Faith Equality

I love that feeling of starting a project that’s your own and carrying it through to the end. I’ve decided to have Jasmin’s Summer Wish illustrated and self-published, so I can share it with more kids. Leading this project means that I can have the final word on both the art and the copy, which is so empowering. Since we’ve started the illustration process, the meaning behind the book has taken on a whole life of it’s own.

Jasmin, the main character, was initially set out to be ambiguously multi-racial to appeal to more kids in the city. I knew I wanted to have many kids identify with the main character, but recently, it grew more important that this book teach a lesson in racial and religious equality. Having a semi-brown main character only brushed over this issue.

I noticed that in New York, which has a relatively large Sikh community, there is very little awareness of who Sikhs are. If I didn’t have friends to help open my mind about accepting all faiths, I’m afraid I might also have made cringing judgments I’ve heard others make against people wearing turbans in New York. This fear of the unknown has caused much discrimination against Sikhs, and there is very little exposure to defend their community.

I thought it was important to show kids in New York that their neighbors aren’t so elusive and unknown. And I thought it would be important for Sikh kids to have a character they can identify with. So, that’s why I decided that Jasmin, as well as one of her friends in the book, will clearly be Sikh characters.