Why I wrote a tribute to my daughter's curly hair - and more stories to try
Published on: 23 April 2019 Author: Maryam Al Serkal
When Maryam Al Serkal realised that her daughter was upset about having curly hair, she decided to write a picture book to celebrate it.
She tells us how Mira's Curly Hair came into being - and shares more great recommendations of stories to try.
Illustration: Rebeca Luciani
When I wrote this book, I had no idea it would resonate with so many people on different continents. The book was my attempt to help my daughter and encourage her to love herself just as she was.
As a parent, I didn't want her to struggle with image issues, but I realised that times have changed and I would have to address these issues at a much younger age than I anticipated.
I think the pitfall that we all inevitably fall into is comparing ourselves with each other. For adults, this manifests itself in many different forms and as a result, we suffer in so many aspects of our lives, from body image issues to relationship issues.
As a new mother, I had no idea what I was doing in general, let alone how to raise a child! All I knew for sure was that I wanted to raise mentally healthy people who had a healthy relationship with themselves first, in order to thrive and reach their full potential.
Celebrating Mira's curls
When Mira was a pre-schooler, she started putting on my accessories and wearing my shoes, as most children do at that age. Then she started to pull on her hair to make it straight.
One time I saw her talking to her hair, saying, 'Behave! Be good and listen to me!' I smiled but then my heart sank. She was so upset.
It dawned on me that in all her four years of existence, she had only ever seen my hair straight. Some people might find that odd, but when you're a mother, the only time you can sneak in a shower and try to groom yourself is when the kids are asleep. And when I'd go to the beauty salon, she didn't want to come with me because she was afraid of the blow dryer.
In the book, I wrote that Mira sees her mom's hair curl up when they get stuck in rainy weather. The truth is that she woke up from her nap early while I was still in the shower. She had a bad dream and was crying for me so I rushed out of the shower with a robe and my hair still dripping wet. After she had calmed down, she saw my hair getting curly and was so happy and excited to see it frizz and curl that she squealed in delight, 'Momma! Your hair is like mine!' The rest is history, I guess.
Before that happened, I hadn't realised how much children actually watched their parents how our behaviour affected them. Children don't just watch us - they observe and study and draw conclusions. I treated my children with love, but now I treat them with love and respect.
In Mira's story, hair is a metaphor for everything we hold in high regard from outward appearance to internal substance. I am learning so much from my children. No amount of formal education or certificates or work experience could have prepared me for this amazing journey.
Children are so wise and pure that they teach us something new about life and ourselves every day. We just need to be wise enough to listen and allow our hair to curl up.
More books about hair to try
Illustration: Laura Ellen Anderson
- I Don't Want Curly Hair - written and illustrated by Laura Ellen Anderson (Bloomsbury Publishing)
What can I say about this wonderfully beautiful book? I read this with my daughter and we both loved it. The rhyming is fun and the colors are brilliant. So vibrant and beautiful to read and look at.
- Daddy Hairdo – written by Francis Martin, illustrated by Claire Powell (Simon & Schuster)
Funny and very entertaining, Amy and her dad are a treat to read about. Dad is creative with Amy's hair, proving that too little or too much hair is not a problem at all!
- Daddy Do My Hair? Beth's Twists (Daddy Do My Hair series) – written by Talo Okogwu, illustrated by Rahima Begum (Florence Elizabeth Publishing Limited)
First book of the series and a delightful read. A celebration of natural curly hair and the relationship between father and daughter.
- Kechi's Hair Goes Every Which Way (Daddy Do My Hair series) – written by Talo Okogwu, illustrated by Naomi Wright (Florence Elizabeth Publishing Limited)
I love the way dad tries and tries to get Kechi's hair to look the same as when mum does it. Another funny, lovely book by Talo Okogwu.
- Hope's Braids (Daddy do My Hair series) – written by Talo Okogwu, illustrated by Rahima Begum (Florence Elizabeth Publishing Limited)
This is an amazing book about how to deal with bullying and anxiety from an early age. What I adore about this series is how it relays the relationship between father and daughter in the sweetest and simplest way.
Illustration: Mylo Freeman
- Hair, it's a Family Affair! - written and illustrated by Mylo Freeman (Cassava Republic Press)
This is a very special book! I like how the author shows the diversity in what could be perceived as the same. All the different hairstyles and textures found in a single family reminds us that there is diversity everywhere.
- My Hair is a Garden – written and illustrated by Cozbi A. Cabrera (Albert Whitman & Company)
This book is beautifully illustrated with a message that would resonate with anyone, no matter what their background is.
- Mira's Curly Hair – written by Maryam Al Serkal, illustrated by Rebeca Luciani (Lantana Publishing)
Mira is upset when her hair won't behave. She wants it to be straight and smooth, just like her momma's. But when her momma reveals her true hair, Mira is beyond happy!