Yaya Camara

As a first generation African American, if I was handed this question years ago, I wouldn’t be able to give you an answer. In the society we live in today, there were always groups of people who were more favored, or in my case “liked” than others. In my elementary school days, I didn’t like the fact that I had darker skin with thicker hair, whereas the other girls had the lighter skin and flowing hair. I knew that I didn’t hate myself, there is a lot of pride in Africans, but I also was not happy with the way I looked. However, this negative view of myself changed when I entered middle school. Before the start of the school year, we were handed books for us to respond to during the summer. The book my school chose to hand out was The Skin I’m In by Sharon G. Flake. Even though one may argue that this book is not the best coming-of-age book out there, as a 6th grader I felt the book did just as great. Most importantly, her story helped and instilled valuable lessons that stood out to my ten-year-old self. Currently, almost turning 17, the lessons Flake has expressed in her book have never become clearer. In the novel, the main character, Maleeka Madison, battles “self-hate, and esteem issues” (Goodreads, 2018). Her issue, unfortunately, stemmed from the societal appreciation of lighter skinned people. She also felt pressured to buy expensive clothes in order to “fit in”. She also thought that the best way to avert the problem is to befriend a group of girls, and change the way she came across so she would be more “liked”. Even with her friends, she was not truly happy under her skin. Many women of color, especially in this day of age, find it hard to love themselves because of false beauty ideals and trends. This is such a problem that many women try their best to get rid of features that emphasize their African ancestry, for instance, by skin bleaching, cosmetic surgery, instead of embracing it. This book stressed the importance of embracing your roots, no matter how deep they flow. Learning this at the young age of 10 has helped me embrace my melanin and other “African” features. Thus, helping me blossom into a proud African American young woman. Additionally, it also helped me spread to my younger siblings and cousins self-appreciation and love. To conclude, my journey in becoming a proud and conservative woman was very turbulent. However, without reading the book at the time that I did, I would have probably continued to face the same issues that I dealt with six years ago. From Maleeka’s struggle of becoming popular, I realized that changing the way you act will not change the way you view yourself. Additionally, changing the way you dress is also not the solution. Both of these routes will ultimately lead you into living a facade, which wouldn’t work in the long run. Once that inner love is there, then you’ll start to fully appreciate life and the people around you.

“The Skin I’m In by Sharon G. Flake.” Goodreads, Goodreads, 1 Jan. 2000, www.goodreads.com/book/show/751635.The_Skin_I_m_In.

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