Dr. Pamela Gurley, D.M.: Redefining Representation for Youth Beyond the Color of Their Skin

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Kids need to know the difference between representation and diversity when it comes to the youth. One is a positive portrayal of someone, while the other is a practice or inclusiveness of people from a range of characteristics (skin color, ethnicities, sexual orientation, or gender.

A great way to help your child develop a diverse and inclusive mindset is by reading books that reflect this. This is certainly the belief of Dr. Pamela Gurley, who is the author of the new recently released books in her Brown Girl and Brown Boy book series.

Brown Girl and Brown Boy are 10-titled, 20 book children’s addressing areas that assist in the development of children. From learning how to be social with confidence to learning their worth in this world even if they look or feel different. Dr. Pam’s books are geared to set the tone for representation that will culturally enrich children.

In an interview with Dr. Pam, she discusses the many layers of her book and the inspiration behind it.

Let’s talk about your Brown Girl and Brown Boy series. How would you describe the series and the message you have and are creating for children?

My children’s book series is about Brown Girl and Brown Boy, who are two children learning to be themselves in a world where differences aren’t always accepted. The way we see ourselves in society can play a huge factor in our self-esteem.

Representation through media, for example, is the way most children are exposed to all types of characters, races, and backgrounds. The best way to change someone’s perspective is by showing them a different perspective because people are more likely to believe something if it comes from someone who looks like them or has been there before.

So, When I developed the characters, I didn’t want to give them “names” per se.  I wanted the characters to be every Black and Brown child reading it. To read it and be proud of who they are on the inside no matter how light, how dark, or how golden brown they may be on the outside. 

Why is it so important to correct the view of representation for kids?  How does this contribute to diversity and inclusiveness with children?

Kids are impressionable and tend to emulate what they see in the media. If we don’t want them to grow up with an unrealistic view of representation, we must correct this misconception at a young age. One way is by exposing kids to characters who look like them through children’s books.

Children’s books have been a long-standing valuable tool for children. But if you also notice, the way they are used has evolved, but one thing remains constant: children’s books are an essential part of childhood literary development. I feel books are a great way to introduce diversity and inclusiveness to children.

They play a large part in shaping their ideas about the world and encourage children to accept people who are different from themselves. It is important, therefore, to have diverse books for them to read. It should be this way for every child in every home.

I also feel parents need to take responsibility for their child’s exposure to diverse representations early on in life and not expect the education system to do this for them.

How has the experience been a children’s book author make an impact on you personally?

It has been a wonderful experience for me in many ways. One of the best things is seeing how excited kids get when they read my stories! When parents come back to tell me what their child thought, it makes all the hard work worth it.

The power of representation is undeniable. All over the world, we see generations of people who have been inspired by role models they identified within literature and film. There are many success stories of people who had difficulties and then found themselves in a storybook or on the screen and realized they weren’t so “different” after all.

Any event for book signings or readings coming up? What else can we be on the lookout for?

I have an upcoming Kid’s red Carpet in Chicago on Aug. 14 at the Chicago Theater Works starting at 12:00 pm and the next Kid’s Red Carpet will be hosted in the Orlando area on Sept 18th at The Venue on Park Ave in Apopka, FL.

I am still working on the location for Kid’s Red Carpet for Los Angeles; however, it is scheduled to be held on November 6. There may be readings in between these, as I have expanded my books to be available in Spanish and French and not just English.

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