Search

Hackney author Davina Hamilton: ‘As a minority, issues of identity matter’

PUBLISHED: 12:00 26 June 2017

Riley Can Be Anything by Davina Hamilton

Riley Can Be Anything by Davina Hamilton

Archant

‘For me, creating a book with black characters was a no-brainer,’ says author of Riley Can Be Anything

Davina Hamilton, author of Riley Can Be Anything Davina Hamilton, author of Riley Can Be Anything

In my 15 years as a journalist, I’ve met plenty of fellow media professionals who longed to write a book. I was no exception.

It had long been one of my ambitions to enter the world of literature, but I had no idea what type of book I wanted to write. It was only as my children – now aged three and four – started to appreciate being read to that the idea of writing a children’s book entered my mind.

As I began to entertain the idea more and more, I thought about the type of story I could tell. I wanted to tell a tale that my children would enjoy, but I also wanted to create something they could relate to. One of the easiest – and most obvious – ways to create a relatable story for my children was to make the characters black.

And so, Riley Can Be Anything was born.

An inspiring rhyming story, Riley Can Be Anything follows Riley, a young, black schoolboy, who, with the encouragement of his big cousin Joe, comes to realise he can be anything he wants to be.

For me, creating a book with black characters was a no-brainer. As the former entertainment editor of The Voice, Britain’s leading black newspaper, I’d written countless articles about the need for black representation in the arts and had many conversations about the importance of positive imagery for black children.

I’m also well aware that books with black characters are hugely underrepresented in the children’s book industry and that is something I wanted to do my bit to address.

But even without being professionally involved in debates about diversity, I understand, as a black woman, the complexities of racial identity.

I vividly recall (as do many of my black female friends), my childhood practice of putting a towel on my head in a bid to pretend I had long, straight hair like my white school friends. I remember as a teenager, frying plantain in my Home Economics class and my white friends looking in the frying pan with bewilderment.

Fast-forward a couple of decades and I recall being temporarily speechless when my four-year-old daughter came and told me that she and her brother were the only children “with brown faces” in their new (and temporary) nursery in Canada. At just four years old, she noticed that she and her brother were “different” to their nursery peers.

Identity issues might not matter much to people when they find themselves in the majority, in school, at work or in society at large. But when you’re in the minority, ethnically or otherwise, you tend to notice – just like my daughter did.

To put it in simple terms, nobody wants to feel like the odd one out, least of all children. And just as we can sympathise with the child who is always picked last in the P.E. class, we should also be able to recognise how damaging it can be for a child to not see themselves reflected, be it at school, in the books they read or in society at large.

A child that never sees themselves reflected will, understandably, feel excluded. And that exclusion will cause them to question why they are always excluded. Why does nobody in the book look like me? Is there something wrong with me?

No child should be made to feel that way, especially when reading books – that should evoke joy and excitement in their young minds.

This is why I penned Riley Can Be Anything; to allow black children to see themselves in the narrative and to inspire all children to realise that, with hard work, the possibilities are endless.

Riley Can Be Anything is out on Amazon (The Ella Riley Group, £5.99/£3.50 digital)

Latest Hackney Stories

Yesterday, 21:49

Jack Wilshere has confirmed he is to leave Arsenal when his contract expires at the end of June.

Yesterday, 20:58

Read German football expert and Arsenal writer Rosie Tudball on the German reaction to Bernd Leno’s departure from Bundelsiga side Bayer Leverkusen.

Yesterday, 20:41

Arsenal have landed Bernd Leno from Bayer Leverkusen. Read on for ten facts you may not know about the Gunners new goalkepeer.

Yesterday, 20:28

New Arsenal goalkeeper Bernd Leno has wasted little time in endearing himself to the fans as he takes to social media to explain how excited he is at joining the North London giants.

Yesterday, 20:17

German goalkeeper Bernd Leno has agreed to join Arsenal from Bayer Leverkusen.

Yesterday, 16:56

Former Arsenal Invincible Jens Lehman has posted a cryptic message on social media after new Gunners boss Unai Emery announced his coaching staff – with the former German international goalkeeper not included.

Yesterday, 16:29

The revolution at Arsenal gathers apace after new boss Unai Emery has confirmed his coaching team.

Yesterday, 16:00

Spring Hill club make four additions to coaching staff ahead of new campaign

PROMOTED CONTENT

To celebrate LGBT history month, Hackney resident Amanda talks about her journey to becoming a foster carer, with the council’s support and training.



Newsletter Sign Up

Hackney Gazette twice-weekly newsletter
Sign up to receive our regular email newsletter

Our Privacy Policy

Most read entertainment

Show Job Lists