This Mom Is Changing the Narrative of Black Children in Books -- 1 Story at a Time

Courtesy of Tameka Fryer Brown

Tameka Fryer Brown with children
Courtesy of Tameka Fryer Brown

Life has been known to throw a curveball or two to change our course of direction, and for Tameka Fryer Brown, that came in the form of an unexpected career shift. With her eyes once set when she was little on becoming a lawyer, the mom of three had an "aha" moment in 2005 to write children's books that would not only change her life forever but provide a mirror on society to reflect diversity and its beauty for little ones to embrace.

  • As a full-time mom of young children, Tameka entered the world of writing books after what she calls "failed business-in-a-box attempts."

    Tameka Fryer Brown family
    Courtesy of Tameka Fryer Brown

    "I wanted a me-oriented endeavor to help rediscover my identity," Tameka Fryer Brown tells CafeMom.com about her journey to writing children's books. 

    "I decided to focus more on what I wanted to do, versus what I thought I should do -- or what might make lots of money," she adds. "Being a parent made me look at my mortality in a way I had not before; it made me think about legacy, about what enduring accomplishment I could achieve whose impact would outlive me. It was during this period of reflection that the 'aha' moment happened. I was in the middle of reading to my youngest daughter one afternoon when it hit me: 'This is it! I can write picture books!' And here I am."

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  • Since hearing the whisper on her heart in 2005, Tameka has written children's books with diverse imagery children of all colors need.

    Around Our Way on Neighbors' Day by Tameka Fryer Brown
    Courtesy of Tameka Fryer Brown

    Around Our Way on Neighbor's Day, a story of community members in a close-knit neighborhood gathering to enjoy a block party, hit shelves in 2010, with My Cold Plum Lemon Pie Bluesy Mood, a story of navigating feelings and sibling rivalry, following three years later.

    Though both stories differ in their messaging, for Tameka, writing children's books has enabled her to create worlds with inspirational takeaways that will resonate with children, especially kids of color.

    "My children, the little girl in me, and every child I encounter inspire me to create relevant stories that validate the emotions young people have in common," Brown tells CafeMom. "They also motivate me to write stories about black joy, and to challenge stereotypes about black families that have been historically propagated in media."

  • "It's our responsibility as parents to raise a generation of citizens less tainted by racial bias, and children's books can be a critical tool."

    My Cold Plum Lemon Pie Bluesy Mood written by Tameka Fryer Brown
    Courtesy of Tameka Fryer Brown

    "This influence starts extremely young. What we need more of are loving, diverse, joy-filled representations of people of color and Indignenous peoples, those whose stories have been marginalized throughout our nation’s history," Brown tells CafeMom.

    "White families have never lacked positive media representation, and it’s important that we share culturally diverse children’s books with all of our children -- books that will serve as self-reflective and affirming mirrors for some kids, and insightful, nondistorted windows and sliding glass doors for others."

  • Like many black parents looking for positive representation for their kids to see, Tameka understands the importance of changing the narrative.

    Tameka Fryer Brown and her family
    Courtesy of Tameka Fryer Brown

    "A mirror book for a brown child is not merely a book where the characters' faces are painted brown. Rather, it's one that contains specific cultural nuance and details that only come through the lived experience of one who is from that particular culture," Tameka Fryer Brown explains to CafeMom.

    "I also want to add that when looking for books that feature people of color, it is important to seek out titles that are actually written by people of color."

  • "It wasn't until I became a mother that I realized the importance of intentionally inundating black children with positive images of blackness."

    Black and brown children's books
    Courtesy of Tameka Fryer Brown

    "In fact, it wasn't until I was an author that my focus on diversity in kid-lit grew," the mom of three continues. "Learning about the various types of disparity still pervasive in the industry made me want to be a more intentional champion of inclusive literature -- both inside and outside of my home."

    With daily reminders in the news of this country's inequities, Tameka's books provide solace to parents raising black children in a world where fear often consumes optimism. 

    "Now, more than ever in my lifetime, I feel the weight of raising black children in a society that devalues our brown skin," Brown describes. "It's joy, it's fear. It's anger, it's hope. It's speaking out boldly; it's wiping tears and whispering prayers. There is a constant, unspoken battle in our country regarding the unconditional humanity of black people, and it’s a lot. Too much, sometimes. But love and faith ... that's what sustains."
  • For her third book, 'Brown Baby Lullaby,' Tameka wanted to write a love letter to her daughters while remembering earlier days as a new mom.

    Brown Baby Lullaby written by Tameka Fryer Brown
    Courtesy of Tameka Fryer Brown

    "I was experiencing a moment of nostalgia about my children's baby days when I felt the urge to express those memories and emotions in the form of a picture book," Brown reveals to CafeMom. "From the beginning, I knew that I wanted to make it a love letter, not only to my own daughters but to brown babies everywhere since the world doesn't love on brown-skinned children -- or adults for that matter -- as much as it should."

  • It is Tameka's hope that her children's books inspire young kids to celebrate diversity that values every life, even when society doesn't.

    Tameka Fryer Brown with children
    Courtesy of Tameka Fryer Brown

    "My hope is that the words and images in my books will be planted into the hearts and minds of so many little ones -- of all races, cultures, and ethnicities -- that its seeds will blossom into a generation of citizens who viscerally believe in the equal value, humanity, and belovedness of every brown-skinned baby, child, and human being," she notes. "Such an impact would mean the world."

moms of color children's books