I found The Skin I'm In by Sharon G Flake at a book sale at the library, ten cents for a book. I feel almost guilty about it, but at this point whatever feeds my book addiction and is legal, is good for me. Finding sales like this helps to offset my $100 Barnes and Noble shopping sprees.
I enjoy reading books about cultures other than my own as I like to learn something new when I read. I didn't think I'd have anything in common with the characters of this story, but while this story is about Black Americans, anyone could relate to the themes in this story.
Every person on the planet has to learn to accept themselves and the skin they are in. Maleeka has very dark skin, like her father who has died. She is teased about being too dark. She gets a new teacher who has a white splotch across her face, probably vitiligo. Maleeka wants to fit in, she wants nice clothes, and she wants to be liked. All of these needs cause her to put herself in bad situations. Maleeka is a good person, though. She cares about her mother and wears the ill made clothing her mom makes for her because she feels like the act of sewing helps keep her mother sane. Maleeka is a good writer, and her writing gives her strength.
This book made me think about the skin I am in and how acceptance in most communities, black or white, often is hard to come by. I am white - pasty, Casper the Ghost colored white, so white that I was told I was a brunette albino. I used to look at Oprah Winfrey and covet her beautiful skin. And then the cult I was raised in, spread the rumor that my father was black because they were complete racists and wanted to hurt us. My mom was hurt by it, but my sisters and I didn't take it seriously and fortunately, we all made it out of that cult. Being the subject of that rumor helped keep us safe from those who normally would have wanted us for breeding purposes.
My oldest son has vitiligo, which isn't a horrible thing to have when you are the color of paste because the white spots are barely noticeable. He has to keep those spots protected from the sun, but otherwise he is not bothered by them. This made me think about how hard it must have been for Michael Jackson to have this skin condition and how people ridiculed him because of it.
The truth of the matter is that we all have to live in the skin we are in. We are born with the skin we have, and we have no control over the color of it or the skin conditions that may happen to it. All we can do is to value all people, no matter their skin color or condition, no matter their race, religion, gender, or sexual orientation. May we see the good in those around us and understand that everyone is just trying to live in the skin they are in.
Read to a child today especially if that child is you.