Tola Okogwu is a British blogger and author of the ‘Daddy Do My Hair?’ book series for children. Launching her third book in the series ‘Kechi’s Hair Goes Every Which Way’ in May 2018, Tola wants to tackle the relationship between young black girls and their natural afro hair in a vibrant, entertaining and educational way.
“For me it starts with teaching the next generation that they are beautiful just the way they are. By showing them positive representations of people who look just like them in the media, in the books they read and toys they play with. We live in a world where black people are often only shown in a negative light and that includes our natural hair and skin colour. For black people, hair is so much more than just what grows out of our heads. Along with our skin colour, it’s the biggest signifier of the differences between us and other races and for the longest time we’ve been made to feel that there is something wrong and unattractive about it.” – Tola Okogwu
‘Kechi’s Hair Goes Every Which Way’ tells the story of Kechi’s beautiful big hair and how her daddy has to make sure she gets ready in time for school.
’Mummy’s away and it’s up to Daddy to get Kechi and her hair ready for
school. There’s just one problem… he doesn’t know how! Fun and hilarity
ensue as Daddy tries to tame Kechi’s swirly-springy, fluffy-puffy,
squishy-squashy, candyfloss curls.’
The ‘Daddy Do My Hair?’ series was inspired by the relationship between Tola’s husband and daughter and is designed to challenge some of the perceptions and preconceptions around race, gender roles within parenting, bullying, friendships and relationships. These books have been an excellent way of encouraging diversity and inclusion from an early age – having children from all ethnicities enjoy the book makes an important impact on how children can identify with each other.
The first book in the children’s picture book series, ‘Daddy Do My Hair? Beth’s Twists’, got the seal of approval from celebrities, parents, teachers and the highly respected Book Trust* “Softly rhyming text and glowing, illustrations in this calm, gentle book celebrate an apparently insignificant domestic ritual, which means everything to this father and daughter as they make time for each other.” Critically acclaimed actress Thandie Newton was a fan too sharing these kind words: “This book is so gorgeous – I love it! Plus, a guy doing his daughter’s natural hair? That’s sexy.”
The second book in the series,‘Daddy Do My Hair? Hope’s Braids’ tackles another polemic subject – school bullying – reinforcing the power of the family unit, the important role of fathers, and the need for greater respect and acceptance of diversity within our society from an early age.
Through her books and wider writing, she constantly seeks to create ‘mirrors and windows’, allowing everyone the opportunity to read books that are reflective of their own experiences, backgrounds and cultures. Tola is passionate about parenthood, the role of fathers and strongly believes that resources for parents should be freely and widely available. Her journey as a black author has not been an easy one, the traditional method of publishing makes it extra difficult to get published as a BME author or write books featuring BME characters. There are many barriers to entry and gatekeepers to get through, from getting an agent to getting a mainstream book deal. “Unfortunately, there is this very myopic and stereotypical view of BME authors and their work. There is this expectation that as a BME author you can only write about BME issues e.g. racism, Black History, colonialism and if you try to step outside of that box, people don’t know what to do with you.” – Tola Okogwu
The success of ‘The Daddy Do My Hair’ series proves that there is a market for diverse books and diverse authors, it is not a trend or even a niche and it’s time that the mainstream society knew about it.