I’m a firm believer that there are stories that beg to be told. Thankfully, American films, television and literature are slowly seeing a true integration and representation of diverse characters. The small tents with big stories were true evidence of this theory. Enter Brooklyn – a quirky, insightful marketing coordinator of Stranger Comics at the LA Times Festival of Books. I was instantly attracted to the Stranger Comics booth, thanks to a giant banner of Niobe writer/muse Amandla Stenberg.
Niobe is the compelling tell of a half-elf orphan girl who must reckon with a dark prophecy set in motion before her birth. The issue is laced with gorgeous illustrations, complete with native African tribal influences, feather-laced locs, melanin skin and war paint. It’s easily the most beautiful comic I’ve ever seen. The related issues, Dusu and Erathune (released this month) follow suit with fiery drawings and equally fiery words: “I am a killer and a healer. Like you.” Or my favorite from Erathune: “Still your quivering tongue lest I sever it.”
Why does this story beg to be told? Not only is it more dynamic than the Unnamed Book Fair/See Spike Run content that I was offered as a young reader, but it’s both heartwarming and inspiring to see a black, female character (human or not) at the center of a fantasy series. As my idol Rihanna would say, that’s just “not something I wake up to.” It’s great to know that we’re capable of shining in authentic, black-owned narratives and I’m continuously inspired by the work Stranger Comics has done in filling in the blanks that my childhood libraries never could.
The next tent that caught my eye belonged to a darling character (Mixie) and her author, Tiffany Catledge! Mixed Me is “a tale of a girl who is both black and white.” Interestingly, it precedes the similarly-named Taye Diggs novel, presented at this year’s Festival of Books, by about two years.
Illustrated by Anissa Rivière, Mixed Me is an empowering book for little girls (and boys) whose parents just happen to look a little different. It’s full of love, affirmation and honesty. The picture book has its relatable moments; I think we can all remember a time when our classmates misunderstood something about our background.
Both the Niobe comics and Mixed Me would make excellent nighttime reads for kids who need exposure to diverse narratives. I was so proud to see these stories present at the Festival of Books and I’m putting them at the top of the reading list for my kids (10 years from now).