Finding my Family | Guest blog by Aliza Nathoo
Finding my Family is a guest blog series exploring how families are represented in children's books, whether that's due to set-up, ethnicity, neurodiversity, disability, LGBTQIA*, socio-economic status or any other facet of diversity.
After a decade of working within the fashion industry, Aliza is currently in the midst of a career change to pivot into a more people-focussed role. She has her own accessories brand named 6.26.4, is an Equality, Diversity & Inclusion advocate, and also happens to be an Asian, physically disabled female.
Find Aliza on LinkedIn.
Who makes up your family?
I have my awe-inspiring brother & sisters. I have my loving dad, mum and bonus mum. I have my miraculous godchildren. I have my dreamy friends and wonderful relatives.
Why is inclusion in children’s books important to you on a personal level?
I don't remember seeing myself in books when I was younger and often wondered why. Children are visual & books should represent the whole world we live in. They should be all-encompassing, so children understand that there are more similarities than differences - so they can see themselves in the world they live in.
Can you recall any occasions when you’ve found representations of yourself/your family in children’s books?
Growing up, in regards to disability – never. As for my race, I used to love Disney's Pocahontas book because she was the first illustrated character I saw who had a similar skin-tone & hair colour as me – I could see me! Not actually a children's book per se, however, my dad read us '1001 Arabian Nights' repeatedly throughout our childhood. We aren't Middle Eastern, but I definitely noticed similarities in the people & food references.
How did it feel to find these representations, not find any representation or to find inauthentic or negative representation?
I did wonder why there were so few books representing us, but this just went hand-in-hand with an acceptance of it. The majority of characters were white and non-disabled – that just became the 'norm' to me and everyone else was different, including me. I was raised in London and my primary school class was very diverse, so that definitely trumped books as an education in terms of representation.
How could someone authentically represent you/your family in a children’s book? What nuance would make it authentic?
Having a character who is disabled, but not making the storyline about their disability – having them explore and just do things the other non-disabled characters do. Showing similarities and not focussing on differences. To have minority groups mostly represented as the BFF or a neighbour or in a cameo role – it starts to mould how a child sees themselves and equally importantly, other people in the world. Everyone is the main character in their own life, so seeing that represented visually in a book is validating.
If you or your family could be in any children’s book (as yourselves) what book would it be?
Probably Winnie the Pooh; we'd all just hang out, eat and go on adventures – the dream! We used to have a toilet room called 'Pooh Corner', it was orange and decorated with bees – Winnie the Pooh brings back a lot of fond childhood memories.
What is your favourite children’s book? Why?
Oh, The Place's You'll Go by Dr Seuss – it's a story describing the journey that is life in the most beautiful way.
If you want to take part in this blog series, fill out this form to submit your responses.