Finding my Family | Guest blog by Richard O'Neill

Updated: Oct 26, 2021

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, neurodivergence, disability, LGBTQIA*, socio-economic status or any other facet of diversity.

Richard O'Neill is a storyteller and author heavily influenced by his upbringing in a traditional nomadic Romani family.

Find Richard on Twitter and check out his website.

Who makes up your family?

My family are my wife, children, grandson, brothers sisters, nephews, nieces and in-laws. My clan family in the rest of the country, my friends and my neighbours where I live. I class family as anyone close to me whether blood related or not.

Why is inclusion in children’s books important to you on a personal level?

Simply because if my race aren't in them we don't exist as contemporary people in the minds of so many.

Can you recall any occasions when you’ve found representations of yourself/your family in children’s books?

Only negatively until the last few years.

How did it feel to find these representations, not find any representation or to find inauthentic or negative representation?

Amazing! To positively exist in literature is vitally important, it enables children to feel validated as human beings. What is worse than not finding yourself represented is finding yourself negatively and/or misrepresented.

How could someone authentically represent you/your family in a children’s book? What nuance would make it authentic?

The GRT communities are so unique that it's extremely difficult to represent them authentically without being inside the communities.

If you or your family could be in any children’s book (as yourselves) what book would it be?

Every book that was ever published that included GRT people. It would stop my heart sinking when someone recommends such a book to me and I have to explain that it's actually a misrepresentation. It's embarrassing for both of us.

What is your favourite children’s book? Why?

The Farm the Ladybird book I taught myself to read at 4 years old because it had a horse in it and we had horses it was that simple, I've never forgotten that experience and has always guided my work with children.

If you want to take part in this blog series, fill out this form to submit your responses.

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