Not too long ago, I found myself in a well-known, independent feminist bookstore wondering where all the characters of color were. This was a while into my time working there as a bookseller, but I often thought back to the first day I stepped into this particular shop–how magical it was (especially compared to Barnes & Noble), how innovative and progressive. Eventually the magical book dust settled, and I got to know the shelves, especially in the children’s section. I became familiar with who was featured. And, although I am a fan of many of the works in the growing collection of “feminist princess books,” these young heroines were often white. I was hard-pressed to find children’s books with protagonist of color.
My name is Jill, and I am a twenty-seven-year-old, queer, mixed-race artist of color. It wasn’t until I worked at this bookstore that I found the first books to ever reflect my identity (in a racial sense), and there are still only a few. When I read these books, my soul was fed. So a couple of years ago, I decided to write one of my own for the younger versions of me, so that maybe they wouldn’t have to wait until age twenty-seven, would not have to become booksellers to experience the satisfaction of looking into the mirror of a book. The book I am writing and illustrating is my first. It is based on the story of Little Red Riding Hood, except Red has a different name and is a little mixed-race girl, and the wolf is preying on her family’s identity and history. There is no woodsman to help Red; it is she, along with her memories of her ancestors, who must save the day.
I am not a published writer, and my paintings have never hung in a gallery, but when I heard about the scholarship to attend PWID, I believed my work was important, I believed in the possibility that it might go somewhere, that I might learn something, and that someone might be reached through my art. So I took the shot. I am thrilled to be invited to the conference, I am thrilled to meet other people who write and illustrate. I am nervous and excited to hear what publishers are looking for, and ready to equip myself for the challenges and vulnerability I will face by sharing my work with the world. I have so much gratitude for this opportunity; I’m counting down the days until November!