The first episode of my blog’s “Illustrations For Women About Women” series takes its inspiration from this powerful open-letter by Executive Director of the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators (SCBWI), Lin Oliver (
#WeNeedDiverseBooks). It reminded me of my childhood – growing up in a culturally-diverse family, with a mother who loved to buy us multi-cultural books that fueled the imagination with curiosity and an innocent sense of impartiality, along with a grandmother whose bedtime stories were a kid-friendly nod to 101 Arabian Nights.
There once was a little girl who grew up in a moderate part of the Middle East, a corner of the globe that generally came with “bad rep.” Luckily, she had no idea that adults seemed to like judging each other based on the color of their skin, ethnic roots, faith, and appearance.
From an early age, she was introduced to a large collection of books written by illustrators and writers with diverse cultural backgrounds. This quickly fueled her curiosity to learn more about those far-away lands and countries. She developed such deep love for the illustrated children in her books… and enjoyed immersing herself in the little unique worlds each one of them was blessed with. Some wore Russian mittens, others played with American Superman toys or wooden Arabian horses, and a few wore beautiful Indian Saris or danced at Chinese festivals with large paper dragons.
When the little girl grew up, she was astonished to see how this world of colour and beauty did not exist for some of her acquaintances, who seemed to like making unkind and hateful assumptions about each other. She didn’t understand why some even made quite hurtful assumptions about her. Those assumptions were like a firmly-closed glass jar that was too tight for the rolling green fields and the endless sun-kissed cheeks of the children in her illustrated books.
From the very beginning, the world was split into two very distinct paths, offering the little girl an opportunity to choose. One part of the little girl’s family were as open and as colourful as the books she read, while the other half saw the world in muted colours. Their faces often grew ugly with hatred and bias, making her feel extremely uneasy. They saw the world in black-or-white terms, but she knew in her heart of hearts the world she saw was a coloufrul one filled with wonder and music.
When the little girl became a young lady, she met other people wearing a dark pair of shades that made them see the world in faded colours. But she had a wealth of imagination and power triggered by her collection of books from Ukraine, Spain, Sweden, Lebanon, Morocco, and UK.
As time went by, she learnt that other girls and women from different parts of the globe knew this kind of power and was truly looking forward to hearing their stories in this blog’s illustrated series!
Yaansoon has just launched her new series, “Illustrations For Women About Women,” featuring portraits of ordinary and extra-ordinary women from the 20+ countries she has been to, including matriarchs from her own family. Yaansoon’s artist nickname is inspired by the Aniseed plant, a Southern-European and Mediterranean herb that makes a great herbal tea packed with amazing healing properties.