A Cultural Journey

Zenda M. Walker Author Interview

Know Your Hairitage: Zara’s Wash Day follows a young girl as she learns the history and significance behind the traditional hairstyles her mom puts her hair in each week. What was the inspiration for your story?

Wash days have always been a time for bonding and creating memories with my daughter Zara. When she started asking questions about her coily hair and why I style her hair in braids and twists, adorned with beads, I realized it was an opportunity to dive deeper into the historical context. I knew some of the history, but started doing more research. Reconnecting to our heritage by way of hairitage strengthened our family bond and created a renewed sense of pride that I wanted to share with the rest of the world. Writing this book during such a tough time in our nation’s history was also my way of letting Zara and other young readers know how much they truly matter. So Zara’s Wash Day, which is the first book in the Know Your Hairitage brand, was born.

The art in this book is fantastic. What was the art collaboration process like with the illustrator Princess Karibo?

I researched the top up-and-coming Black illustrators online and Princess Karibo’s name came up in a list of ten other artists. When I saw her art, I knew immediately that I wanted to work with her. I was looking for an artist who could bring textured, afro-hair and black features to life. Her attention to detail and use of bold colors was exactly what I envisioned, so I was delighted when she agreed to work with me. Our biggest challenge was the time difference, as I lived in California at the time and she resides in Nigeria, West Africa. We signed contracts and I sent her the manuscript. We communicated strictly through email, and WhatsApp and managed to finalized images over a four-month time frame.

What were some themes that were important for you to explore in this book?

This book is meant to take people on a cultural journey that links traditional afro-centric styles and textured hair to our African ancestry. I approached this book with intention. I worked with an incredible book designer, Anthony Foronda, to create a celebratory cultural theme from cover to cover. The print on the front and back cover is recreated artwork from two gele fabrics my aunt gifted me from Ghana and Nigeria. A gele is a head tie or head scarf that is commonly worn in many parts of West and Southern Africa. The artwork that closes out each verse is actually the recreated tribal shield of the ethnic groups that are being celebrated. I even wrote the book in rhythmic prose as a nod to the djembe drum, which is a goblet-shaped drum that is traditionally carved from African wood. I wanted young readers to embrace the musicality and rhythm of the story. The glossary at the end of the book was also my way of empowering adults to dive deeper into the history that is not often included in school history books.

What is the next book that you are working on and when will it be available?

I plan to follow up Zara’s Wash Day with an accompanying coloring/activity book which will include the line art from Princess Karibo. I even use the glossary to create fun crossword puzzle activities and word-finds so the educational purpose of the book is consistent. The coloring activity book will be available at the end of January 2022. The second book in the Know Your Hairitage series is expected to be released closer to May 2022. The Know Your Hairitage brand is committed to diversity and inclusion, so I plan to collaborate with other illustrators and author/educators to celebrate the hairitage of other races as well. Stay tuned.

Author Links: GoodReads | Twitter | Facebook | Website

It’s wash day and Zara is not excited about wearing her hair in the same styles Mama usually creates. But once Mama takes Zara on a cultural journey to help her understand the significance of each style, wash days will never be the same!

Posted on February 1, 2022, in Interviews and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.


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