A Fredericton author's new children's book is encouraging young children to be comfortable in their own skin.
The 24-page picture book, titled What's Wrong with my Skin, follows the adventures of a dark-skinned Filipina girl named Ligaya. The book's message is to encourage young girls to embrace their uniqueness over mainstream beauty standards, according to the author Marjorie Frenette.
A master's student in counselling psychology at Yorkville University in Fredericton and born and raised in the Philippines, Frenette says the colourism in her community is rampant.
According to Frenette, she was constantly made to feel less beautiful compared to her four sisters, who all had fairer complexions than her.
"It's just a little damaging for kids who would see that, right. It's something that's so rampant, but nobody really talks about it, or a lot of people just blindly accept it," said Frenette.
Frenette started working on the book early in the pandemic. She says she wanted to write a story that embraces a child's uniqueness, and being comfortable in their own skin, similar to how her mom reminded her of her beauty when she was growing up.
"It's very important for kids to understand this situation and message. And for the parents to help their kids embrace their individuality," said Frenette.
According to Lauren Cruikshank, an associate professor in the department of culture and media studies at the University of New Brunswick, judgment based on appearances starts at a young age and it's natural for kids to compare themselves and the way they're treated to others. However, the pressure on maintaining appearances for girls is much higher than boys in many communities.
"You'll see people with darker skin, even within their own communities, sort of more stigmatized and lighter skin seen as preferable. Even for communities of colour, you'll see that happen. So I think, certainly when someone feels like they're not the norm, or they're not the ideal, start to wonder, 'What's going on here?'" said Cruikshank.
The messages that people get through the media at a young age can influence how people think of themselves long past childhood, said Cruikshank.
"That's very important for not only kids who fall into that group to see themselves represented and to understand that their life experience is worthy of being in a book or on a television show," said Cruikshank. "But, it's also really important for kids who maybe haven't had exposure, and then are less likely to sort of find it strange or, you know, treat someone poorly."
In her third trimester of pregnancy, with a baby girl on the way, Frenette hopes that her daughter will not compare herself to others and stay true to herself.
"When you choose to fit in, you betray yourself, but you are loyal to others. But if you choose to belong, it means you are surrounded by people who will love you for who you are," said Frenette.
"All I could hope for is that she always tries to belong to herself first and that there are people who will accept her, especially me, for who she is in the future."
The Oromocto Public Library has added the book into their circulation. According to Frenette, she will be having a reading day with the library soon.