The book Esther Bean the Queen of Self Esteem (B.E.A.N. Enterprises LLC) illuminates issues of self-esteem which is of invaluable importance to girls. After all, eventual self-worth begins at childhood. Accordingly, Black women historically have had the core of their existence the matter of sustaining a strong self-image.
In her books, author Jacqueline Norwood-Hall, a resident of Fridley, MN, shares her passion for social justice and draws upon her own childhood memories to aid the development of children. She states, “These tend to be the most impressionable years in a child’s life. As the foundation is to a house, so is self-esteem to the child.” No book, certainly no children’s book, can realistically cover all that needs to be addressed about such a complex concept. However, taking on even one aspect goes a long way in making a critical contribution.
The Minnesota Spokesman-Recorder’s (MSR) interviewed Jacqueline Norwood-Hall (JN-H) to discuss her new book Esther Bean the Queen of Self Esteem.
MSR: What are your other titles? Is there a common theme?
JN-H: Jester Mean Comes Clean is my latest book. In this sequel, bullying is examined more in-depth…explored from Jester Mean’s viewpoint. It was imperative to remember bullies need just as much love, support and redirection as their victims. I have several other books awaiting illustration.
Savannah Pearl, Chocolate Girl is about a girl who is teased for being dark skinned by neighborhood children. [Also] Maddie Ain’t Got No Daddy. Peter the Repeater [is] about a young boy who…eavesdrops [and] is surprised to see how much damage he’s caused with his mischievous ways.
MSR: Reading being fundamental, as the old PSA said, how important is it for children’s books directed to African American children? Particularly with today’s preponderance of music videos and Internet access.
JNH: Reading is succeeding. It, among other things, was paid for with the blood of our ancestors. It was the one gift given that could not be taken away. It is our inheritance. It is a sad state of affairs to see the condition of our young people as a whole.
Social media has become a web of distraction for many and daily they are bombarded with messages that do nothing to solidify their foundation, but rather chip away at it one piece at a time. Provocative images and lyrics debase us and our community, providing reinforcements for stereotypes.
While technology has made many astounding advancements, the dark side makes its users mindless and lazy, reverting back to a new kind of slavery ignorance. In order to avoid this pitfall, it is of the utmost importance that our children see characters in books, movies, and plays that not only look like them, but that deal with the everyday issues that they face as well and overcome them!
MSR: How did you and illustrator Yoko Matsuoka come to partner on the book? How was the process as it went from manuscript to finished product?
JNH: After a few unsuccessful attempts at hiring an illustrator, I checked out an online website specifically geared to that field. I was mesmerized by Yoko’s work, especially impressed with her attention to detail. Since Yoko lives in Japan, there was the concern of distance involved, but I decided to take a chance on her and am so thankful that I did. She is amazing at what she does! I feel like a child all over again when I see her work!
The process of publishing is just that — a process. There’s the long detailed online conversations that take place between myself and Yoko, outlining exactly how I envision this book. Then the drawing phase is commenced, with corrections here or there. There is the final approval of the drawings and then the actual coloring takes place. This can be upwards of six to nine months. I liken it to pregnancy. You have your aches and pains, but it is all worth it!
MSR: You state that your hope is to promote the message that low income does not denote low IQ.
JNH: As a married mother with seven children, I have experienced economic hardships many families face. We have received government assistance to help when times were tough. We were oftentimes categorized as “underprivileged,” “ghetto,” and on several occasions I was asked were my children’s father(s) present and active in their lives.
My son has experienced what it felt like to have a teacher discourage his educational ambition, citing that it would be “too much” for him, only for this same teacher to have to come back and apologize for “misjudging” him. The judgments made against my family were unfair to say the least. If anything, our struggles fortified our resilience and determination to succeed.
Dwight Hobbes welcomes reader responses to P.O. Box 50357, Mpls., 55403.