Tiana Akoh-Arrey’s mother Dorothy said her daughter has always loved reading and writing, beginning to write full sentences when she was only four-years-old, Ebony reports. By the time she was six, that passion carried over to the classroom but she was plagued by bullying, many of the children taunting her because of her Afro.
“One day at school, a kid made fun of my Afro and said that it made me look like a lion. That made me really sad, so I asked my mom to straighten my hair to look like my other friends who did not have an Afro,” recalled Tiana.
But Dorothy was quick to explain to her daughter that while the moment was challenging, it was important for her to be proud of her hair texture because it was beautiful. That encouragement was all Tiana needed, choosing to write a short story about her hair and turning her hurt into an inspirational narrative of love and inclusion. Dorothy was impressed by her daughter’s work, submitting the story to Conscious Dreams Publishing who made Tiana’s short tale a book, making her a published author at the age of seven.
“My Afro: Twin Best Friends,” tells Tiana’s story of learning to love her thick and tightly coiled hair, which she often compared to her best friend’s silky, straight hair. When the two girls decide they want to look alike for picture day, the story takes readers on a journey of “friendship, self-acceptance and identity.”
It is Tiana’s hope that other young Black girls will be able to relate to her story, fostering their own “hair love” story, and learning to “embrace who they are and celebrate differences in others.” Now nine-years-old, Tiana feels like the characters can serve as a mirror for readers who may see themselves in the story, hoping that her short tale does its part to combat issues of prejudice and discrimination.
Her book has already made Amazon’s bestsellers list and surpassed the publisher’s expectations for a first-time author. Tiana was also named one of The Week Junior’s 2022 “Heroes of the Year.” In addition to the accolades and awards, Tiana’s been most proud of all the little girls who have shared photos of themselves with her book and messages of how they inspired her. Tiana’s bully even reached out to say how much the book moved her, penning the young author a heartfelt apology.
“I am really proud of myself, and it has confirmed the assurance my mom gave me…I am happy I have managed to not feel small but also helped other girls have the courage of wearing their Afro hair in all shapes and styles without feeling embarrassed about their hair or caring what people say,” said Tiana.
Both Tiana and her mom hope that their story will serve as a reminder for both parents and peers to keep affirming the children, reminding young Black girls of how to navigate bullying and encouraging them to participate in self-affirming activities that remind them of their beauty and their power