ROGERS PARK — Nonkululeko Kunene Adumetey never felt comfortable in her own skin when she was a child.
Moving from Africa to North America as a teenager made Adumetey feel more like a fish out water, she said. But through writing and self-reflection, she gained self-acceptance and confidence.
Now, the Rogers Park mother and author is hoping to help kids in similar situations with her children’s book series. Her latest book, “I Celebrate My Voice,” comes out Feb. 15.
“I want to put something out for people of color, for minority children to in a way shed light on self-confidence,” Adumetey said. “The book is also a letter to me, to embrace who I am.”
The books are aimed at children 3-8 and talk about issues of celebrating diversity and loving oneself.
The first book was something of an experiment, as Adumetey wrote it as a form of therapy to herself. But the book caught on, leading Adumetey to read it at schools, homeless shelters and other forums. It is sold in Women & Children First Bookstore in Andersonville as well as other local retailers.
Adumetey realized the message could resonate with many Rogers Park children, some of whom share a background similar to hers.
Adumetey grew up in in the Kingdom of Eswatini — formerly known as Swaziland — in southern Africa. She felt some shame over her appearance, she said: As a child, she wore long sleeves and skirts, seeking to hide her skin.
Adumetey moved to Canada at 16 to go to high school, then to the United States when she was 18. In 2013, she moved to Rogers Park, where she lives with her husband and two young children.
Adumetey decided to write a children’s book based on her experience with issues of confidence, hoping to help kids facing similar problems.
“I always felt my skin represented the pain, everything I felt,” Adumetey said. “When I started to write, it was like peeling back layers. It morphed from a healing process. Hopefully, it empowers children.”
In “I Celebrate My Skin,” the book depicts children of all ethnicities and backgrounds and shows the similarities and traits shared by all people. The message is that all people are beautiful and self-worth is not determined by appearance.
“I Celebrate My Voice” encourages kids to express themselves and follow their passions, no matter what others say. This book was inspired by Adumetey’s time in Canada, where she began singing, an act that helped on her journey of self-discovery and acceptance.
Adumetey has also created a “Black girl magic” puzzle and a “colors of the world” crayon package that are available on her website.
“I want them to see they matter just the way they are,” Adumetey said. “We all have our own stories, and they all matter.”
A third book in the “I Celebrate” series is underway, said Adumetey, who works as a data analyst in the health care industry. Her goal is to help local kids on their path to self acceptance and return home to her native Eswatini and help kids who grew up just like her.
“I could see how [the books] are broadening their horizons. It’s inspiring,” Adumetey said. “My journey now is to go back home, to let children know they have a voice and to not be afraid to speak up.”
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