Brown Girls Rules – Ashok Banker and Brittney Bond

Brown Girls Rule by Ashok K Banker, Brittney Bond
Published by Beaming Books on October 17, 2023
Genres: Children's, Racial Reconciliation
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"We are brown. We are beautiful. We are perfect."

An empowering acclamation for girls bearing melanin of all kinds, Brown Girls Rule centers and uplifts girls of color in an inspiring poem that is one part love letter, two parts battle anthem. Ashok Banker and Brittney Bond bring this song to life with a brilliant array of brown girls as politicians, athletes, scientists, teachers, queens, and leaders in countless other roles where brown girls rule. Triumphant and uplifting, this picture book is a powerful reminder for girls of color that they may be young, but they are mighty.

Whenever I get new picture books for my kids, after reading them to make sure they’re okay for my kids to read, I put them in a stack on top of their bookshelf in the playroom. This book elicited shrieks from my excited four-year-old: “Daddy! It’s some of like me on this book!” Representation matters. Seeing yourself in literature and art matters. And books with the message that people who look like you have value, worth, and power—that matters too.

Written by Ashok Banker—a pioneer in English-language genre fiction in India—Brown Girls Rule weaves between being a series of affirmations and a protest anthem. The opening lines set the tone: “We are brown. We are beautiful. We are perfect.” At not quite the halfway point, the “we are” statements move into a chorus: “Who rules the world? Who who who? We rule the world! Brown girls rule.” Then Banker returns to “we are” statement, moving from the abstract to the particular by portraying girls in various positions of power and advocacy before finishing with the chorus once more.

Jamaican-American illustrator Brittney Bond provides the illustrations and let me tell you, they are stunning. I would buy this book if only for the diversity of Brownness that Brown Girls Rule captures so powerfully. And, if I’m to be honest, it’s the illustrations more than the text that drew my daughter in. When I tried to read it to her, she just said “No daddy, I want to look at the girls.” I’m pretty sure she’s getting hairstyle ideas. And there’s the magic of Brown Girls Rule. It expresses the central message of the value, worth, and power of girls of color in multiple ways, making it accessible and understandable to a wider age range.

If I had one criticism of the book, it would be the text. Some of the rhythmical patterns of the book seem off a bit—and the movement from the soft lyrical “we are” statements to the harsh, almost-military sound of the chorus is a bit jarring. But despite that, there’s a lot to love and appreciate. Brown Girls Rule encourages girls of color to be all they can be and step into places of power and advocacy. It’s a beautiful book.