Dear Charlie,

Tomorrow, January 27, is Multicultural Children’s Book Day. I thought I’d write you this letter today even though this has been on my mind for several months now. It goes along with my intention to write more.

Last November, for Halloween, you were dressed as Harry Potter. In a white shirt, your Papa’s work tie, black pants, hooded cape, and glasses, you went down the street, waving  your magic stick around, and gathered an enormous bag of candies.

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Those magic moments almost didn’t happen. Months before Halloween, you had been obsessed with Harry Potter. You went to bed wondering about Dumbledore and Voldemort; woke up with questions about Professor Snape and Hagrid. You even started to speak in a believable English accent.

Then suddenly, a week or so before Halloween, you announced you weren’t going to be Harry Potter anymore.

“Why?” your Papa asked. He had just ordered the Harry Potter costume after much agonizing over which hood looked just right.

“Well,” you said, “I’m not a good Harry Potter.” You said it as if it was the most obvious thing in the world.

“What do you mean?” I probed, troubled.

“You know why,” you said.

I insisted I didn’t.

“It’s just that I don’t look like him.”

“What do you mean?” I asked again.

“I mean… I don’t look like him… ” Then, as if you sensed you had somehow stepped on some dangerous ground, you lost your confidence and started flailing around for the right words. “I mean…my skin is brown… and he’s gray.”

I was crushed to hear that.

After that conversation, however, you went back to being obsessed with Harry Potter and it was almost as if the conversation never happened. You went on to enjoy your Halloween.

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(You with your various Halloween art projects.)

I, however, didn’t really move on. Here I am, still thinking about it, still wondering if I’ve said the right response, still asking myself: How do I raise kids who feel they belong, believe they can be whoever they want to be, regardless of their skin color? How do I combat that insidious message that gets across, that only kids of a certain color (and gender) could be the protagonist?

I don’t know the answers. But these I swear:

I will write about you and kids like you, brown skinned kids born to Filipinos like me, and you will be the heroes and the heroines of my stories.

When you read my stories, you will find yourselves not as the sidekick devoid of life outside of the protagonist’s, or the one dimensional character that only provides comic relief, but the ones whose stories are being told. You will not be the odd one out, the proverbial “Other”. You will not be the object of curiosity, the “exotic” one. Your language will not be the gibberish that some alien hostile tribe speaks. You will have super powers; you will solve mysteries; you will open worm holes and time travel; you will destroy and/or save worlds; you will fall in love and your heart will be broken; you will live a mundane life. You will exist as you are, with your flaws and strengths, alternately and randomly cursed and blessed by the universe.

Because who else will write stories celebrating you?

And on that note: I offer you and Jack (who wanted to be and was Iron Baby for Halloween, by the way) my, our, first book which will come out in May this year. Here is the journey towards its publication: MamaMama.net.

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 (Iron Baby, aka Iron Jack)

Thank you for the inspiration and for giving my life an extra layer of meaning.

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