Alice Faye Duncan & Charnelle Pinkney Barlow
Another book in preparation for the beginning of the school year is this beautiful and tender book about fictive kin, Just Like a Mama. Similar to chosen family, fictive kin is a particularly important element to Black history, harkening back to enslavement and the forcible separation of families by enslavers. It celebrates the connections we make with individuals that aren’t biologically related to us, but are family. As a queer person, chosen family is a huge part of my life as well.
In our story, a young girl named Carol lives with Mama Rose, far away from her parents. Mama Rose does all of the things parents and other caregivers do, and also validates Carol when she feels sad about not having her parent close by. The book is a celebration of their relationship, and how Mama Rose loves Carol just like a mama.
Ensuring that all types of family structures are represented AND celebrated in the classroom is so important. Especially at the beginning of the year to set the tone and the foundation of the culture for your classroom. The illustrations are bright and beautiful, holding space for both the positives and sadness that Carol feels. Like all of us, we’re so much more multifaceted than a first glance or introduction allows for. But having these explicit messages that someone living with a caregiver that aren’t biological parents is validation, even if it isn’t specifically discussed or pointed out by that student.
This book was kindly sent by Simon & Schuster, but all opinions are my own!
Alice Faye Duncan is an award-winning writer, teacher, and school librarian. She is also a partner in the Sowing Circle, an organization of Black creatives working to bring books to children in schools, hospitals, and homes. Her picture books cover history and family, friendships and motherhood, all with a rich attention to detail and a generosity of spirit. That generous spirit is on full display in this interview, and I am grateful to Duncan for her words, her time, and her thoughtful responses.
This blurb was from this article!
From her website: “My name is Charnelle Pinkney Barlow and I am the lovely face behind Call Me Chartreuse. Originally from Poughkeepsie, Ny, I am an illustrator and surface designer that loves drawing as much as I love tea…and that’s a whole lot of love!
Call Me Chartreuse was began as an idea in 2013, as playful doodles evolved into unique drawings. These hand drawn whimsical patterns and illustrations are inspired by everyday objects, animals, and food.
I leave it to my artwork to tell my stories and make others smile. Whatever I’m drawing is usually a dead giveaway as to what I’m currently obsessed with (did someone say donuts??).
The surface designs I create are made to delight your inner child. Anyone looking for something colorful, whimsical, and sometimes quirky has come to the right place. “