I remember the exact moment when I decided that writing children’s books was what I wanted to do. I sat on the floor with my preschool class in Washington, DC waiting to go outside. As we waited, a little boy asked, “Can you tell us about Max the Fire Truck?” ‘Max the Fire Truck’ wasn’t a book that was in our classroom, instead, it was a story I made up months prior that the children still asked to hear. It was in that moment that I knew what was next for me.
After college, I spent 6 years of my career as a preschool teacher at School For Friends, a private Quaker school in DuPont Circle. I loved the school and its’ diversity, I loved the staff, and I loved the kids, but I was 6 months pregnant and would soon transition to being a Stay at Home Mom (SAHM). I had several ideas for my first book written down on colored construction paper from the classroom. However, it wasn’t until I found out I was having a son that I became more focused on what I wanted to write about.
I wasn’t just having a son, I was having a biracial boy in America. A little boy that would be seen as Black and one day grow up to be a Black man. As fast as the moments of joy came over me after my husband revealed the gender of our baby, the feelings of fear crept in. He wasn’t born yet, but I was already thinking of ways to protect him. I wanted the world to know that although his skin may look different, he is human, the same as his white peers. I wanted him to be treated the same—with love, respect, and compassion. Hence the birth of “Not So Different.”
Not So Different Book
“Not So Different” is a picture book that encourages children to embrace their differences and celebrate diversity. I wanted my son to be comfortable in his skin, and I wanted to start talking about this with him at an early age. I knew conversations would come up about the differences in our skin tone or hair texture. And I wanted a book that he could feel connected to. “Not So Different” provides clear imagery of the many ways we are different, while also recognizing our similarities. My hope is that this fun, rhythmic read will be used as a tool for parents to start conversations about differences, which will lead to more conversations about inclusion and diversity. My prayer is that the world my son grows up in will be better than the world we are currently living in.
“Not So Different” will officially launch on June 12, 2020, just 53 short years after Loving vs. Virginia, which is the Supreme Court case that legalized interracial marriages. The day known as “Loving Day” is a celebration for multicultural families.
“Not So Different” is currently available for presale at www.notsodifferentbook.com. In the coming weeks, it will also be available for purchase on Amazon. Follow @NotSoDifferentBook on Instagram and Facebook, and sign up for email updates on the book website. And be sure to check out the Cyana on the news!
About the Guest Author:
Breakout children’s book author, Cyana Riley was born and raised in Washington, DC. She graduated from George Washington University and spent the first 6 years of her career as a preschool teacher. It was during that time when she fell in love with writing children stories and also when she realized the underrepresentation of black and brown children of color in existing stories.