SALT LAKE CITY (ABC4) – When Bryson Alejandro became a new parent, he tried many times and couldn’t find children’s books with various characters and stories. He and his colleagues decided to write their own.
Titled “Embrace Who We Are,” the book created by Alejandro, Rachel Ostler and Victoria-Riza is mostly made up of something that is relatively rare in children’s books: human portraits. The photographs and illustrations are designed to “introduce babies and children to faces and people they might not normally see,” says Alejandro. According to Alejandro, this diversity already exists around us; “Embrace Who We Are” is designed for the simple purpose of showcasing it.
Alejandro referred to the intense racial reckoning of the summer of 2020 in the United States as something that made him want to find “something I could do to bring about positive change” in the world and “break down barriers. and build bridges” between the members of his community. Alejandro and his wife have a background in family studies and human development, which informed his simple hypothesis when creating this book. Alejandro believes that if babies and young children simply see visual representations of people different from them, they will be better equipped to overcome the biases and internal prejudices they will encounter growing up.
When asked if he thinks his book is too political for children, Alejandro says he doesn’t see it that way, but he understands how some people might. Born and raised in Utah and identified as multiracial, Alejandro understands how Utahns can be somewhat resistant to portrayals of people outside of what is considered normal. He hopes this book will show that even the most dissimilar people “have more similarities” than differences and help people empathize with each other.
Alejandro and the ‘Embrace Who You Are’ team are well aware of the popular discussions about what should and should not be taught to younger children. He referenced the higher number of banned books in the United States as well as Senator Ted Cruz’s use of a children’s book about race during Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson’s approval hearing. “Embrace Who You Are” is designed, according to Alejandro, to show parents and children that difficult conversations about diversity and inclusion are easier when you have more contact with people who are different from you.
The project is deeply personal for Alejandro and his team, made up of several new parents. “I feel like since 2016 I’ve started to really understand who I am as a person, what my identity is as a multiracial individual, and where I fit in the world, my community, and my family. .” These feelings were amplified for Alejandro when he started having children of his own.
Rather than taking a political stance, the Embrace Who You Are team hopes their book will help people do exactly what it says in the title; they want it to help people love their own identity and the diverse identities of the people around them in the world. They believe that children who simply look at portraits of people different from themselves will help with this.
The book is something of a side project for Bryson Alejandro, who works full-time in local cinema and plays in Utah. The book is still in the fundraising stage, and fans of the project can still donate to the cause.