What are you?
That question used to trigger anger, frustration, and sadness, especially when people responded in disbelief because my answer didn’t fit the stereotypes they’d accepted as truth. My insecurities deepened, causing me to hate my own light-but-not-white reflection.
Years later, when I became a mom of two black sons, I didn’t want them to suffer similar insecurities. I didn’t want them to think their worth as people could be determined by the opinions, expectations, or biases of others.
I wanted my sons to love God, to love the way God created them, and to love all the people God created.
But my desires and best-intentions couldn’t protect them the ignorance and hate so prevalent in our fallen world.
One day, during a trip to an ice cream shop, an adult male glared at my five-year-old son and said, “What are you?”
The sting of his words ripped the scar off the wound on my heart that I thought had healed.
Asking God to help me forgive, I sought ways to help my sons rejoice in their uniqueness and God’s creativity in designing all of His people. While studying my Bible, I began learning how to embrace my identity in Christ.
The more I learned about God’s love for me, the more I began to accept I worth loving and the more I began to love others.
I wrote Different Like Me in 2001, shortly after receiving Jesus as my Lord and Savior.
Originally, I had planned to use the poem to teach my sons how to celebrate our differences and our sameness as God’s beautifully diverse and purposefully connected people. But the Lord kept nudging me to share the story with others.
God didn’t roll out His plans at the pace I’d expected.
In 2016, my agent and an editor read Different Like Me, loved it, but couldn’t move forward with publication.
The following year, I signed a contract for my first full-length devotional, Waiting for God: Trusting Daily in God’s Plan and Pace.
I set Different Like Me aside as I worked on the other projects the Lord had entrusted to me.
In 2018, shortly after submitting Waiting for God to my editor at Our Daily Bread Publishing, my agent and the editor who had loved Different Like Me in 2016 requested a complete proposal for the manuscript.
I scrambled to prepare my first children’s picture book proposal with the help of my friend and prolific children’s book author, Crystal Bowman. I submitted the proposal to several editors before prayerfully deciding to accept a contract from Our Daily Bread Publishing.
Then, I began praying for an illustrator who would avoid stereotypes and include children with special needs as heroes, not sideline characters.
Bonnie Lui (pronounced Louie) did a fabulous job. She weaved her own beautiful story into the gorgeous illustrations that breathe life into the whimsical rhyming text I’d written almost two decades earlier.
Bonnie even created a character inspired by my service dog, Callie, a Border Collie/Hound mix we rescued in 2018 from a kill-shelter and trained through Tails for Life after God moved us from California to Wisconsin.
Earlier this year, as I prepared for the August 2020 release of Different Like Me, tragedy divided our world.
I truly believe God delayed my path to publication so that He could prepare hearts to receive the message of love, unity, peace, and hope that He has brought to life through each page of Different Like Me.
This week, Celebrate Lit is going to be hosting an exciting blog tour with a mega giveaway!
The Different Like Me Celebrate Lit Blog Tour Mega Giveaway includes: a signed copy of Different Like Me with a bookmark and sticker, an exclusive coloring page signed by the illustrator, Bonnie Lui, a Different Like Me full-color 8 ½ x 11 poster, one box of Crayola’s Colors of the Word crayons (24-pack), a 4-pack of crayons, a Different Like Me fish shaped key chain, a fish-out-of-water finger puppet and lollipop, Swedish Fish, a colorful fish book bag, a custom made Different Like Me cup, and a $25.00 Amazon gift card to encourage readers to build up their collection children’s picture books that celebrate diversity.
Be sure to comment on the blog stops (posted below) for nine extra entries into the giveaway!
Inklings and notions, September 14
Debbie’s Dusty Deliberations, September 15
Texas Book-aholic, September 16
Library Lady’s Kid Lit, September 17
Splashes of Joy, September 18
deb’s Book Review, September 18
For Him and My Family, September 19
A Reader’s Brain, September 20
Simple Harvest Reads, September 21 (Guest Review from Joni Truex)
Mary Hake, September 21
Book Love, September 22 (Guest Review from Donna Cline)
Ashley’s Bookshelf, September 23
Because I said so — and other adventures in Parenting, September 24
Artistic Nobody, September 25
Book Bites, Bee Stings, & Butterfly Kisses, September 25
Locks, Hooks and Books, September 26
Sara Jane Jacobs, September 27
I’m looking forward to interacting with you in the comment sections of each blog post!