Miami Beach dance instructor Desiree Parkman is the author of Dancing with Naima, a book that aims to encourage girls of color to pursue arts education and extracurricular activities by featuring inclusive characters and subject matters. Parkman spoke with INDULGE for a Q&A about the book and her inspiration for it.
Who is Naima?
“Naima is me as a little girl, a revisit to the joy and wonder I felt when I first stepped into a dance studio. I was inspired by my journey into to dance, as well as the many young girls that begin dance every year. I knew there was a lack of representation featuring girls of color in books, and I wanted to be a part of changing that. I wanted those little girls to have something special that speaks to them.”
What was the process like of getting this book published?
“It all happened pretty naturally. It started with a few conversations with a close friend about the idea. I started writing it maybe three years ago, when I was living in Texas. Life took over, and I put it on the back burner for about a year as I had not found the right illustrator. Once I was settled here in Florida, I picked it up again, and the universe provided me the perfect illustrator in Jasmine Cole, who was a friend I met while visiting my parents in Mississippi. I researched about self-publishing and decided to go that route. I finally published last November under Amazon’s CreateSpace.”
How does your book speak to children and to parents?
“I wanted to keep this in the spirit and voice of the child: her excitement, her discovery into the world of ballet. I also wanted to show the parent as being supportive and ready to see how the journey unfolds. I wanted this to be a real introduction and take them inside a dance class from beginning to end. And for parents it works as a tremendous educational guide as it has beautiful lessons built in that reinforce working hard, eating healthy, being on time and being prepared. Also comes with a glossary of ballet terms.”
Why is it important that young girls of color see images of characters who look like they do as ballet dancers?
“It is crucial for girls of color to see images of themselves doing great things, period. And of course that extends itself to ballet. There have always been brown and black ballerinas around, but we did not know much about them unless we were really immersed in the ballet world. With the breakthrough that is Misty Copeland, and others before her, as well as organizations like Brown Girls Do Ballet, we see brown images in ballet more often. I hope it becomes the norm, not just a trend, and results in true inclusion into the art form.”
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