Here’s why Blue Ivy Carter narrating ‘Hair Love’ matters for children’s literature
The short film 'Hair Love' is available to watch on YouTube. (Screenshot via YouTube)
Filmmaker Matthew A. Cherry recently released an audiobook for his award-winning 2019 short film Hair Love, which won the Academy Award for best animated short film, along with Outstanding Independent Short at the Black Reel Awards.
Hair Love is a heartwarming and endearing story of a Black father trying to do his daughter’s natural hair for the first time before they both go visit her mom. The film also goes against the absent father stereotype.
Cherry’s announcement of the audiobook came in the form of a simple tweet. There were no immediate words, just a link to the audiobook with its bright cover, followed by another tweet listing places the book can be purchased. And one of the most standout parts was the announcement that the book was narrated by Beyoncé’s daughter, Blue Ivy Carter.
This mic drop of an announcement came as a pleasant surprise. As someone who watched the Academy Awards the night Cherry and Karen Rupert Toliver, the film’s producer, gave an acceptance speech detailing the motives behind this film, seeing it expanding into not only an HBO Max series but an audiobook as well felt like great news.
“Hair Love was done because we wanted to see more representation in animation. We wanted to normalize Black hair,” Cherry said during the speech.
In a time when employers feel comfortable asking a woman to cut off her locs before coming into work and there is still bias against natural hair, any kind of positive representation in the media is beneficial in changing negative stereotypes associated with it — especially in the impressionable minds of children.
Additionally, Blue Ivy, who’s been a public figure since birth, will serve as representation for Black kids around the world when she narrates the novel as the story’s protagonist. Black children will see themselves as the main character — not a token.
Blue Ivy’s involvement holds significant weight since her hair has been a topic of public discussion for years, including when someone made a Change.org petition about it when she was 2 years old and later said it was a joke. In a way, her narrating this book fights against those harmful narratives spread about her at such a young age.
This isn’t just a win for Black representation or Blue Ivy, either — it’s a victory for all the minority narratives in the children’s literature genre as well. If Cherry’s audiobook is successful, this could send a message to other publishing houses that there is an audience for more diverse children’s literature, allowing more stories to be told.
Outside of race, children of different abilities and other backgrounds’ narratives make up small percentages of mainstream children’s literature. Out of the total books received by the University of Wisconsin-Madison’s Cooperative Children’s Book Center, 41.8 percent of them had at least one white main character, 3.4 percent at least one disabled character, and 0.05 percent at least one Pacific Islander character, among other main character statistics. These numbers alone show there’s still work to be done in the industry, and this book could help change that.
Hair Love is a step in the right direction toward more diverse stories being told in media — Blue Ivy Carter voicing this story is just the icing on the cake.