FRANKLIN, NJ – Being different isn’t a bad thing and 12-year-old Franklin resident Sarai Styles has penned a book to help other young girls answer some very important questions. Mommy, why am I different?, which Sarai collaborated with her mother Judy John-Styles to write, was published Nov. 24 and is available for purchase on Amazon.com.
"This book will help other girls because they may feel they are different or aren’t pretty but they are and through my book, when they read it, it will help them realize they are beautiful just the way they are," said Sarai, a seventh grader at Franklin Middle School's Sampson G. Smith Campus.
The idea for the book, said John-Styles, stemmed from conversations she and Sarai had one day last spring. "We're home, and we are spending a lot of time together and learning a lot about each other," John-Styles said. "She began expressing some concerns, and things she had in her mind, that made her notice that she is different."
From the questions Sarai asked, John-Styles said she, as a parent, tried to answer in the best way she knew how while also providing affirmations to help her daughter realize that 'different' isn’t 'bad' and that being different is more than just 'okay.'
The mother and daughter team began putting Sarai's questions – and John-Styles' answers – in writing and set out to write and self-publish Mommy, why am I different? (https://amzn.to/3qhHiFF) to help other young girls. The book is designed to help other young girls understand what sets them apart, including hair, skin, lips, appearance/self-esteem, identity and others. The paperback version of the book also features a letter from Sarai and includes journal entry pages to provide other girls the opportunity to 'write their own story.'
"Before, when I had those questions and I didn’t ask them, when I would look at myself in the mirror, I didn’t think that I was beautiful," said Sarai. "Now, I look at myself and I know that I am different, but I am beautiful, too. I know it is okay to be different and that I am beautiful and perfect just the way I am because my mom gave me encouragement and empowered me and lifted me up."
"We felt this could really be great for other girls and I thought maybe Sarai isn’t the only one asking these questions," said John-Styles, adding, "Yes, Sarai is a black girl, but any girl can benefit from this. No matter what skin color, or what your hair texture is, you are beautiful. That is the moral of the story. That is the whole point."
This is the second self-published book the Styles family has released this year; in August John-Styles, a teacher, published Mommy, why can't I go to school? (https://amzn.to/3mgDPVm), which follows a parent and child engaging in an open conversation about how to navigate the sudden change in routine that the global pandemic has caused. Mommy, why can't I go to school? also answers questions about what a pandemic is, how to keep safe and clean at home and in the community, and how to adapt to learning at home.
"It is a positive, encouraging book to help students, parents, and children cope during the pandemic," said John-Styles.
In the coming weeks, Sarai plans to release a coloring book to correspond with 'Mommy, why am I different?' and has launched a Christmas giveaway in which she will gift copies of her book and coloring book, along with some of her 'favorite things,' to 10 of her closest friends and family. Her goal is to expand the effort in February and to gift 100 girls around the country during Black History Month.
Additionally, Sarai is currently working on another book, 'Daddy, you're my hero,' which talks about the relationship with her father, Shamar Styles, and hopes to also publish a book on learning the alphabet in English and French, which she completed for a class assignment last month.
"I never thought I would be a published author at 12 years old," Sarai, who is involved in dance and track at school and hopes to be a teacher – and an interior designer – when she is older.