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Asheville Therapist's First Book Aims To Diversify Children's Bookshelves

Cass Herrington
BPR News

A local therapist is releasing her first children’s book this weekend. Omileye Achikeobi-Lewis is a trauma-focused counselor and artist. The book, “My Heart Flies Open,” is based on a series of 20 paintings of a Black girl doing yoga. 

Achikeobi-Lewis says the character, inspired by her daughter, is intended to be an affirmation, particularly for children of color. 

Omileye Achikeobi-Lewis is a therapist, author and illustrator in Asheville.

“All indigenous cultures tell us the true nature of all people is actually goodness, love and compassion. I will always believe in this,” Achikeobi-Lewis said. "When I meditate, when I do yoga, when I do these practices that I am sharing with the children, we feel this peace, we feel the call of who we truly are.”

Even though she’s a professional in the field of anxiety-management, Achikeobi-Lewis admits she’s feeling anxious about the book release. 

“They ghettoize books written by authors of color,” Achikeobi-Lewis said. “I went into a bookshop, and the books written by Black authors were all in the ‘Black’ section. Which is okay, but they weren’t anywhere else, and I knew that a lot of people won’t go to those sections because they don’t think those books are for them.”

Books about Black characters make up about 12 percent of the share of children’s literature, according to the latest report by the Cooperative Children’s Book Center. Even fewer children’s books are written by Black authors -- less than one percent. 

Achikeobi-Lewis says “My Heart Flies Open” is intended for children of all racial identities to know their worth and to broaden the representation of Black kids in children’s literature. 

The book launch and discussion is Sept. 12 at 5pm. Registration and details can be found here

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