Saluting The Skin I’m In: 20 Years of Making a Difference

When I think about transformative Black children’s literature, The Skin I’m In (Jump at the Sun/Hyperion) is always on the list. This Coretta Scott King Award-winning debut novel by Sharon G. Flake was published 20 years ago and continues to make a difference in the lives of people around the world.

Exploring themes like colorism, bullying, self esteem and discovery, the unforgettable story focuses on the journey of ebony-skinned seventh grader Maleeka Madison whose life changes through the inspiration of  a new teacher. Educators and librarians say it’s a favorite of kids who hold it close to their hearts and pass along the word to friends. Chicago singer, poet and model Ifeanyi Elswith wrote a song as a tribute to Flake. You can see the video here. Here’s an excerpt of what she writes in the YouTube description: “Sharon is a dedication to Sharon G. Flake and her novel, ‘The Skin I’m In‘. It’s a response to the story’s theme of embracing who you are and the skin you wear, no matter how people perceive you.” The popularity and staying power of the novel show how much it means. 

The new 20th anniversary edition, released today, features a foreword and introduction by Jason Reynolds who points out that before powerful movements Black Girls Rock and Black Girl Magic, The Skin I’m In was there. You can buy a copy here.

Join Sharon G. Flake in celebrating the release of the 20th anniversary edition. Post your photos, memories, videos and shout outs saluting The Skin I’m In today on FaceBook, Twitter and Instagram. Wish Maleeka and Sharon a happy anniversary and tell how the book has changed you or young people you know. Here are the hashtags – #theskinimin #theskiniminbook #sharongflake

Live in Pittsburgh? Celebrate with Sharon in person 2 p.m. Saturday, October 20 at Barnes & Nobles, Waterworks Mall, 926 Freeport Rd. Buy a copy of the new book, get it signed and meet the woman whose work continues to inspire.

Happy Book Birthday, Sis Sharon! Thank you.

13 thoughts on “Saluting The Skin I’m In: 20 Years of Making a Difference

  1. After reading this short article, it makes me really interested in reading this book because it seems like it will hit home for me. Growing up in school, I never did love the skin that I was in because I went to a mostly all white school so the kids there didn’t look like me or I didn’t look like them. So often times, I got bullied for not looking like the other kids and having a different skin color. As I got older, I started to not like the fact that my skin was brown. But now that I’m older, I absolutely love the skin that I’m in because it’s beautiful on me and I’m starting to embracing my skin.

    1. I went to a predominately white school as well. I use to question my skin color. But the older I got, I just love my skin color. My skin color is beautiful.

  2. This book is a classic! I remember reading this when I was in middle school, I had my nose stuck in the book from the time I began reading the first page until the very last page. “The Skin I’m In” is the perfect book for our youth to gain self confidence as well as self assurance. Although this book embraces “dark” skin, children of all colors can gain something from this. The theme of embracing who you are and the skin you wear, no matter how people perceive you is exactly what we need to incorporate in our classrooms. Often times society has a way of making people feel insecure or uncertain about their physical appearance, its time we help our youth embrace themselves and one another.

  3. I’m shocked that this is a novel that was published over 20 years ago, and I had never come across it! This will be my next book to pick up and read. I’m immediately connected to the title and book cover before even reading the synopsis itself as I’ve had first hand dealings regarding some of the plots within this book. Growing up, I’ve always known that many family members and friends were not comfortable in their ebony skin color – they assumed that they’d look better if they had fairer skin tones. This led many of them to taking measures into their own hands with buying and using various skin lighting creams. This is something that bothered me, which made me voice my concern along with a big WHY. I tell them that they should accept their skin tones just the way it is and to understand that it the ebony tone is not only beautiful but powerful! Most of the time, my words do not move them, but there has been an occasion where I was successful with helping a friend to understand the importance of loving ones skin and this accomplishment was all the worthwhile.

  4. I have not read this book but reading about what the story focuses on makes me want to. Teachers are definitely supposed to be inspiring towards their students. It is important that teacher\’s encourage young minds to embrace who they are regardless of the thoughts of others!

  5. I remember reading this book when I was in middle school. During this time I was not the most confident about who I was. I was attending a predominately white school and the standards of beauty that was represented was nothing like what I looked like. Though I am not as dark in complexion the book spoke to me in accepting who I was a s a person in a world that says that black girls are not in . I am grateful to see that this content has been a huge impact to this day for other little girls.

  6. The Skin I’m in one of my favorite childhood books encourage young people to be themselves regardless of what others thought. This book taught children to empower themselves, love themselves, and that it was okay being unique. Students face adversity daily whether its their race, culture, religious beliefs this book taught students to love and embrace the skin they’re in. Amazing book and congratulations on twenty years!!!

  7. Happy twenty year anniversary to the book Skin I’m In. This book taught me the importance of loving oneself and being unique. This book taught students to be empowered by being different and love yourself regardless of what people say or feel about you. Students face adversity daily with race, religion, cultural differences and much more. This book taught us to love ourselves and love the skin we’re in. Happy anniversary!!!

  8. If I were to tell my younger self one thing it would be to recommend this book. Growing up, most of the celebrities I wanted to emulate were white, with features that didn’t match mine. No matter how I did my makeup, or did I never felt that I looked “white enough.” I developed a negative and toxic relationship with my Vietnamese heritage that pushed me away from that half of my identity. Looking back I am in shocked of how ashamed of who I used to be. Now I am proud to be Asian.

  9. I would love to read this book. I think im going to order the book off of Amazon.
    I went to a predominately white school. Whites was more respected than blacks. People would look at whites and automatically think they are smarter than blacks. They would get called to do things first. Like help the teachers. Say a speech at events. I use ask my mom why is it that the whites get called first for everything. Why cant I be white. She would explain that the world is jacked up like that and I need to start loving and appreciating the skin im in. From that day moving forward, my skin mattered and I love it.

  10. This seems like a book, I need to read, and wish I had come across it when I was in my youth. Still in all, I think it would be great to read this book now, and will look for it soon. The article makes me believe this is a book that should be in the classroom, and will help teachers give insight into the areas of bullying, self-love, and cultural issues.

  11. This is a book that I would love to read and enjoy. The message that this book focus on is something that would inspire everyone today not only kids. It teaches you the importance of loving yourself and what makes you stand out from others. This book seems like it is very empowering and a book that I am looking forward to find and read! As a future teacher my goal is to inspire young teens to uplift and empower them and this is a book that i would love to reference in the future.

  12. I absolutely loved this book. I remember reading this book as a little girl and what difference it made in my world after I read it. I always felt like I was too dark and that being a dark skinned female made me ugly. Reading this book made me embrace who I was and loved the skin that I was in. It made me understand that being dark skinned was beautiful and that we all come in different shapes and sizes and that no matter what I need to love who I am.

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