It can be risky, as a beautiful actress, to write a children’s book about a girl who doesn’t feel beautiful. But the vulnerability of young Sulwe, who “was born the color of midnight” and is determined to turn her skin lighter in order to fit in with her family and her schoolmates, presses a thumb into the bruising insecurities every single person struggles with. Even Academy Award-winning actresses like Nyong’o.
The emotional reach of Sulwe, which stretches from sadness to determination and joy, makes it both a child favorite and a modern classic. The Amazon Books editors chose Sulwe as the best book of 2019 for children ages 3 to 5.
We asked Lupita Nyong’o what she’d read and loved lately, and here’s what she told us.
Lupita Nyong’o's favorite reads of 2019
Americanah by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie
Americanah is a dramatic romance and a coming-of-age story, a class narrative and a comedy of manners. I first read it back in 2013 and I was struck with how exactly I related to Adichie’s depiction of the contemporary African immigrant experience. She captures it, expresses it, analyzes it and celebrates it. It’s a story begging to be experienced visually.
Not Quite Narwhal by Jessie Sima
I love the whimsy of both the story and the illustration. It's a story about being the odd one out, adoption and belonging, and it tells it so gently and sweetly.
The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald
The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald is the book I have read the most times. I love the decadent melancholy of it. I also love the delicate relationship between Gatsby and his unrequited love, Daisy. My favorite sentence from the book is when Daisy says, “What will we do with ourselves this afternoon and the day after that, and the next thirty years?” Now that is restlessness and privilege if I ever heard it!
Author photo by Nick Barose
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