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BEAUTY WOKE by NoNieqa Ramos Kirkus Star


by NoNieqa Ramos ; illustrated by Paola Escobar

Pub Date: Feb. 15th, 2022
ISBN: 978-0-358-00841-5
Publisher: Versify/HarperCollins

What is beauty? Who is Beauty? A puzzled young Boricua wants to know.

Is it true what the media says? Are her people “DANGEROUS / DIRTY / LAZY”? What about the blood of her African ancestors that runs through her veins and that Abuela describes as “onyx”? Doesn’t the pride of her Taíno heritage mean anything? Beauty sees her people marching proudly in parades. She hears Abuela teaching her the truth of her identity, but the reality of the outside world weighs her down, and she runs. Embarrassed, she doubts her worth and wonders why she can’t be like everyone else, even rejecting her gold hoops and her durags adorned with the Puerto Rican flag: “¡QUÉ EMBARAZOSO!” Her family knows that Beauty is lost and that her “eyes were open, / but she was sleepwalkin’.” Her Mami rallies the family for an emergency schooling session. Under the powerful hands of la bisabuela, vecinos, and familia, “Beauty was WOKE.” Ramos’ poetic ode to identity and validation winds itself through evocative imagery in both English and Spanish, connecting the strength of community with self-acceptance. From one-word stanzas echoing with a mother’s heartbeat to flowing anthems of pride, each page exudes energy and passion. Escobar’s powerful panorama of diversity is a blazing exclamation point to Beauty’s triumphant journey.

This bold manifesto of cultural awareness reaches out to awaken the sleepwalkers among us.

(Picture book. 6-10)