Barine Ngbor’s children’s book emerged in the time of COVID

 

Barine Ngbor

While the isolation engendered by the covid pandemic was mostly a drag on people’s life, the enforced inactivity also gave the mind much to ponder.

During the pandemic, “I started noticing things that probably were there, but I never took it into consideration or thought too much about it,” said 22-year-old Barine Ngbor, a Nigerian-born student at Mount Allison University, New Brunswick.

“I would see the microaggressions and racism people of colour face in Canada. I feel like during the pandemic that skyrocketed, or it was always there, but like the pandemic shoved in our face.” Barine Ngbor started to see the world from a different point of view.

She had writing a children’s book in 2018 while she was completing her undergraduate degree. But the isolation and the moments of clarity that followed put the completion of the book on the front burner.

“I knew I was Black, but coming here I registered … that’s now part of my identity. In Nigeria. It wasn’t. I was Igbo and Ogoni. I was other things first, like I was a friend, a daughter, a student before that part of my identity,” she said.

“It was just weird people saying things like, ‘Well I don’t see colour, I don’t see colour.’ But I do see colour, I see the difference between all of us. And I think that’s the beauty of the world.”

That experience inspired the title of her book, I See Colour: The Amazing Life of Bolu Davis — a children’s book that touches on humanity’s differences.

The main character, Bolu Davis, is an eight-year-old Nigerian-Canadian girl who has friends and classmates with different life experiences, cultural backgrounds and appearances.

The book has characters with albinism and vitiligo, which Ngbor used to tell readers that there’s no one way to be Black.

With the help of a university grant, Ngbor was able to hire an illustrator for the book — Erica Metta, a friend of Ngbor’s from secondary school.

After that, Mount Allison’s experiential learning office suggested Ngbor connect with a small publishing house in Fredericton, Monster House Publishing.

Since being published, she held a launch event at Mount Allison, has done readings at the Moncton and Fredericton public libraries, and has even seen her book on display walking by a bookstore in Sackville.

“I’m very grateful for my parents, like they support me in everything I do.… But from where I come from … you have to be an engineer, a doctor, a lawyer, and the main important thing for them was [if I am] able to stand on my own feet,” said Ngbor.

“After publishing this book, there was an additional sort of respect, I guess, like, ‘Oh, wow, she’s actually serious about this.’ And it’s now, ‘Let’s see how far this will take you.”