Q: What inspired you to write Hair Story, and how did you create your characters Preciosa and Rudine?
A: There are several strands to my inspiration to write Hair Story. I envisioned the story to be a braid intertwining self-love, female friendship, community, cultural icons, and ancestry.
As the two friends, Rudine and Preciosa, grow and blossom from babies to young children, I imagined their relationship with their hair evolving. In the beginning, both girls are celebrated by their grandmothers. Preciosa and Rudine are perfection. As their hair grows, so does the complexity of the story.
Preciosa’s grandmother uses the fraught term “pelo malo” to describe Preciosa’s thick coarse hair. Rudine learns that maintaining smooth straight hair is a long and taxing process. But when they play with their hair on their own terms, they revel in their natural beauty and ancestral roots.
Then they witness their mothers doing each other’s hair and begin to understand the healing and magic of self-care rituals. The hair story evolves as the girls comes to enlightenment about how complex and how beautiful it is to be a person-of-color.
Q: You also have another new picture book, Your Mama, and the Kirkus Review of the book calls it “a lyrical, spirited picture book that takes the old ‘yo’ mama’ joke and cracks, snaps, and pops it into an ode to motherhood.” What do you think of that description?
A: I love it! I’m all about smashing the patriarchy and putting all those fierce mamas out there on a pedestal. I want Latinx mamas, BIPOC mamas, single mamas, and all mamas to feel seen and revered.
When they turn each page, I want them to turn the pages of their own memories and cherish all that they do for their children, their godchildren, their nieces, and nephews, and all that they are.
I hope mamas revisit memories of the beloved women who have influenced and inspired them in their own lives.
All mamas and in particular, marginalized mamas, need to deal with our generational trauma, but we also need to celebrate generational resilience and joy.
Q: What do you think the illustrations, by Keisha Morris and Jacqueline Alcántara respectively, add to the books?
A: In Hair Story, Keisha Morris’s bright collage work bursts with joy and exultation. In one of my favorite illustrations, Keisha depicts the moon smiling in celebration as Baby Rudine’s grandmothers hold and bless their beloved grandchild.
In Your Mama, Jacqueline Alcántara is masterful at creating a layered visual narrative portraying the mama as a unique complex individual while sending a universal shout out to every mom. I love the adoration in the daughter’s eyes as she and her mama navigate life with fun and laughter.
Q: What do you hope kids take away from the stories?
A: In Hair Story, I hope parents, caregivers, and their Littles will share baby pics and hair stories. I hope they look in the mirror and celebrate what features they love about themselves and each other.
So many mamas have said they took a deep breath after reading Your Mama. I hope mamas and caregivers give themselves a hug and time for self-care. So many Littles find Your Mama funny–especially the page with the couches as trampolines. I hope mamas and their Littles laugh, share memories, and tell each other how much they love each other.
Q: What are you working on now?
A: At the moment, I am working on my first middle grade novel-in-verse and a picture biography about three pioneer sisters from the Bronx!
Q: Anything else we should know?
A: You can pick up copies of my books wherever books are sold, but my one of my favorite recommendations is Las Musas Bookshop: https://bookshop.org/books?keywords=nonieqa+ramos.
If readers are looking for books for young adults, I have written The Disturbed Girl’s Dictionary and The Truth Is. Here’s my website for more information on these books, school visits, and more! www.nonieqaramos.com.
--Interview with Deborah Kalb. Here's a previous Q&A with NoNieqa Ramos.