Denise Lopes grew up in Toronto, Canada in a fairly diverse part of the city. However, as a child, she hardly ever saw examples of what she looked like in the books that she read. As a mother of two, she wanted to make sure that her grandchildren, and ALL children saw others that had their skin color and were beautiful and smart, in the books that they read. She has won awards for her work in equity, diversity and inclusion and is using that experience to share her dreams of representation with children around the world.
Being a mermaid isn’t always easy. Join our mermaid friends as they not only show a love of diversity, but give examples of mermaid life lessons that will help us all through those hard days. Examples of acceptance, kindness and believing in yourself are just a few things that our mermaids bring to life.
PWH: What inspired you to start writing?
DL: have always loved to write in some capacity but privately. I actually began working on my biography that talks about my cancer journey a few years ago. However, as far as the children’s book goes, I know that this goes back to my equity, diversity and inclusion work that I do. I am on a few committees at the University of Toronto Scarborough that support this type of work, as well as our first anti-Black racism taskforce. It breaks my heart every time I see a video or read another story of a little Black girl who hates her hair or her complexion and is brought to tears when they have to talk about it. It’s unacceptable that our babies feel this way and we have to begin the work much younger. It involves self-affirmations, parents and loved ones talking about these topics and celebrating them, and exposure to positive images of little Black girls in the books that they read. Once I began working on the book, I started thinking that if little Black girls don’t see themselves in the books that they read, girls from other marginalized communities have even LESS of an opportunity to see themselves. That’s when I decided to expand the diversity in this book even further.
PWH: If you had to choose four words to describe your writing style, what would they be?
DL: Inclusive, empowering, love and community
PWH: What message do you want readers to gain, while reading your work?
DL: When readers engage in my work, I want them to see love of my community. I want them to see the “normalization” of racialized children. I want them to see the beauty that I see when I look at these little Black girls, these little Indigenous girls, these little Hispanic girls, etc. I want readers to embrace self-love and love of all communities.
PWH: What in your opinion is the most important element of good writing?
DL: I think the most important element of good writing is passion. I always say that I am not for everyone and everyone is not for me. However, when I believe in something, I am like a dog with a bone! I am passionate, outspoken and determined to share that something with the world. I am passionate about ALL children being able to see themselves in the pages of the books that they read, so I will shout it from the rooftops.
PWH: What is next for you as a writer?
DL: I already have 2 additional children’s books that I am planning to release in 2021 based on my 2 children. Currently I am working on revising a children’s book that my mother hand wrote over 40 years ago! I am modernizing it a little bit and hope to surprise her by letting her see HER name in print soon.
Take a moment and purchase Denise’s book “A kid’s guide to being a mermaid”