Author’s Spotlight: Furqan’s First Flat Top’s Robert

Name: Robert Liu-Trujillo Book: Furqan’s First Flat Top

What is your ethnicity? I’m a 3rd generation mixed kid (Black, Korean, Mexican, Apache)

Where are you from/ Where did you grow up? Was it a diverse community? Were you exposed to other cultures? I was born in Oakland and that is where I live currently. I’ve lived all over the Bay Area but Oakland is where I’ve lived the most. The community of Oakland, Berkeley, and other cities in the Bay have always been diverse. We have Mexicanos, Central Americans, South East Asians, Chinese, African American families from many different areas of the south and so forth. Since I was a child growing up with two very different parents and later on step parents I was exposed to a lot of diiferent foods, music, view points, and people. There was never a blanket singular culture for me, it was always a mix of very rich influences.

What led you to authoring a children’s book? What were you doing before you wrote your book? I became interested in children’s literature when I became a parent. I saw a lack of books about who my child is and who I am so I decided to make them and learn everything I could about them. That was 11 years ago and I’m still learning.

Before I wrote this book I illustrated “I am Sausal Creek” by author Melissa Reyes and before children’s books I was working on murals with a collective of muralists/artists called “Trust Your Struggle”; and doing freelance illustration.

What was the inspiration for writing your book? My son!! I started doing books because I wanted to make something he could relate to. He’s way past picture book reading, but he was the initial inspiration. Another inspiration was my own personal story.In many ways I am the boy getting the haircut and feeling nervous. The rest is a mix of kids I knew (I know a little boy named Furqan in real life) and some of the things I’ve experienced in life like music and culture.

Is there anything from you personal life that influenced the characters in the book? Ok, yes. Again, I pulled from my first experience going to the barbershop. I remember everyone in the shop was really nice and very much in their own world of conversations. And I definitely pulled from my love of skateboarding and watching kids skate at “Town Park” in west Oakland. I pulled from DJing because I love music. And I imagined Mexican indigenous food culture (tortillas) via abuelitas I’ve met.

Why do you think exposure to other cultures is important for young children? So I heard Zetta Elliott once say that its important to have windows and mirrors. Windows allow a kid to look outside of their comfort zone or realm of experience and see what someone else is like. And the mirrors are an important reflection for brown babies to see positive reflections of themselves. If we as parents, teachers, educators, and family members don’t expose our youth to a diversity of culture they may be ignorant to who other people are and treat them like they don’t exist, or grow up to make policies and laws that effect people they don’t even know or care to know. Its is very much teaching acceptance, compassion, respect, and curiosity.

Why is representation of all colors and backgrounds important for children to see? I think that seeing all colors and backgrounds help make this world more beautiful in many ways. If you have a diversity of view points solving a mathematical or scientific problem its going to yield a bunch of different solutions to a problem. We need that. Racism and white supremacy permeate every aspect of life all over the world. It very forcefully ignores, appropriates, or denies the image of people of all colors. That practice affects attitudes, policies, laws, governments, etc. If all people’s faces and stories are truly represented there can be no denial of their humanity or their story.

What do you want children to get from reading this book?

I want them to see themselves reflected no matter who they are. I want them to understand that black hair whether in a flat top or an afro is beautiful. I want them to understand some words in Spanish if they only speak english. I want them to understand some english if they only speak Spanish; I want to help facilitate conversations between those two worlds of language. And most importantly I want them to enjoy reading, because reading is a powerful tool for learning.

You can purchase the book by going to my website it is under “Books”. Follow the author at @Robert_Tres Facebook: Art of Robert Liu Trujillo