BCBA Spotlight: Sharon G. Flake

Sharon G. Flake’s 1998 debut novel, The Skin I’m In, made a huge impact on readers across the globe. It is a story about insecurities, specifically those of a middle school girl who is teased because of her dark skin. The story resonated both culturally and universally, however, because its core message is one of self-love and acceptance. There’s a saying—write what you know—that some authors adhere to, and as a young girl, Flake experienced feeling self-conscious. She stated, “when I was in middle school I felt very small and insecure and…I didn’t think I was pretty or smart enough. I would stay in my house a lot, and read books and watch TV rather than going out. The Skin I’m In generated great reviews and won the Coretta Scott King/John Steptoe New Talent Award.  

Flake, a native of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, graduated from the University of Pittsburgh. Although she earned a degree in English, she admitted that she struggled with spelling and grammar but kept writing because she believed that “God wanted [her] to be a writer.” Her stories mostly take place in urban settings, and she says her inspiration comes from “young people who tell me that they hated to read or were bad readers, and they liked my work and it made them want to read more, or read somebody else’s work.” 

A few years ago, Flake wrote an opinion piece for the New York Times titled, “More Nonwhite Characters Are Needed.” In the article, she wrote about the lack of Black children and other people of color in literature. She believes that “[i]n a world where youth of color are often told how much they are lacking, young adult novels about them and their communities tell the rest of the story.” Flake is venturing into new territory this fall with her debut picture book release of You Are Not a Cat!. To learn more about Sharon G. Flake, see the sources and additional reading links.

Bookstores have shelves filled with books about young people who look nothing like the ones I write about.

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