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Letters About Literature National Winners 2012

National Honor Winner, Level 1: Tekyiah Sandford - Winder, GA

Dear Sharon G. Flake,

It's hard for African-American girls like you and me to make it in this world. It's hard to face all the racist jokes, and others colors constantly thinking they're better than us. We just don't get treated the way we should. I used to feel insecure about myself before I read your book, The Skin I'm In. I used to get picked on all the time about my color, until I tried to befriend the most popular girl in my school, just like Maleeka did. I didn't get picked on as much, but it didn't feel right. After reading your book, I decided to stand up for myself and be known for who I really am.

Even though I'm not tall, skinny or that much of a dark skinned African-American, I do hear racist jokes all of the time. On time, a young boy had a dark stain of some sort on his shirt, and his brother said, "Your shirt is dirtier than her," and pointed directly at me. I just tried to let ir go, though. I used to let things like that happen all of the time, but now I don't. If someone has a joke for me, I come back with another joke for them. I might be the only one who says this, or thinks this way about me, but your book has really changed my life. My family can tell by the way I look, walk, and even talk.

Just like a poem by my favorite poet Gordon Nelson, "Science tells you Black is the absence of light, but your soul tells you Black is the light of the world. " I really think that's true! Someone might call us burned, but I really don't care. Besides, I'd rather be burned raw, or anything else instead of questioning God. I thank him for making me an African-American girl. Other people may think of me in a different way, but every time I look in the mirror, I see beauty. Thanks for helping me stand up for myself, and all of the other African-American girls and boys in the world. But most of all, thank you for helping me be proud and thankful for the skin I'm in.

Love, A proud African-American

Tekyiah Sandford