A new picture book inspired by a Kenilworth author’s personal experiences of privilege and racism within a mixed race family has been published.
‘Just Like Grandpa Jazz’ was created by Tarah L. Gear and it is her debut book.
Tarah is mixed-race; her father is from Mauritius and her mother is from Wales. She also grew up in the Middle East where she witnessed and experienced many different cultures and met people with many different backgrounds.
‘Just Like Grandpa Jazz’, which was published earlier in June by Owlet Press, is inspired by Tarah’s father’s journey to the UK in 1969 to take up a job in the NHS.
In the story, based on Tarah’s own mixed race family, fair-skinned young Frank helps his grandpa to pack for a trip to his homeland, Mauritius, and learns more about the old man’s childhood through stories attached to the items in Grandpa Jazz’s suitcase.
Frank is educated on the difficulties people faced during and after their journeys due to racism and segregation, but the story also celebrates the richness of culture and tradition they brought with them to the UK.
Tarah said: “There are many UK immigration stories; In 1948 Empire Windrush brought some of the first post-war Caribbean immigrants to the UK.
"A whole generation was named after it. But Windrush is just part of the story. Many more boats arrived over the next few decades from all corners of the globe.
"In 1969, my dad came to the UK after a month-long journey on board a boat called Pierre Lotti from Mauritius. It stopped at multiple ports, collecting more passengers along the way, including Madagascar and apartheid Cape Town.
"At a time when UK immigration laws are changing so dramatically, it’s important to remember our not too distant history.
"Many waves of government-initiated immigration and the people who decided to travel here and change their lives forever, were integral to building up core services like the NHS in the UK.
"Those people became British citizens and contributed to the economy, but faced more challenges than most. I am immensely proud to be an immigrant’s daughter, to have a mixed heritage and to be a child of the world.
"Just Like Grandpa Jazz tells an immigration story, inspired by my dad’s, for children today and encourages them to ask questions about their family, where they are from and what stories they could tell.
"On the surface, my book is about how storytelling connects us – to patterns and tropes which make us feel safe and at home, but also to our past, to our ancestors and those whose footsteps in which we follow.
"If it wasn’t for these stories, my son would grow up without a connection to his heritage, without realising his privileges and without truly knowing his Grandpa.
"I wrote this book to show how storytelling is a critical process in breaking down the construct of race, but also to depict the loving and fun relationship between a kid and his grandpa – two people who are captivated, enthralled, fun-loving, fiery, silly, eccentric and in a world of their own, but who the world treats differently because of a superficial difference.”