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By Collin Breaux
Growing up in San Clemente left Micah Hamilton with a lot of adjustments to make.
“Despite my young age, I found myself immediately not like the other kids at school,” the 17-year-old San Clemente High School senior said. “I had a darker complexion with big puffy hair, while the people I sat next to had beach-bronzed skin and blond hair.”
“While not everyone fit this exact description, to my young mind, the majority did,” added Hamilton, who is Black. “As a result, I not only felt isolated but insecure in myself, as I lacked the representation or community I sought so badly.”
With the help of family and friends, Hamilton eventually learned to love himself. Wanting to inspire other kids to embrace their physical appearance, Hamilton decided to write a children’s book called Uniquely Cyrus to celebrate diversity and self-acceptance.
The book illustrates a Black youngster named Cyrus who is questioned about his dark skin and curly hair by a classmate on his first day of school. Cyrus then receives encouragement from his mother, who tells him he is unique and caring—which gives him confidence. The insecurities and hardships Cyrus goes through are the same ones that Hamilton experienced growing up.
Hamilton decided to create a children’s book after researching ways he could let other kids know that looking different is OK. He started on the book in May and worked on it until mid-September.
“Eventually, I found someone online who wrote a children’s book. This idea intrigued me, but was daunting, for sure,” Hamilton said. “Nonetheless, I withdrew money I earned from working at Starbucks over the past year and half and bought a brand-new iPad in May of this year. This iPad opened the door for me to start my own journey.”
Though Hamilton has always been creative, drawing on an iPad was a new experience.
“After days and weeks of trying to find my style, I finally landed on one I felt would be suitable,” Hamilton said of the book’s illustrations. “Over the summer, I found myself illustrating for hours a day, perfecting my project, hoping the impact I could have would all be worth it. Eventually, the illustrations were done, and I moved on to writing the actual story.”
Hamilton had every page storyboarded before he began illustrating. Selecting the right words so kids could understand the theme, though, was a struggle.
“After more hard, long hours of research, illustrating and writing culminating in the perfect story, I was done. After spending easily over 150 hours on this project, I knew I wanted to publish my story,” Hamilton said.
“Once published, I felt an overwhelming sense of accomplishment and pride in my work,” he continued. “I felt this book was exactly what I needed to give me a sense of closure after years of insecurity, as the message was one I wish I was given at a young age.”
Hamilton said that his family and friends have read and enjoyed the book.
“They were proud of me,” he said.
When asked if he would write another children’s book, Hamilton said that is something he’s open to, but—for now—he’s busy applying to colleges. Art continues to be a big part of his life, he added.
“Living vicariously through Cyrus, I hope to inspire young ones and show them that no matter what you look like, you should be confident and cherish your beautiful skin,” Hamilton said.
Uniquely Cyrus is available for purchase on amazon.com.
Collin Breaux covers San Juan Capistrano and other South Orange County news as the City Editor for The Capistrano Dispatch. Before moving to California, he covered Hurricane Michael, politics and education in Panama City, Florida. He can be reached by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.