by David Block, Ardmore, Pennsylvania
Insults can hurt worse than a fist. A black eye and a bloody nose can heal rather quickly, but bruises from insults can take years to mend, and Maureen Ryan Esposito of Flemington, New Jersey, author of MY FAIR CHILD (2009), knows that firsthand. MY FAIR CHILD is a children’s book about a little girl with albinism who encountered a bully.
“The little girl in the book is me,” said Maureen. Maureen was born with albinism, a condition which causes difficulty seeing and little or no pigment in the hair, skin and eyes. While growing up, bullies sometimes inundated her with stinging insults such as “Casper” and “Whitey”.
“I never confronted the bullies,” said Maureen. “I’d just walk the other way. My friends were the ones who’d get confrontational with them. I’d just tell an adult. The insults never got me physically worked up, but inside I was hurting.”
Her pain never fully disappeared. Indeed, numerous accomplishments covered it up, such as making her high school cross country and basketball teams.
Speaking of accomplishments, she also earned her undergraduate degree from Rutgers University, and her MBA from the University of Tampa. She went on to represent the US in the international blind team sport of goalball at three different Paralympic games: Seoul 1988 in South Korea, Barcelona 1992 in Spain and Atlanta 1996 in Georgia. She even ran four 26.2-mile marathons. But these achievements did not completely wipe away the pain that the bullies caused.
Six years ago, she realized that her childhood wounds were far from healed when she had to reduce her physical activities due to a back injury.
“Before, I was always active,” said Maureen, “but when I hurt my back, I couldn’t run out of my house like I normally could. I slowed down. My thoughts became really clear. I came up with the idea for MY FAIR CHILD and I began writing. First I wrote the book on scrap paper, then my computer.” She then hired an illustrator and used her two children, Erin and Patrick, to help illustrate MY FAIR CHILD.
“I wanted to write MY FAIR CHILD because of my personal experiences growing up. I had a story to share with other children who might have been in my circumstances.”
She described her book as a tool to help children maintain high self esteem, should they encounter bullies. “This book could help many children, not just those with albinism, but those who feel different and who get treated differently. That’s why, when I wrote MY FAIR CHILD, I was careful not to use the words ‘albinism’, ‘albino’ or ‘bully’.”
Maureen has read portions of MY FAIR CHILD at preschools, elementary schools and libraries–also including songs that she wrote about self acceptance and the wrongs of bullying in her presentations.
Maureen’s work has not gone unnoticed. She won the National Education Association Read Across America “Individual Champion” Award and the New Jersey Magic FM 98.3 Radio “Women Who Make Magic” Award.
More information about Maureen Ryan Esposito and MY FAIR CHILD is available on the Internet at her publisher’s website: www.jacketflap.com/profile.asp?member=musicmomme.