SALT LAKE CITY (ABC4) – When Bryson Alejandro became a new parent, he repeatedly tried and failed to find children’s books that included diverse characters and stories. He and his colleagues decided to write their own.

Titled “Embrace Who We Are,” the book created by Alejandro, Rachel Ostler, and Victoria-Riza is primarily composed of something that is relatively uncommon in children’s books: human portraits. The photographs and illustrations are designed to “introduce babies and children to faces and people that they might not normally see,” says Alejandro. According to Alejandro, this diversity already exists around us; “Embrace Who We Are” is designed for the simple purpose of showcasing it.

Alejandro referenced the intense racial reckoning of Summer 2020 in the US as something that made him want to find “something that I could do to make positive change” in the world and “break down barriers and build bridges” between people in his community. Alejandro and his wife have a background in family studies and human development, which informed his simple hypothesis in creating this book. Alejandro believes that if babies and young children simply see visual representations of people different than them, they will be more equipped to overcome internal bias and prejudice that they will encounter when they grow up.

When asked if he thinks his book is too political for children, Alejandro says he doesn’t see it that way, but he understands how some people might. Born and raised in Utah and identifying as Multiracial, Alejandro understands how Utahns might be somewhat resistant to representations of people outside of what is considered normal. He hopes this book will show that even the most different people “have more similarities” than differences, and help people have empathy for each other.

Alejandro and the “Embrace Who You Are” team are acutely aware about popular discussion about what is and is not appropriate for children to learn about in younger years. He referenced the higher number of banned books in the US as well as Sen. Ted Cruz’s use of a children’s book about race in Justice Ketanji Brown Jackson’s approval hearing. “Embrace Who You Are” is designed, according to Alejandro, to show parents and children that hard conversations about diversity and inclusion are easier when you have more contact with people who are different from yourself.

The project is deeply personal for Alejandro and his team, made up of several new parents. “I feel like since 2016 I started really figuring out who I am as a person, what my identity is as a Multiracial individual and where I stand in the world, my community, and my family.” These feelings were amplified for Alejandro when he started having his own kids.

Rather than making a political stance, the “Embrace Who You Are” team hopes their book will help people do exactly what it says in the title; they want it to help people love their own identity and the diverse identities of the people that surround them in the world. They think that children simply looking at portraits of people different than themselves will help with that.

The book is a kind of side project for Bryson Alejandro, who works full time in local film and acting in Utah. The book is still in its fundraising stages, and fans of the project can still donate to the cause.