Showcasing diversity



Tara Michener, a student in the master’s program at Oakland University, aims to help children learn to appreciate themselves.

Michener and her husband Jason, who have been together for a total of seven years, were married in January 2005. She said that their relationship was “different from the traditional couple,”  because he is white and she is black. She created her “Who I Am, Not What I Am” series after questions arose from peers about their future children.

“I wanted to showcase diversity,” she said. “While we were dating, people were asking what our kids would think about being mixed. My books are a helpful way for parents and educators to teach without it being awkward.”

Michener’s books aim to educate children about being different through stories about kids with mixed parents, adopted parents and children struggling with self-image and esteem. She has written two short stories, a chapter book and is currently putting the final touches on her fourth, a young adult novel.

Michener and Jason work as a duo, with her writing and him illustrating. Together, the family travels the country promoting the books and their messages to young children all around the East Coast and Midwest.

“The (first) book started from innocent ignorance from children and then transformed to train and teach kids about what they didn’t know,” Jason said. “Tara couldn’t find a good book for children about these topics, so she wrote her own. Our relationship was key, and it only grew from it.”

Jason, also her creative director, is in charge of illustrating the books, designing the promotional materials, shooting pictures and videos, minor website maintenance and general promotion and market expenditures. He says that he was surprised at the growing popularity of the books.

“Tara is so creative, she keeps me on my feet,” he said. “It first started with books, and then launched. Now, we’re involved in the revitalization of Detroit, school presentations and she’s back in school for her master’s degree. I don’t know where she’s going to take it, but it has been an exciting ride so far.”

Michener is also Founder and President of the Black Women in Business Brainstorm, a networking group that helps minority women and those interested enhance their public speaking, business skills and implement those strategies in the professional world, and also works with the “Be A Part of Their Story” literacy project, which partners with local non-profit organizations to give low-income children autographed books for free.

“So far, we’ve worked with Lighthouse of Oakland County, Operation Kid Equip and Little Girls, Big Dreams,” Michener said. “Kids are actually lined up to watch the presentations and get the books. You’d think every child has been to a bookstore before, but that’s not true. Some kids are excited about literacy.”

Though she only started at OU this winter for a master’s degree in counseling, Michener obtained her bachelor’s at Madonna University in journalism and public relations. She quit her old job in diversity and human resources to take up writing full-time.

Michener’s dreams include meeting Oprah and making all kids feel good about who they are, regardless of what they look like, or what conditions they grew up in, and to have someone bring her the Diet Coke and Twizzlers she mentions in her biography in every book to one of her presentations.