November 16, 2022

Birth Stories for Books: THE PROUDEST COLOR, by Sheila Modir, PhD and Jeff Kashou, LMFT

I have met many wonderful people as a result of my affiliation with Familius, the publisher of my next scheduled book. Most recently, I had the honor of interviewing two especially caring and compassionate individuals: Sheila Modir, PhD and Jeff Kashou, LMFT, co-authors of the meaningful and timely picture book, THE PROUDEST COLOR (illustrated by Monica Mikai, published by Familius, 2021). 

Dear Readers, I hope you will give this book, and the story-behind-the-story, the time and attention it deserves.  

by Sheila Modir PHD and Jeff Kashou LMFT
and Monica Mikai

Dawn Prochovnic: Welcome to the blog, Dr. Sheila and Jeff. It’s my understanding that you were inspired to write THE PROUDEST COLOR after the murder of George Floyd, and you’ve said, “Writing is our form of activism.” That’s a very powerful statement. Can you share more details about how you came to decide that writing a book for children was one of the ways in which you wanted to actively engage in social justice work? 

Dr. Sheila Modir and Jeff Kashou, LMFT: As mental health professionals working primarily with children and adolescents, and their families, we wanted to write a book that was based in evidence-based research, while simultaneously promoting racial justice. Following a charged political climate, discussions around building walls and immigration, and in the midst of the Black Lives Matter movement, we had patients that were questioning their skin color and their cultural pride. When we searched our local bookstores and libraries for a book or resource to help initiate a conversation about race/racism, skin color, and racial/cultural pride, we couldn’t find one. I (Sheila) had conducted research on racial socialization (how parents/ caregivers communicate messages of race/racism to their child and the impact of it on their mental health) in graduate school, and referred back to the research studies to help inform this book. Our author proceeds are donated to nonprofit organizations like ACLU who will continue to promote racial justice. We feel like there is a lot more work to do in this field, but helping take one step forward by educating our youth and providing a resource for parents is our form of activism. 

DP: I sincerely appreciate how you have harnessed your expertise to create something tangible and actionable in service of a better world. 

George Floyd was murdered on May 25, 2020, and THE PROUDEST COLOR was published in September, 2021, which in my experience, is an incredibly short turn-around time in the children’s book world! Can you share with us the process and timeframe between your initial idea for the book and the manuscript that was formulated fully enough to submit to an editor/publisher? 

SM and JK: Yes, it was a fast turn-around time, and it’s truly because Familius recognized that a book like this needed to be out on shelves as soon as possible. The idea of the book was based on an essay I had written in graduate school about growing up as a brown girl in the Midwest and standing out in my school photos, in my group of friends, and essentially everywhere I went. This awareness of differences at a young age is powerful and shapes your self-esteem and your identity. We used this essay and the racial socialization research to help write The Proudest Color. To help us with the writing process, we asked questions like: How does a child react when they experience overt discrimination? How can parents help maneuver their child’s discrimination experience? What are ways they can build cultural pride? Up until now, no children’s book has openly discussed an experience of racism. We wanted to go there, because growing up we had experienced racism, and hearing our patient’s stories we knew they were experiencing it. We knew people are experiencing it, but now we needed to provide a way for parents/caregivers/ teachers to help them process it. We wrote the book in 5 days. At the time we were writing, there was a huge online movement where communities of color were sharing their experiences of discrimination, injustices, and inequities, and supporting one another, and we wanted to contribute to that. We searched for small publishing companies that focused on books for families and also had a history of publishing mental health books. Within a week of sending our manuscript to various publishers, we heard back from Familius. They understood the importance of the book and wanted it out as soon as possible. Within a year of submitting the book to them, it was published on shelves!

DP: That is a such a powerful and inspiring backstory. I'm so glad you found a home for this book with Familius, and that they were nimble enough to bring it to the marketplace quickly. 

When you compare one of your earliest drafts of this story to the version in the published book, what stands out for you in terms of what is most different? Likewise, is there anything in particular that stands out that was included in your earliest drafts and survived the revision process?

SM and JK: The Proudest Color not only talks about discrimination, but it also introduces readers to emotion identification. Surprisingly, finding colors and naming the colors was something that went through a few revisions. Jeff was great at finding fun and creative names for the colors like razzle dazzle pink! We wanted this book to truly embody mental health and resilience so each of the revisions moved us toward that. We also asked friends and colleagues in the mental health field to review it and provide us with feedback.  


DP: I love the layers of learning in this book, such as the incorporation of colors and emotion identification. (The topic of resilience is dear to me; it's what rooted me to my most recent book, LUCY'S BLOOMS, a story that took many years and many revisions to write, and many rejections before finding its way to publication.) 

I'd like to hear a little more about your writing process. I would anticipate that co-authoring a book might create some unique opportunities—and also some unique challenges. Could you share some insights into your collaborative process? What elements of the collaborative process might you strive to repeat (and/or avoid) when working together on future book projects? 

SM and JK: We are married so it wasn’t too hard to write together since this was during the pandemic and we were both working from home. I wrote in the early mornings, and Jeff wrote in the evenings, and we would email each other the draft we had worked on. We both have our own writing styles and ideas so bringing them together was a fun process and we are looking forward to continuing this collaboration!

DP: Based on the information on your website and what you’ve shared here and in other interviews, I realize THE PROUDEST COLOR comes from a place of personal experience and extensive professional research. Can you share some of what it means to you (as mental health professionals, as Middle Eastern Americans, as human beings), to be able to bring an authentic, #OwnVoices story into the marketplace? 

SM and JK: We believe it is important to have more people share their stories because there is so much out there that needs to be told, especially in the Middle Eastern community where there is little representation. We know representation matters so it meant a lot to have our voice out there and to be able to include famous people from the Middle Eastern community to include in our book. 



DP: I'm so glad that your voices are out there, and that THE PROUDEST COLOR draws attention to some of the familiar and famous voices from the Middle Eastern community. 

If you could go back in time, what would you tell your pre-published self? Or, said another way, what do you know now, that you wished you would have known a bit earlier?

SM and JK: The Proudest Color was incredibly rare in how quickly it was written, accepted, and published. Our other books have not been that fast so we know things take time and it can often feel like a very slow process. It is also a very vulnerable experience to have your work out there and have others read it, so be gentle on yourself. Finally, we recommend celebrating all the wins, even the small ones, like getting your idea written out in a draft format, writing your query letter, imagining your illustrations – whatever it is – honor it because it’s a lot of work!

DP: Those are such empowering tips and reminders. Thank you for that.

Do you have anything you’d like to tell us about what you’re currently working on? 

SM and JK: We are writing more books on diversity and mental health topics and are excited to get them out there! People can find more information on us at

DP: I really appreciate you sharing your path to publication for THE PROUDEST COLOR, Dr. Sheila and Jeff. I look forward to following your work and supporting this and future books.  

Friends, you've heard me say it before: The best way to thank authors whose insights have been helpful and/or inspiring to you is to support their work. Buy their books for yourself and as gifts. Request them from your library. Read and share them with others. These actions are especially important and impactful with THE PROUDEST COLOR, because by supporting this book, you are also promoting racial justice and supporting nonprofit organizations such as ACLU, who continue to promote racial justice. THE PROUDEST COLOR is available everywhere books are sold, including from your local, independent bookstore (which you can access online via and directly from Familius, the publisher.  


Image Credit: Lovers of Love
As Middle Eastern Americans (Iranian and Palestinian) and as clinicians,  Dr. Sheila Modir and Jeff advocate for diversity, equity, and inclusion and work toward building resilience in children.  Dr. Modir is a board certified psychologist at a children's hospital. She obtained a combined doctoral degree in Clinical, Counseling, and School Psychology at the University of California, Santa Barbara and her master’s degree in social welfare at UCLA. Dr. Modir has presented at conferences, spoken on podcasts, and published articles on the impact of racial trauma on mental health and risk and resilience factors. Jeff is a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist and a manager of clinical product and service design for a mental health tech company. He has his master’s in clinical psychology from Pepperdine and was previously on the Board of Directors for the California Association of Marriage and Family Therapists.

Together they have advocated at the state and federal level for better mental health care policies, in addition to doing international work at a Red Cross refugee asylum in Belgium. They also consult on film and television productions, including for Disney and Freeform, to ensure that mental health is portrayed responsibly, and have been judges for the annual Sentinel Awards. 

Find them on social media: 

Twitter: @drsheilamodir

Instagram: @drsheilasbookshelf



Birth Stories for Books is an occasional feature of Dawn Babb Prochovnic's blog. Dawn is the author of multiple picture books including, Lucy's Blooms, Where Does a Cowgirl Go Potty?, Where Does a Pirate Go Potty?, and 16 books in the Story Time With Signs & Rhymes series. Dawn is a contributing author to the award-winning book, Oregon Reads Aloud, and a frequent presenter at schools, libraries, and educational conferences. Contact Dawn using the form at the left, or learn more at  

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