Books

Skin We Are In

March 2018, New Africa Books

Skin We Are In tells the story of the evolution of human skin color through the eyes and voices of curious children and one thoughtful uncle. It was created jointly by South African writer, Sindiwe Magona, American anthropologist, Nina Jablonski, and multimedia artist, Lynn Fellman. Intended for children 9-14 years old, it features narrative and scientific text set amidst beautiful and vivid illustrations. The book is primarily intended for children in South Africa, but its message is universal. Thanks to a private philanthropic contribution, free copies are being distributed to schools and libraries throughout South Africa. The book is now available in five of South Africa’s official languages, and soon will be available in all eleven. An American edition is planned.

 

Living Color: The Biological and Social Meaning of Skin Color

Living Color book cover

September 2012, University of California Press

Living Color is the first book to investigate the social history of skin color from prehistory to the present, showing how our body's most visible trait influences our social interactions in profound and complex ways. In a fascinating and wide-ranging discussion, Nina G. Jablonski begins with the biology and evolution of skin pigmentation, explaining how skin color changed as humans moved around the globe. She explores the relationship between melanin pigment and sunlight, and examines the consequences of rapid migrations, vacations, and other lifestyle choices that can create mismatches between our skin color and our environment.

Richly illustrated, this book explains why skin color has come to be a biological trait with great social meaning-- a product of evolution perceived by culture. It considers how we form impressions of others, how we create and use stereotypes, how negative stereotypes about dark skin developed and have played out through history--including being a basis for the transatlantic slave trade. Offering examples of how attitudes about skin color differ in the U.S., Brazil, India, and South Africa, Jablonski suggests that a knowledge of the evolution and social importance of skin color can help eliminate color-based discrimination and racism.


Skin: A Natural History

Skin: A Natural History book cover

May 2008, University of California Press

We expose it, cover it, paint it, tattoo it, scar it, and pierce it. Our intimate connection with the world, skin protects us while advertising our health, our identity, and our individuality. This dazzling synthetic overview, written with a poetic touch and taking many intriguing side excursions, is a complete guidebook to the pliable covering that makes us who we are. Skin: A Natural History celebrates the evolution of three unique attributes of human skin: its naked sweatiness, its distinctive sepia rainbow of colors, and its remarkable range of decorations. Jablonski begins with a look at skin's structure and functions and then tours its three-hundred-million-year evolution, delving into such topics as the importance of touch and how the skin reflects and affects emotions. She examines the modern human obsession with age-related changes in skin, especially wrinkles. She then turns to skin as a canvas for self-expression, exploring our use of cosmetics, body paint, tattooing, and scarification. Skin: A Natural History places the rich cultural canvas of skin within its broader biological context for the first time, and the result is a tremendously engaging look at ourselves.

 

Other books authored or edited by Nina Jablonski