The Persistence of Yellow is a colorful collection of wisdom for a woman’s heart. First published in 2000, this beloved book’s 20th anniversary edition features a stunning new look which combines the poignant vignettes from author Monique Duval with the brilliant artwork from new illustrator Roeqiya Fris. The result is a whimsical yet striking work that reads like a recipe book for the soul.
The book’s prose is inspired by the intergenerational conversations between Monique and her abuelita—talks often held in her grandmother’s bright yellow kitchen. Each page offers beautiful reminders of the treasured truths gifted to us by loved ones and lived experiences.
We asked Monique and Roeqiya to share some of the inspiration behind each of their creative processes.
Roeqiya, your illustrations bring such a fresh and unique beauty to each vignette. How did the words of The Persistence of Yellow speak to you personally?
Roeqiya: I could really relate to the concept of women who pass wisdom and love on to each other through generations.
Also, the magical atmosphere of abuela’s kitchen sure hits close to home, as I spent part of my childhood in Egypt—a place where the house, and especially the kitchen, is traditionally the domain of women. There you’ll find a space of such life, of smells, sounds, stories—just like the yellow kitchen in the book. I’ve discovered the same kind of atmosphere is also a part of Latin American culture. This magical “inner world” is all over the world.
What do you hope readers will experience as they encounter the art in this book?
Roeqiya: I hope they will feel the same as I did when I read it: empowered, inspired, and lifted up. I hope they feel confident in their own abilities and that they can trust in a higher something that allows them to relax and look calmly and openly to the future.
Oh and joy, lots of joy! I hope the art is a reminder to keep a sense of humor and wonder. Those things really help to put life in perspective, and to keep a good spirit when times get rough.
What qualities of a woman’s spirit and experience do you look to capture in your work?
Roeqiya: I want to capture feminine traits and qualities like strength, not in a fast and masculine way, but in a more graceful and enduring way—like perseverance, like flowing water. And I want to capture self-reflection and self-knowledge, not in a rational way, but in an emotional, spiritual, and intuitive way.
I want my art to encourage women to embrace joy, beauty, and the freedom to express themselves in all the crazy, loud, and wonderful ways a woman can.
Monique, what does the phrase “the persistence of yellow” mean to you?
Monique: Yellow represents that which is a constant in our life. It is endless and cyclical; it is that internal blooming flower. Maybe you would call it “soul” or “spirit,” invisible yet it holds everything together.
Yellow is the awareness that we are constantly being reborn, literally on a cellular level but also imaginatively, as we always have the ability to redefine the perception of our lives.
It has been two decades since you first penned the words of this book. How has “the persistence of yellow” manifested itself in your own life?
Monique: I have experienced depression. Right after the original publication of this book, I had a miscarriage. And then another. It provoked feelings of loss and I began experiencing panic attacks. I was falling into an abyss, struggling for my life, over and over. A nostalgic song might provoke it. Or a memory. A scent. I was low. I didn’t remember yellow. This took time, patience, and medication to battle.
The thing that kept and keeps me fully alive is the awareness that if I interact with the world around me—with the happenstance people I meet and the observations of nature—magic will and does happen right before my eyes. That is the persistence of yellow to me.
This persistence, this internal brightness, engages and interconnects with everything around me, blooming up a path, moving me along that path in a steady rhythm. I have learned to read the poetic and mystical symbols of my own life’s making, following wherever the path leads.
In this way, I did have babies who turned into awesome and kind teenagers; I learned to bake and cook which turned into a bakery and café; I opened up to love in deep honesty, which turned into an amazingly unique relationship with my husband; I am writing again after so many years, with a cherished soul mate.
The Persistence of Yellow is a powerful and resilient light, ready to be shared with a sister, daughter, aunt, or friend. Experience the gripping beauty of this poetic book for yourself here.