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A Marvelous Occasion


Yesenia in a salon chair with English and Spanish copies of her book
Yesenia Rodriguez is many things - a former JUSD student; the active parent of a current West Riverside student; a JUSD substitute teacher; a cosmetologist; and, in the last year, a children’s author. 

Yesenia published her first picture book, Lani Rae's Marvelous Hair, in November 2020. 

“I’ve always wanted to write a book, specifically a picture book for children because I love them,” she shared. “It was my lockdown project.”

Illustrated by Sunny Duran and available in English and Spanish, the book tells the story of Lani Rae, a little girl who donates her marvelous hair to a friend in need. The inspiration for the story came from Yesenia’s daughter, Leilani, who started donating her hair at six years old. 

Ariel getting her haircut
“I thought it was so sweet that at such a young age she wanted to do something like that,” said Yesenia. “I wanted to put it in a story for kids so they can learn about the different things you can do to help. You don't have to have a lot of money, you don’t have to have fancy stuff. You can do something nice for someone by just giving your hair.”

Though much of the business of being an author means book signings and visits to virtual classrooms across the country, Yesenia also looks for ways to give back and help others, just like Lani Rae. 

In April, Yesenia coordinated a hair donation drive for Locks of Love at the Loft Salon in Riverside. The event was by appointment only, and haircuts were free to those who donated at least 10” - the minimum required length for donations. Eleven appointments were scheduled, which meant enough hair for at least one full wig. In addition to providing the location, salon owner Annemarie Ruiz performed some of the haircuts. Several of Yesenia’s cosmetologist friends volunteered their time as well. 

Ariel holding her donated hair
“As a cosmetologist, I wanted to be able to hold events where I can give back to that specific community of people who need hair donations,” shared Yesenia.

One of the appointments was for a Rustic Lane Elementary 1st grader named Ariel. Ariel’s mother, Athena, said that her daughter wanted to donate hair because of her grandmother’s history of fighting cancer. When Ariel learned about how people with cancer sometimes lose their hair, she wanted to help someone by donating her own - just like the little girl in Yesenia’s story. 

Looking ahead, Yesenia plans to write more stories that are specific to Jurupa Valley and Riverside. For now, though, she hopes kids learn from Lani Rae that, at any age, “they can do something to make a difference in someone’s life.”

For more information about Yesenia Rodriguez, including how to purchase her picture book, please visit