I am so honored and thrilled to have poet and author (+ professor, song writer, and inspirational speaker) Brynne Barnes join us on the blog today.
If you have yet to discover and savor her newest release, BLACK GIRL RISING, do yourself a favor:
STOP EVERYTHING RIGHT NOW AND READ THIS BOOK.
(Books of Wonder has signed copies. OR see the Chronicle Books Pay It Forward option below.)
OR read this excerpt…
3 Questions with Brynne Barnes
Q 1. Can you tell us about the journey of BLACK GIRL RISING? Did it start as a poem, or did you always see it as a picture book?
Brynne Barnes: The interesting thing is that I never quite know what I’m writing when I’m writing it. It’s that element of surprise that keeps the process really fresh for me and very exciting. Writing is a grand act of faith, really — to trust whatever comes through when you put pen to paper.
Trust the Process
This book started as a poem, and I wasn’t sure if it was going to be a stand alone poem for an older audience, or if it was going to be a picture book. It wasn’t until I was halfway into writing the manuscript that I realized this needed to be a picture book because it was the best vehicle for the message. And this wasn’t something that I could know in the very beginning. It wasn’t even something that I decided. At a certain point in the writing process, I just knew what it was, what it was meant to be.
A Journey in Identity
Q 2. What or who was the inspiration for BLACK GIRL RISING?
Brynne Barnes: This is truly my love letter to Black girls and Black girlhood. I know that the journey is unique for each one of us; however, there are similarities that are just inherent to our experience and the human experience.
This book is really about a journey in identity: accepting yourself for who you truly are and getting to know exactly who that is. It is a choice who we become, and that choice is ours. One thing that I’ve learned as an English professor is how seeing the world through others’ eyes reveal something sacred about the human experience that is shared. Every person can certainly read these words and sense that this message told through the lens of the Black, female experience strikes the chords of a universal, human experience.
Q 3. What was the most surprising discovery you made –about your process, or the incredible people featured in the book, as BLACK GIRL RISING, went from idea to published book?
Brynne Barnes: When I was 9 or 10, I discovered poetry. I started reading Maya Angelou and Nikki Giovanni and Langston Hughes and many other poets on the shelves in my parents’ house, some of which I could understand and some of which I could not. But there was something about the music of the language that pulled me to it. I knew there was something magical about poetry. And when I read the words of Angelou and Giovanni and Hughes, I felt as though they had written it for me. It felt as if their poems were just for me — like they knew me. And that’s the feeling that I wanted to give to other people, and so I started writing. Now, that was at the very beginning of me becoming a writer.
“…when we write, we’re not writing alone, or as one.”
Decades later, as I am writing this book, and these lines started going through my mind, I was a bit surprised at first to see them show up on the page after all these years. But then, it made sense. After all, my writing started here, with them and their voices and their works. So when I saw these things show up, I thought, “Oh, you’re here. You’re all here. You’re still here.” And I think that’s how it goes. Literature – it belongs to all of us. It shapes us. And so, when we write, we’re not writing alone, or as one. We’re writing as 10,000+ voices throughout time that we have read — that have stayed with us. These writers that I mentioned in this book, they’re like my poetic family. And they’re always with me — because I read them.
Pay it forward!
Chronicle Books is working with Diverstories to stock Little Free Diverse Libraries: From now until September 30th, Chronicle will donate one copy of BLACK GIRL RISING for every copy sold via the Chronicle website, (up to 75 copies).
“This enduring anthem for Black girls celebrates their power, potential, and brilliance—for themselves and for the world.” —Chronicle Books
Endless thanks to Brynne Barnes for sharing her thoughts today.
To learn more about Brynne and her books, check out her website: brynnebarnes.com.
And follow her on social media:
“Lyrical, timely, and marvelously illustrated, this work extols the beauty, bravery, and possibilities of young black girls. The author explores strong role models, female and male, from the past to inspire readers to envision the prospects of a glorious future. . . . [T]he rich vocabulary, flowing narrative, and specific word emphasis encourage[s] exuberant read-alouds.”School Library Journal
“Black Girl Rising is modern ballad steeped in metaphor, music, and magic. From its gold-dusted jacket to its melodic verses, this is the song Black girls need now.”Carole Boston Weatherford,
Newbery Honor winning, NYT bestselling author
Want MORE? Here’s an interview by JoAnn Yao with Brynne Barnes for We Need Diverse Books.
Next up on the blog:
We’re excited to celebrate the Book birthday of DRESSING UP THE STARS: The Story of Movie Costume Designer Edith Head with #kidlit author Jeanne Walker Harvey–and we have questions!