Question:
Black women take center stage in your novel, fighting for the freedom of the men in their families. There is a lot of discussion right now in the Black community about Black women and femmes leading and holding up the Black Lives Matter movement but not getting the recognition they deserve. How do you tackle this in the book?

Question:
Black women take center stage in your novel, fighting for the freedom of the men in their families. There is a lot of discussion right now in the Black community about Black women and femmes leading and holding up the Black Lives Matter movement but not getting the recognition they deserve. How do you tackle this in the book?

Answer:
That’s why I wrote it with a woman taking action as the main protagonist.

Black women are the ones who have been doing this work for a very long time! Ida B. Wells, Harriet Tubman—I go back far when I look at and study Black women. I really wanted them to take center stage.

Tracy has men in her life and has multiple potential love interests. I wanted to balance out the strong Black woman not needing anyone—and she really doesn’t, but I wanted her to have options because I never had options when I was in high school. That has been my biggest received criticism of the book, but I was like, “No! She’s gonna have all the boyfriends and y’all are gonna leave her alone!” I wanted her to have that because we don’t get that in real life.

I wanted to honor Black women because that really is their story.

Mass incarceration and the prison industrial complex also impacts Black women, but it’s disproportionately Black men. They are fathers and brothers. They are staples in our community and when they go away, Black women hold the community down and fight for them.

I really wanted that to be represented in the story and in the ways Tracy seeks justice. Even with her leading the Know Your Rights workshops—I wanted to show models of ways you can act. A lot of people talk about Black pain and I tried to show, instead, that there were a lot of hopeful moments and agency.

Publishing hasn’t done a good job of supporting a larger range of experiences for Black people, but that doesn’t mean that I don’t get a seat at the table. It means that I make room for people and am sure not to take the white gaze into consideration when I’m writing.

I really wanted Tracy to be powerful and take up space and be who she is, even if you kind of don’t like her. I was okay with that. We want people we like to be soft and kind and Tracy is those things, but she’s also a lot of other things and I think she’s just as valid, beautiful, and important even if she doesn’t act in ways we think are “appropriate” for a young Black girl.