Published March 4, 2021

Mahogany L. Browne, author of Chlorine Sky, is a California-born, Brooklyn-based writer, educator, activist, mentor, and curator. She has published several books of poetry, and she is the artistic director of Urban Word NYC, founder of Women Writers of Color Reading Room, and program director of Black Lives Matter at Pratt Institute.

Get to know Mahogany in this Q&A and then join us on Saturday, March 20, at 12 PM ET as part of the all-virtual 2021 Virginia Festival of the Book to hear her discuss her work in Coming of Age in YA Fiction.

Festival: What motivated you to become a writer and poet? 

Browne: I was always in love with stories. It was fourth grade I took my first swing at writing my own story. It was love at first write.

Who or what are some of your creative influences?

My influences are so varied. In activism and art, mothering and mogul building. But the pillars include Audre Lorde, Sonia Sanchez, June Jordan, Patricia Smith, Ida B. Wells, and Fannie Lou Hamer. 

What was your favorite part about writing your book?

My favorite part of writing Chlorine Sky was seeing the last utterance become bond. I had so many drafts and iterations, I am happy to see the book in the world, whole and in conversation with so many others. But also, the basketball scene where Sky stands up for herself and walks it out slowly. That was a cool memory to write. 

Do you have any sources of inspiration that you come back to while writing?

My inspirations for young adult writing are different than adult writing. I think more so because of the access to large insurmountable ideas. I return to Toni Morrison, Jason Reynolds, Elizabeth Acevedo, and Sharon Draper. But also, I love Toni Morrison, Octavia Butler, and Jesmyn Ward. I also love reading poetry that responds to the quickening of my blood. I turn to the Academy of American Poets’ Poem-A-Day and see what begins my conversations on page. 

What impact or takeaway do you hope your work will have for readers? 

They get to take up space. They don’t have to figure it all out in one day, or one year. But they can learn so much about themselves when they refuse to compromise their integrity. What does it mean to be a young person thinking about the world they will inherit? I want them to consider themselves global citizens. 

Describe how a book changed your life or perspective.

I remember reading Bluest Eye and realized what I was feeling, the mistreatment of being a brown-skinned Black girl, was an heirloom of prejudice. And I wasn’t alone in my desire to fight it. I wasn’t alone in my decision to love who I was, despite everyone and everything that tried to erase me. 

What is something that you’ve read recently and would recommend to others?

I’d recommend reading: Amari & The Night Brothers (for fantasy), Love is a Revolution (for the romantic), or The Vanishing Half (for the fiction lovers).

What are you working on next?

I just finished my second YA novel and have pitched a four-part series that excites me. I love centering the Black girl voice, especially in a time where I was taught it’s best to be seen and not heard. My writing is meant to constantly push back against that erasure. I am excited to see who soars after reading my books.

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