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Writers Against Racism: Tameka Fryer Brown

Tameka Fryer Brown is a picture book author whose first title, AROUND OUR WAY ON NEIGHBORS’ DAY, will be in stores August 1, 2010. Her second book, IN A MOOD, is scheduled to publish in 2012. Visit Tameka online.
Briefly describe the impact racism had on you as a young person:
There are a few times I can consciously remember feeling the impact of racism as a child: Having an elementary school friend confide in me that her father always trained their dogs to attack black people; being repeatedly called ni**er one afternoon by a little boy much younger than my 9-year-old self; having a very popular girl use the same vulgar slur (right in front of me!) at a “cool kids” HS study group session, for which I’d originally been so excited to receive an invitation.  
Mostly, though, racism was just an “understood” thing: the darker you were, the lower you were on society’s acceptability totem pole. Since I was a dark brown black child, I instinctively knew where I ranked in the eyes of the world. However, thanks to strong familial influences, I also knew that my destiny would not and could not be controlled by anybody else’s preconceived notions about my inherent value or capabilities. From a young age, I was groomed for success via a strong emphasis on academic achievement and personal integrity. “Pretty is as pretty does” was a standard phrase I heard in my youth, as was “I AM Somebody” and “Be the labor great or small, do it WELL…or not at all!”
Has your personal experience of racism impacted your professional work as a writer?
Since who we are is a sum total of our life’s experiences, how could it not? I do think the impact is more subconscious than conscious, in that my writing (to date) has not been inspired by any specific external or political motivation, but rather by my hope that the younger generations will grow into world citizens, who’ll not merely view cultural diversity as an acceptable concept, but a desirable one. Although, I suppose “normalizing diversity” would be considered a political motivation by some….
In what way can literature be used to combat the effects of racism and promote tolerance?
To a large extent, I think it already does–at least for those readers who avail themselves of the various voices and perspectives out there, who don’t confine themselves to the “same-old, same-old”.
Writers can help by producing polished stories for the market in ALL categories–including stories starring POC characters that, while culturally authentic, are not ABOUT race.

Publishers can help to expand the literary experience of readers by acquiring –and strongly promoting–more titles authored by people of color…not just to niche markets, but broadly, to the so-called “main-stream” audiences.

Readers need to make the conscious effort to purchase and read books in their favorite genres, which feature main characters of races and cultures outside of what they normally consume.
When it comes to combating racism, exposure to information and alternative points of view is key.
Tameka Fryer Brown



  1. Wonderful interview! Thank you for featuring Tameka!

  2. ” . . . my hope that the younger generations will grow into world citizens, who’ll not merely view cultural diversity as an acceptable concept, but a desirable one.”

    Very well said. That is my hope, too.

    Here’s wishing you sell a million copies so readers, writers, and publishers can see just how beautiful diversity is.

  3. “Writers can help by producing polished stories for the market in ALL categories–including stories starring POC characters that, while culturally authentic, are not ABOUT race.”

    YES! This is important on so many levels. A wonderful interview and I too, along with Gwendolyn, hope you sell a million copies of “Around Our Way On Neighbors’ Day.”

  4. Thanks so much, Amy, for the opportunity to share my thoughts and experience. I appreciate all you’re doing to advance the conversation.

  5. It is all about just thinking outside of our own little boxes. Great interview. Very excited about new author Tameka Fryer Brown.


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