Day 6: Malaika Adero

Malaika Adero Headshot Malaika Adero, author of A Black Woman Did That, experienced her first “Black girl magic” moment when she was in high school and received a silver pendant in recognition of her creative writing work on the school’s literary magazine. Fifteen years later, she received the publishing industry’s Tony Godwin Award given to an editor of merit.

Her course for a life in literature was set.

After an illustrious career as an editor, author, and literary agent, she decided to write this book “because now, more than ever, all kinds of people need to know the contributions Black women make to the country, to humanity, and the world.”  She really did do that. I’m thrilled to welcome Malaika Adero to The Brown Bookshelf.





My family encouraged a love of reading and books that grew into a life’s work. Each step along the way– my high school lit journal, community newsletter, study at HBCUs, with Toni C. Bambara, John Killens, and work, including Amistad Press and Simon & Schuster–brought me to fulfillment.

How did A BLACK WOMAN DID THAT come about?

My publisher, Julie Merberg, had a title and idea to do a book highlighting the accomplishments of Black women. I agreed. Knowing my work, she asked if I would develop the idea and I said yes.

What is your writing process like?

My process is dictated by the particular project. I began A BLACK WOMAN DID THAT with the idea that Black American women do extraordinary work in a range of fields–from sciences and art to business and politics. I made a list of those I knew and did research to support the idea, deepening what I new about these women and discovering women that I heretofore didn’t know about.

When I’m writing narrative nonfiction on a single subject, I begin by with extensive reading and journaling. I agree on a premise. Then I outline the structure of the narrative. As I write, the outline often changes according to how what I take influences my thinking.

Who or what moves or inspires you?

I’m inspired by the beautiful words and images in books for young people by Faith Ringgold, writer/publisher Cheryl Hudson, Walter Dean Myers. The work of each of my 40 subjects inspires me, particularly activist Angela Davis and the late Ella Baker.


Other “creatives with an impressive body of work who are climbing even higher”:

Tim Fields, author and illustrator
Jennifer N. Baker, writer, editor, social media director
Kei Miller, poet, novelist
Irenosen Okojie, writer

“The list is long actually.”


The industry needs to wake up to the variety of work and voices among Black creatives and how investing in them can reap rewards at levels they up-to-now haven’t imagined. Our power is real.

We Black People should have more confidence in our abilities to lead, manage, and sustain ourselves in the business and politics, using our creativity and our culture for our own benefit. We need to assign more value to ourselves as shapers of the world.

What’s next?

My three big projects post A BLACK WOMAN DID THAT:

1. A nonfiction book on the genesis of my African American Appalachian Family, from enslavement to the pursuit of self-determination

2. An art installation based on the same subject (paint, photography & mixed media)

3. The creation of a garden on my family’s land in Knoxville, Tennessee.

Wow! Looking forward to it all. Thanks so much!

Find more about Malaika Adero on her website, and at Homeslice.


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