Jeanine is a Writer, Actor, member SAG/AFTRA, AEA, Podcast host,…
On Thursday, February 9, 2023, BGN attended the book launch dinner for You Will Do Great Things written by Grammy Award-nominated singer/songwriter Amerie’s at Tarallucci e Vino in New York City.
Nestled away from the main restaurant in an elegant candle-lit space, a small group of journalists, librarians, and teachers broke bread together as we learned more about Amerie’s passion for literature. Born the daughter of a Korean artist and an African-American military officer, Amerie grew up on military bases as her family trotted the globe. When asked about the influence her upbringing in the military had on her, Amerie responded, “The greatest takeaway from that experience was seeing that all over the world, people are, at our foundational levels, the same. It is so important to remember that because it allows us to truly see each other, to see through our divisions.” After earning a degree in English from Georgetown University, Amerie built a successful career in the music industry. In 2019 she founded Amerie’s Book Club, which showcases books written by authors of color and has 17,000 followers on IG.
Motherhood inspired Amerie to write You Will Do Great Things. The picture book is a lovely marriage of stunning illustrations and inspiring text. The book encourages children to believe that everything is possible with the support of their ancestors, families, and communities.
During a quick toast before dinner, Amerie thanked us all for coming and got a little teary-eyed as she shared how much writing this book meant to her. “The book really is a dream come true. I love books, and I’ve always loved the idea of writing a children’s book, but I know how I am, and I couldn’t really know what I wanted to say until I had children of my own. You Will Do Great Things is everything I’ve wanted to say to my son ever since he was born. We started reading to him when he was still in my tummy. Reading time is such a special time, and so I wanted to create something universal and specific to us. Every parent, everyone who has a child in their life all want the same things. We have that love, and we can understand at that level.”
After a delicious two-course dinner and dessert, BGN sat down with Amerie for a quick conversation about the creation of this beautiful piece of children’s literature.
What inspired you to write a story for children?
I wanted my son to see himself. I wanted all kids, especially Black and Brown kids, to see themselves represented in a book, to hear those things that we want for our kids to hear — that message that you not just not only will you do greatness but that greatness is in you already. That you are greatness. You are possibility. I thought it was important for them to know that.
In writing a picture book, each line must be concise so kids can easily grasp the context. What was it like to work with an editor to formulate the text?
Coming up with the text itself came quickly. So much of it was already ideas that I felt when I held my son. These were the things that I wanted to tell him as a parent, all the hopes and dreams I have for him, all the power that I want him to know exists within him. Working with Connie, she was able to help me fine-tune and help the flow of what I was saying, going from context to context and concepts for each stanza. Working with someone so creative, also very detail oriented and is as nitpicky as I am is incredible. I am a big believer that if everyone does what they do to the best of their ability and you work with people who are great at whatever it is that they do, you can create a lot of outstanding work.
So how does writing this kind of book compare to making music?
I write music on the computer, so I sit down and write on the computer when I write fiction. Writing picture books, I do a lot of it in my head, and then I write it on the computer. I tried using a notebook, but I found when I’m writing this, the pencil doesn’t work, and when I write music, I don’t physically write either; I use the computer. So I approached it similarly to how I write a song.
What about this book brings you the most joy?
The most satisfaction I get is the idea that there will be children, specifically, Black children like my son, who will see themselves reflected throughout the book’s beautiful pages. And it’s not so much about their identity as it is about knowing their greatness.
The book launch dinner party for You Will Do Great Things not only allowed BGN to speak with the author but also we were able to connect with members of the creative team, the other journalists, and librarians who attended the event all women doing their part to keep books alive in a changing society where banning books in public schools is becoming a new normal. After speaking with so many professionals, BGN learned that even in a seemingly progressive place like New York City, librarians and school administrators face book-banning threats.
Children’s literature is in a golden age, and Raissa Figueroa’s stunning illustrations paired with Amerie’s compelling story You will Do Great Things is sure to be a classic. Being in a community of women passionate about books and writing was inspiring. Spending an evening with delicious food, wine, and compelling conversations was truly a blessing.
You Will Do Great Things is on sale March 28, 2023.
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Jeanine is a Writer, Actor, member SAG/AFTRA, AEA, Podcast host, Producer, CEO VisAbleBlackWoman Productions, Certified Health Coach and Conscious Dance facilitator. Jeanine's mission, centering Black women's stories to preserve our legacies.