Writing Black

Take a Dive Into an All-Black Fantasy World With Ayana Gray

Episode 8

Maiysha sits down with New York Times bestselling young-adult author Ayana Gray about her two fantasy novels, “Beasts of Prey” and “Beasts of Ruin,” two books that center around an all-Black fantasy world. Ayana speaks about how it is being a young Black author in a genre that doesn’t see a lot of Black women writers, making sure Black people are represented in her novels, her time in Ghana, her books being picked up by Netflix and more. 

You are now listening to theGrio’s Black Podcast Network, Black Culture Amplified. 

Maiysha Kai [00:00:05] Hello and welcome to another episode of Writing Black on theGrio’s Black Podcast Network. I am your host, Maiysha Kai, also Lifestyle Editor of theGrio. And today we are delighted to have one of the most sought after authors in the young adult fantasy market, Ayana Gray. As a follow up to her bestselling debut Beast of Prey, Ayana recently published the second installment of her fantasy trilogy titled Beasts of Ruin. The sequel has already become an Amazon editors pick for best young adult, a great accomplishment for a series that Gray began writing right out of college. So let’s hear a piece from this captivating coming of age story that also evokes the best of African mythology. 

Beast of Prey Excerpt [00:00:47] When Koffi awoke the next morning, she felt different. It took her a moment to remember why. To separate her dreams from the reality of what had happened the day before. When it all came back to her again. She beamed, “Home, I’m going home.” Every time she said those simple words in her mind, she felt a part of herself thawing. Coming back to life. She had, for the first time in a long time, a plan. A path forward. Hope. She hadn’t realized how powerful a thing hope could be until she’d almost lost it. 

Maiysha Kai [00:01:25] Hi Ayana. How are you? 

Ayana Gray [00:01:27] Hi. I’m doing well. How about you? 

Maiysha Kai [00:01:29] I’m doing fantastic. I’m spending some time with the second installment of your trilogy. I believe this is a trilogy, correct? 

Ayana Gray [00:01:36] Yes, yes, yes. 

Maiysha Kai [00:01:38] So we’re on book two now. I’m very proud of saying that I was previously acquainted with Book One, and so I was really delighted to get Book two and to continue this story, because I have to say, it’s really, really intriguing and it’s a book that I know was targeted towards the audience. I mean, this is a book where the protagonists are teenagers. However, I as a person who is as long removed from my teenage years as I’ve been really enthralled with this and engaged with this work, you know, so just starting from the top, you know. Tell us a little bit just about the genesis of this trilogy for you and why you were so compelled to write this kind of fantasy epic. 

Ayana Gray [00:02:25] Yeah, sure. So I think that my story is not so different from a lot of especially Black kids who grew up loving fantasy and sci fi books and TV shows. You know, I really loved the genre, but I did not see myself represented in it very much. And when I did, you know, it was in a very marginalized, disposable way. And it’s very hard to be what you what you don’t see. And so as I got older, I was writing stories and and sort of trying to write the story that I couldn’t find on bookshelves. And that’s, you know, that’s at the heart of it. That’s where they came from. And the idea to make this not just one book, but a huge epic saga, you know, because that’s what I loved as a kid, the big epic fantasy sagas, where you could follow heroes on adventures for not just one book, but several books, right? So that’s what these two prey is, except that, you know, in these books were centering Black kids. And for me, what’s really important, I think we’ve talked about this before, is centering Black kids without also centering Black trauma and Black pain. I think it’s really important, especially for Black people, to get to read stories of themselves that don’t center and always have to deal with racism and Black pain and Black trauma. 

Maiysha Kai [00:03:37] Yeah. Yeah. And you know, I really appreciate that as well because, you know, one of the things that occurred to me while I was reading this, you know, I always think of myself like, oh, I’m not really into fantasy. And then I think about it. I’m like, I really actually am. And, you know, I’m probably always books because I too I was one of those kids. I mean, I’m a little older than you, but, you know, I, you know, growing up on like The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe and Lord of the Rings and, you know, loving those books, but not seeing myself in them. And even, you know, when we talk about contemporary fantasy narratives, like so many of them that are so popular, it’s like we’re always vehicles for some white main character’s evolution or character arc. And it’s very easy to cast as as these, you know, excuse the phrase, but we all know it magical Negroes, but not necessarily as creating that magic for ourselves. 

Maiysha Kai [00:04:24] And one of the things I love about Beasts of Prey and now Beast of Ruin is that it is very much about magic. And it’s also taking, without spoiling it for people who haven’t engaged with it yet. And everybody should be taking this magic, this inherent magic of Black people like that. We spiritually, I think, connect to and really drawing from that source. You know, I’m really interested, obviously, in the research that you’ve done because you’re drawing from so many profound African traditions. And also, you know, yeah, let’s talk about research. But I think as writers, you know, this is a podcast about writing really. And I think that people really underestimate the amount of research that goes into even a, you know, fictional narrative. 

Ayana Gray [00:05:16] Yeah. So I have two degrees. One of them is in political science, the other is in African and African American studies. And I was very fortunate to not only get to take courses in college where I got to really dive deep into African and African-American history separately. But when I studied abroad in Ghana and we were studying Pan-Africanism, we were studying decolonization and of course, the transatlantic slave trade. So I had that base when I started to write this after college, and then I was also doing my own research and what I found really, really difficult. And this was why writing Beasts of Prey was at times painful, is the amount of primary research, as I was trying to really understand even little things like the attire and the food and things to make my world feel real. A lot of that research that I found was often written by people of European descent who were, you know, self-titled anthropologists coming in to the African continent and writing and recording these things, but with so much bias. And so it made my research that much harder because in addition to trying to find it, I also had to question the credibility of it and look at the biases from the people who were writing and recording the information. A lot of times, history and knowledge across the African continent is passed orally. So the introduction of things being written down is, in the grand scheme of things, fairly new. So that made it difficult. But I was still, you know, very fortunate to find some really cool sources. There are literally African scholars and African American scholars who have done a lot of groundwork to try to preserve a lot of the history. And I, I owe a lot of Beast of Prey to to them. 

Maiysha Kai [00:07:05] You know, I love that. I mean, we are theGrio which is exactly about that oral tradition and truth being passed down. And in various ways, you know, reading through this book, reading through Beasts of Prey and then now through Beasts of Ruin, you know, obviously, this is it’s hitting on so many levels. I mean, so that’s a compliment to you. You know, you’re getting you know, the the I mean, first of all, you’re excellent writer. Just I mean, your your command of language is as a writer, really thrilling to me. And also, you know, you’re doing something that I think also people don’t always expect of, you know. Female identified writers in terms of giving us this really like action packed kind of, you know, landscape of things happening. And and it really does hearken back to things. I think we I think we think of as a little more like Afro futurist, like, you know, when you’re talking about Octavia Butler or, you know, N.K. Jemison, you know where I’m getting a lot of like, dynamic, energetic, like, you know, stuff going on here. And there’s also a lot of allegory. I thought, you know, to to current events, whether we’re talking about, you know, reflecting on issues of enslavement and bodily autonomy or integrity, misogyny, even the military to a certain extent, were those all like intentional themes that you were kind of trying to tease out as parallels, or did they just kind of evolve with the story? 

Ayana Gray [00:08:37] A mixture of both. There were, you know, at core, I wanted to write, you know, this big fantasy adventure story. And I wanted it, you know, I wanted action and and mythical, mythical creatures that maybe people weren’t familiar with. And a little bit of romance and some magic and all of these things that I love as a fantasy reader. But along the way in this, you know, you understand this as a writer, you end up putting a little bit of yourself into the story and you take the things you’re seeing and you can’t help but write about them. So when there are two main characters in the story, one of them is a Black boy. And I couldn’t help but, you know, write about what I witnessed and what I saw, you know, for example, in my own little brother and the things that, you know, kind of watching how he’s navigated the world. And so there’s a lot of discussion and reflection about what it means to be a Black boy trying to become a Black man and the way expectations are put on Black boys and Black men, I didn’t set out to like, you know, to write that, but that’s what happened. I didn’t necessarily plan to write about mental health and the way mental health is dealt with in the Black community. But that’s what happened. It just sort of came out of me. It’s I was writing and then, you know, I finished the book and look back and I’m like, oh, wow. I put a lot, a lot of my heart into this without meaning, without necessarily like strategically doing it. So it was it was sort of a mix in the end at the end. 

Maiysha Kai [00:09:56] Of the day. Oh, I love that you said that you put a lot of your heart into it, because I think, you know, when I think of how this book resonated with me, it resonated with my heart. Like, did you have any kind of, I guess, anticipation and hope expectation that this story would resonate with so many people? I mean, this was an instant bestseller, so it obviously hit, you know, for people. Did you did you and did you anticipate or hope that it would hit that sweet spot for people? 

Ayana Gray [00:10:28] I think, you know, in my wildest dreams, I certainly hoped it would connect with lots of people. But I think about the power of books and how I would read books as a kid. As a kid, I would read books by people who who have long since died. And I mean, they’re not here anymore. And the fact that the words they wrote made me feel seen and made me feel less alone as a kid who had to move around a lot, especially I found friends in my books. As weird as that might sound. 

Beast of Prey Excerpt [00:10:55] Their heads were still bowed when Kofi asked the question in a murmur. “Is it true?” Mama cracked a wary eye. “Koffi. Some of the others were talking.” Koffi went on before her mother could stop her. 

Maiysha Kai [00:11:11] No, it doesn’t sound weird to me at all. 

Ayana Gray [00:11:12] You know, I found I found home in books. And so I was like, I think about how especially as a kid, as a teenager, how much that meant to me and how that was really a life raft for me. And I what I hoped is that I hopes that Beasts of Prey could be if it was a life raft for one person, if it helped one person get through a hard time, helped one person feel seen and feel like, wow, I’m not the only one who’s had this difficult experience. Then, then I’ve won. Everything else is kind of the cherry on top that I hoped to give to readers what authors before me had given to me. 

Maiysha Kai [00:11:48] First of all, I love that answer because. Yeah, yeah, I do think I mean, I think those of us who love love books, who love writers, who love Black writers, you know, it is exactly that. It’s that sense of feeling seen and heard. And I think you really skillfully accomplished both here. You know, I am interested, you know, this this you know, I think it’s very for writers, you know, writers who aspire to write a book, writers who aspire to get a publishing deal, etc.. And that we’re going to get down to brass tacks here. The idea of pitching one book is often really daunting. You pitched three, as I recall. I mean, you know, as I understand you pitched three out the gate. What gave you the confidence to do that and to and to really package this whole thing is like, no, this is not going to be told him what book this is. This is a whole arc. This is a whole narrative, like what gave you the confidence to kind of present the story in that way? 

Ayana Gray [00:12:50] You know, I have to be really, really honest here. There’s a ton of advice out there on the Internet about books. And one of the bad pieces of advice that I believe because I didn’t know any better was that nobody is going to want a series from an unheard of debut author. So to be honest with you, initially I tried to make the Beasts of Prey trilogy one book. 

Maiysha Kai [00:13:13] Wow. Okay. 

Ayana Gray [00:13:14] I tried. I tried. And I. I sent it off to literary agents. And I’m so this is this is kind of the shows the power of of simply having having faith and kind of going out in a leap of faith. It was actually my literary agent who who read this very big, messy fantasy. And he was like he said to me, he emailed me and he said, there’s this is a good story, but I think it’s more than one story, Ayana. And it was like the minute he said that, the minute somebody from publishing it was almost like gave me permission to dream bigger. I did, you know, because I had, you know, as honestly as a lot of Black people in Black women are expected to be very modest, very humble, like, oh, I should start small. I shouldn’t I shouldn’t dream too big here. The minute he said, I think that this is more than one story, it was like the floodgates opened and suddenly I was like, Yes, this is more than one story. I have permission. I can write more than one story and not feel like I’m taking up too much space. So, I mean, that was that was actually the turning point for for the when when the book became a series. 

Maiysha Kai [00:14:24] Listen, that phrase taking up too much space. I think, first of all, most people who have lived in Black bodies and definitely Black women would identify with that phrase in terms of always being a little afraid of taking up too much space. And I’m so glad. I mean, God bless the good agents, right? Because, you know, being seen in that way, I think now obviously you’re allowing your readers to be seen in a certain light. And we’ll be right back with more writing. Black. 

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Maiysha Kai [00:15:08] Okay, we are back with more Writing Black. So this is also, you know, a very unique narrative, too. I mean, it’s something that I think we’re seeing more and more and I’m excited to see it. But, you know, this is a book that, you know, unapologetically has Africa written all over and up and through it, you know, like this is what that is. And as a Black American, I can honestly say, you know, I’m familiar with some parts of the continent, not all parts of the continent. It’s a huge continent. And, you know, you’re really drawing from all over the continent. And, you know, why was that so important to you? Like, this is not you know, I mean, you could have told, I guess, the story from a Black American perspective. I guess you very strategically chose to center this in the motherland, so to speak. Why was that so important to you? 

Ayana Gray [00:16:00] So in a surprise to no one, I have always loved stories, and I feel like genealogy in our history is the ultimate story. And you can imagine, like for a girl who love stories and who desperately wanted to know as a kid about my ancestors, you know, to understand that a my ancestors, at least some of them were enslaved and B, because they were enslaved, their stories are gone. I told I think I was talking to my editor once and I said, it’s kind of like being given a book. And the first like four chapters have been ripped out. And not only have they been ripped out, but you are never getting them. You just kind of have to pick up in the middle and figure out what happened. There’s a just a tremendous loss. And I think anybody from a diaspora can understand that the frustration, the anger, the sadness that you feel. And so I had a. Had a difficult relationship growing up with my heritage because I was like, well, I don’t know. I don’t know what it is. And I’ve done a lot of research to try to get answers, but there are still gaps. 

Ayana Gray [00:16:57] So when it came time to write this, to pray, and after I’d gone to gone to Ghana and really, like, as cliche as it sounds been to the motherland and been to this land where I know my ancestors came from, there was just I it was it’s such a I don’t know, it’s such a beautiful place. And I was I was like, why are there not more fantasy books set in this, worlds like this? This is gorgeous. There are deserts, there are lush jungles and forests and thriving cities. And so much that I like, why it why are there not more stories set in worlds like this? And I wanted to write, so there was that like very selfish fantasy reader questioning. But also I wanted to write a story that celebrated that heritage instead of being just just sad about it. Instead of just being angry about it. I wanted to write a story that celebrated it. I may not know the details, but I know that this is where my ancestors came from. These are some of the foods they might have eaten. These are the clothes and the languages and the mythology and the stories they might have told. And that’s something to celebrate. 

Maiysha Kai [00:17:59] Oh, it’s definitely something to celebrate. And we’ll be right back with more Writing Black. 

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Maiysha Kai [00:18:18] Heard. Okay, we are back with more Writing Black. This is a question I ask of a lot of authors. Basically authors of fiction. Any author of fiction, I would ask this question. But in your case, I do think it’s particularly relevant is that, you know, because we are missing that really fundamental piece. So many of us are missing that fundamental piece of that front end of the book. Right. There is a you know, in your case, especially a distinct amount of worldbuilding that you’re doing here. And I think as a writer, that is probably one of the most challenging, at least for me, things to do. And yet I also find I mean, maybe it’s maybe it’s challenging because the options are limitless. But would you mind talking a little bit about the worldbuilding from that? I mean, you have created an entire kind of ecosystem of these people living. You know, you’ve created cities and villages and locations. And this thing is over here and this thing is to the west and, you know, etc., etc.. And what was that process like for you? 

Ayana Gray [00:19:22] Worldbuilding is my favorite thing about fantasy. I love immersing myself in different worlds. And so I think I took a lot of hints again from the fantasy authors I read before where, you know, the cool thing is there are there are a lot of things about shows, which is the continent where the story takes place that are that are real there. They’re based on real things. But I mixed that in with things I made up. So you don’t it’s all you don’t know what what draws from real history and what come it all kind of just amalgamate. And I remember as a kid, I was like, wow, these authors made up whole things. And then finding out later, that’s actually from a specific lore or tradition. And that was fun to like to do my own research as a reader and find out more about the world with worldbuilding. I mean, I like to create kind of a fake Wikipedia page. So I have a whole document about the foods people eat, about the clothes they wear, about wedding traditions. And there are no weddings in Beasts of Prey, but I like to know that kind of thing because it helps me make the world feel real. So I spend a lot of time worldbuilding before I even really write the story. That’s actually the first thing I do. I make a world and then figure out what stories could exist within this world. So I sort of go big and then work my way down. 

Beast of Prey Excerpt [00:20:39] In the fragile hours before dawn, this city belongs to its monsters. A faltering rhythm beats in my chest like a goatskin drum as I feel for the dagger sheathed at my side. 

Maiysha Kai [00:20:53] Well, first of all, thank you, because I’ll be using that word. I think you know, I think that like so many people, we don’t know where to begin. We want to write these amazing stories. We want to like, you know, bring somebody to another world. And I think for you especially, you know, this is what I think anybody should read this book, these books. Scuse me. At this point, two out of three. You know, I also think, you know, this is marketed as a way a book. Do you hope? Are you hoping that this will also inspire more young people to and especially young Black writers to. Make their own world. 

Ayana Gray [00:21:30] Oh, absolutely. I think I’m very lucky to publish. I’m lucky to have published Beasts of Prey at the moment that I’m publishing it. There’s a really cool renaissance and really cool movement within kind of the literature community where you see so many Black creators contributing. And I again, I go back to that that little girl who was walking around the shelves of the library or the bookstore looking for these books. Now, there’s not just one, not just two, three, four, five. There are whole shelves now of of stories. And there are stories for Black disabled kids. There are stories for queer Black kids. There are stories for Black boys, Black girls, Black non-binary people, you know, all all nuances within within. What it means to be Black are on the shelves now. So I you know, I do I do hope to contribute to that to that kind of building canon for young Black readers. 

Maiysha Kai [00:22:27] All right. Well, we’re going to take just a minute. And then we’ll be back with more Writing Black. 

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Maiysha Kai [00:23:02] All right, we’re back. Let’s get into it. I love that you use the phrase cannon, because I’m thoroughly convinced that, you know, we have a cannon as a Black people. A cannon that we we do. You know, people who come to mind are always like, you know, I mentioned Octavia earlier, Toni Morrison, Alice Walker, Langston Hughes, etc., etc., James Baldwin, you know. But what we also know, you know, in the midst of all this is we’re also at this moment where we’re seeing a lot of. I mean, I’m going to say it in my way, but we’re seeing a lot of truth telling being attacked. And even when that comes in the form of fiction, you know, we’re seeing a lot of you know, we’re in an era where there are book bans happening with, you know, like this really regressive kind of. It’s disgusting. You know, push against other experiences, other narratives, true narratives, etc.. How do you hope to be a part of that push as well? I mean, obviously not just the inspiration, but I guess in a way the rebellion against people who try to repress Black stories and Black queer stories or, you know, what have you. 

Ayana Gray [00:24:13] Well, personally, it’s on my bucket list to have one of my books banned. I know that’s probably bad, but I think. 

Maiysha Kai [00:24:19] Spicy. 

Ayana Gray [00:24:21] You know, and this is this is sort of a weird take. But I think book bans, book bans are kind of interesting because they’re self-defeating. I have a lot of faith, especially in like Gen Z. Gen Alpha. The minute you ban a book, what you’ve done is made those teens want to read it all the more. So whenever I see a really good book get banned. There’s a disappointment, of course. But I’m also in my head kind of like, yes, because that means that you have get you’ve noticed it and that means that teens are going to want to read it all the more. So I hope to write more bannable books. That’s my that’s my goal. That’s my, my, my hope. That’s my contribution to the movement. I want to write more bannable books. 

Maiysha Kai [00:25:05] I love it. That should be our goal I’m going to make. And then to make a banner make more bannable books. Because you’re right, teenagers love nothing more. And I say this as a one time teenager myself, then rebellion tell us not to do something. We’re going to do it. And and what do you hope those same teens and adults, you know, take away from piece of prey and beast of ruin? Because, again, I cannot express enough, as you know, I’m not going to say how old I am right now. But, you know, as a very grown woman, I love these books. These are great. You have turned me back on to this part of myself that I thought I left behind in childhood in terms of wanting to go into these other spaces, these other realms. And and so I thank you for that. What do you hope that your readers take away? 

Ayana Gray [00:25:53] Thank you for that, by the way. Oh, gosh. So this is always a tough question for me, actually, because I. 

Maiysha Kai [00:26:00] Okay. 

Ayana Gray [00:26:01] There’s another author named Rick Riordan, really big kid, lit author who who’s talked about how the relationship that a reader has with a book is none of the author’s business. I’m paraphrasing what he said, but I really hold true to that. I try to let you know beasts of prey. Once it’s out into the world and it is out in the world now, the relationship that people have with it is going to be informed by their life what they’re going through. I know that I wrote it and the reason I wrote it, I wanted it, especially for kids who were dealing with difficult family dynamics, for example, dealing with different mental health challenges, to feel seen, to know they were not alone, and to realize that the things that they’re often most afraid of the beast, the monsters they’re running from, are usually not as bad as you as you think they are. And really, when you stop and face that hard thing, that’s when it goes away. That’s when you conquer it. Also, you know, learning to rely and lean on your friends, especially learning that you don’t have to earn love. That’s a really big, big theme for for the male character. Love is not to be earned. Love is given. And that’s something not that my parents, like, pushed on me at all, but something I had to come to understand that my my family’s going to love me no matter what I achieve because. Because they love me, not my achievements, you know? So those are some of the things I hope, especially young, like teenagers who are preparing to go out into the world and don’t know where they’re going to fit in in the world. I hope maybe they read Koffi and that kind of story and those pieces resonate especially. 

Maiysha Kai [00:27:38] Listen, there are plenty of grown folks who need that message. I’m just going to say that right here, like, you know, that is that was that right there? I’m just like, again, pardon me. And I again, thank you for for writing this. I think that, again, those are things that we forget. All right. Well, we’ll be back with more Writing Black. 

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Maiysha Kai [00:28:12] Okay. And we are back with more Writing Black. Obviously, you’ve been inspired by a lot of people as well. So what are some authors that you would recommend other than yourself? I think everybody should read this. Who else would you guess? 

Ayana Gray [00:28:27] I have like recommendations for category and genres. Let me get my stuff together. So I think I’ll say this especially for. This is very specific. I was a Black girl who grew up in a very white environment and often did not feel seen, did not feel validated. And I would say especially for for the Black girls. For the Black girls who are in this situation. Read Toni Morrison. Fine. Toni Morrison. It was not on any of my school recommendations, but I found her. I found her and I read her books. And it was the first time in my life I felt seen. So go read Toni Morrison if you have not for fantasy. Oh gosh, I mean narrow it down. I adore Roschni Choskni. She is an Indian Filipina author who just writes beautifully and is really funny and is one of those authors who you read her stories and kind of just escape. So I really love her work. Sabaa Tahir, is another one of my very favorite fantasy authors, and she’s written Contemporary too. But I could go on and on. But I’m going to pick those two. Those favorites right now in fantasy. 

Maiysha Kai [00:29:42] Okay. And you’re also, you know, one of these rare writers, maybe not so rare anymore, but I’m excited about I don’t know where this is already had it. I mean, people are already conceptualizing this for the screen. Like, what’s your involvement there and how excited are you in terms of people being able to see this? I mean, you know, this is the I would think this is a pretty big undertaking in terms of bringing to the screen. But can you tell me a little bit about just even that, that process? Because, again, writers, you know, we go into this and it’s like you we either have super humble ambitions or really lofty ones. And I feel like you are kind of living a lot of people’s dream right now with this. So I’m curious to know how that’s. 

Ayana Gray [00:30:26] Definitely aired on the humble like this will never happen. It’d be cool, but it was. And then it happened and I was like, What? So Beasts of Prey is it’s in development to be a feature film with Netflix, which is really cool and very excited. The woman who was the screenwriter who wrote the script for Beasts Supremes, Melodie Cooper, she’s a Black woman, which I’m so excited about because she yes, she I can always tell she read this to pray before it was published. And there are several historical, real historical figures that I named characters after in Beast to Pray. And if you know your especially West African history, you know the names and she knew the name. So I was like, this is someone who gets it. And she has written a beautiful script that I have gotten to officially see as of a few days ago. And so it is with Netflix. It is in development. As you said, fantasy is it’s a huge undertaking when you’re trying to build a world and then take a 400, 500 page book and bring it in to make it a two hour whatever movie. So I’m being very patient, but I’m excited that things have continued to move. And like I said, the script is super cool. 

Maiysha Kai [00:31:40] Listen, we tuned in for how many how many seasons of Game of Thrones, right? I get it. I am ready. Okay. So I to thank you so much for joining us on Writing Black. And, you know, this is a new podcast for theGrio, so I really appreciate you coming and blessing us with your honesty and your candor and your wit and these gorgeous books. So everybody seriously read this surprise, read Beasts of Ruin. This is like really cool stuff. You will learn things, you will be inspired, you will be transported. And Ayanna, thank you so much. Thank you for having me. 

Ayana Gray [00:32:13] It’s so good to see you. 

Maiysha Kai [00:32:15] Absolutely. You too. I’ll be here for the trilogy. I want to see that third two working on it. Waiting. Okay. And we’ll be right back with more Writing Black. 

[00:32:30] Introducing Dear Culture with Panama Jackson on theGrio Black Podcast Network. Bring your friends for the shenanigans and stay for the edutainment. As Panama Debates Culture Wars Janet Jackson versus Michael. Blackfessions, Blackmendations and everything Black. Listen, today on theGrio mobile app for all the Black culture conversations you don’t want to miss. Also available wherever great podcasts are heard. 

Maiysha Kai [00:32:58] Okay. We are back with more riding Black. Now, as you know, every week I like to recommend some books. We like to call them my favorites. That’s my favorites. Get it? You know, and really, I like to correlate them to the topic at hand for the day. Look at how people are trying to erase history. Now, another, people are trying to erase our history now. And I think to myself, this is exactly when we need to, you know, magnify, reclaim and and really also, I think magnify the dignity of our ancestors. Another book gets a lot of play around here. We talk about a lot is the prophets. I love this because this is really tapping into the humanity of enslaved people. Yes, from a fictional perspective, but in a way that I think is so relatable and so beautiful. And so I will never stop pumping up this book. But it’s not obviously the the only thing out there. 

Maiysha Kai [00:33:58] I would also say take a look at the sweetness of water. That’s a that’s another great book from really that’s really framed like right after emancipation. And as we know, reconstruction was while reconstruction is troubling. It can be very conflicted. It can be messy. But this book is a lesser known book. So this is Black Cloud Rising. This came out in February. This is a book about. So this is a historical novel about the African Brigade, which was a unit of former slaves and kind of fictionalizing what that looked like in the Civil War. I will be perfectly transparent. I have not finished it yet, but it is gripping so far. And I think as we talk about reclaiming our narratives like this is one that a lot of people know. And so I highly recommend. This is Black like Black Cloud Rising, excuse me, by David Wright. Check this out. Thank you so much for joining us for another episode of Writing Black. As always, you can find us on theGrio app or wherever you find your podcasts. 

[00:35:16] TheGrio Black Podcast Network is here, and it’s everything you’ve been waiting for. News, talk, entertainment, sports and today’s issues all from the Black perspective. Ready for real talk and Black culture amplified? Be inspired. Listen to new and established voices now on theGrio Black Podcast Network. Listen today on theGrio Mobile App and tune in everywhere great podcast are heard.