Jayne Allen’s Inspiration for Black Girls Must Die Exhausted
by Jayne Allen
I knew that I wanted to write a story that gave authentic purpose to showcasing a Black female protagonist. I wanted it to be a story that she uniquely could tell based on the perspectives that come through the contemporary experience of gender and race. Tabitha “Tabby” Walker became that person, a news reporter whose job it is to see the stories hidden in everyday life, and who is dealing with several unique challenges within her own family—the one she was born into and the family she was hoping to create.
I felt that it would be an exciting challenge to craft a story about an infertility experience that many women face, but few discuss, and to see how it is further complicated when you add on the layer of race. I also wanted to explore the other ways that we as women might define ourselves, through our professional success, romantic relationships, and friendships, and to see what happens when we’re forced to make choices that throw off the delicate balance that we try so hard to create. And further, who we are when we simply stop saying “I’m fine” and start telling the truth.
My absolute favorite part of the writing process was crafting and developing the depth and detail of the characters and the perspectives they would lend to the shaping of the story. My idea of a great adventure is to explore the inner worlds of everyday people to find the incredible textures that make us each unique and beautiful. And in my female characters especially, I like to find and highlight the internal superhero that we don’t give ourselves enough credit for. I spend a lot of time on dialogue as a way to showcase each character’s personality and I try to push for the words and conversations that are just beyond the courage that we can normally access in a given moment. My most difficult and anticipated scene to write was between Tabby and her grandmother, a white woman who married a black man in the segregation era, in which they asked each other what it felt like to be the race they were. It was so deeply moving to me to first establish the overwhelming love and intimacy of that relationship and then to create this sacred space between them to share difficult, personal details that might have never otherwise been voiced.
The book itself is meant to be a journey for the reader, a stage for the theme of the big, provocative title, Black Girls Must Die Exhausted, to play out in three acts. First as an acknowledgement, then an exploration, and finally a celebration and inspirational call to adventure. It is my hope that the warmth of the story reaches beyond the boundaries of the pages themselves and feels like a personal virtual reality.
My goal is for Black Girls Must Die Exhausted to become an ever-evolving collaboration of culture, community, fellowship, healing, and imperative conversations that we’re all just beginning to learn how to hold space for.