Thursday, September 22, 2022

Q&A with Kimberly Garrett Brown




Kimberly Garrett Brown is the author of the new historical novel Cora's Kitchen. She is the publisher and executive editor of Minerva Rising Press, and her work has appeared in a variety of publications, including the Chicago Tribune and The Rumpus. She lives in Boca Raton, Florida.


Q: What inspired you to write Cora’s Kitchen?

A: I have always been drawn to the Harlem Renaissance. I loved the emergence of Black creativity and innovation. The writers of the time beautifully captured the essence of life as a Black person in America. So much of what they wrote about still rings true today. I wanted to celebrate the period. 


Cora’s Kitchen started as a story about a black woman and a white woman who were interdependent. However, an article about how the 135th Street library played a role in the development of the Harlem Renaissance inspired me to include Langston Hughes in the story. 


Q: How would you describe the dynamic between Cora and Langston Hughes?


A: On the surface, their association is based on an affinity for books and great writing. However, Langston Hughes’s success as a poet creates an inequity between them. Cora holds him in high esteem because of his achievement and thinks she can learn from him. She considers him her mentor. He is willing to take on the role because he believes he is in a position to instruct and critique. 


Q: How did you research the book, and did you learn anything that especially surprised you?

A: I read everything I could find written by Langston Hughes or about him, including his autobiographies, several books of his poetry, his short story collections, and letters. It surprised me that I didn't like him very much after reading so much about him.


My research also took me to Harlem, where I visited the Schomburg Center. I read novels, poetry, and short stories written during the Harlem Renaissance by other authors, including Ralph Ellison, Jean Toomer, Claude McKay, Zora Neale Hurston, Nella Larson, Dorothy West, and Jessie Redmond Fauset.


It disturbed me that male novelists cast women as either someone you slept with or someone who took care of you. And the color of a woman's skin seemed to add to or decrease her overall worth. Women with darker skin had almost no value. It surprised me that the women authors of the time did little to address this in their novels. The problem of racism in America overshadowed each story.


Q: The writer Anna Leahy said of the book, “Cora’s Kitchen is a poignant, compelling story in which misfortune and fortune cannot be teased apart and literature and life have everything to do with each other.” What do you think of that description?


A: I love this description. It’s been my experience that misfortune and fortune are intricately linked. Blessings in the midst of adversity. Loss as a result of good fortune. And the beauty of literature is that it validates our experiences and helps us to make sense of the world.


Q: What are you working on now?


A: I am in the discovery stage of either a novel or short story collection about coming of age in the late ‘70s. I have also been working intermittently on a memoir.

Q: Anything else we should know?


A: I am really grateful to have been invited to be a part of your blog. I have some events coming up in the next few months that I would like to share:


FoxTale Book Shoppe – Book Event (In-person)

05 E Main St., Ste 138, Woodstock, GA 30188-0007 

Oct. 1, 2022, 1:00 PM (EST)


Pages Bookshop – Book Event (In-person)

19560 Grand River Ave., Detroit, MI 48223

Oct. 11, 2022, 6:00 PM (EST)


There is more information about my writing and upcoming events on my website:


--Interview with Deborah Kalb

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