Monday, November 13, 2023

Q&A with Janeen Jackson


Photo by Andreas Branch



Janeen Jackson is the author of the new children's picture book Hello, Sweet Baby!. She is an equity coordinator at Oakton College, and she lives in Evanston, Illinois.


Q: What inspired you to write Hello, Sweet Baby!?


A: Hello, Sweet Baby! was created in response to my unknown adoption journey. Six years ago, after the passing of my father, my brother and I decided to research our family to memorialize our father. We then took a DNA test for fun to find more family members.


However, my DNA revealed that I was not biologically related to my family--the Jackson family. And within 24 hours, I found out that I was adopted, in foster care, and biracial.


Months later, I decided to tell my children. My youngest, Phoenix, who was 5 years old at the time, had difficulty processing the concept of adoption and, in addition, an understanding of what being mixed race means.

Q: Why did you decide to have the characters be tomatoes and other vegetables and fruits?


A: I told my son about my adoption when I picked him up after school on campus. He had difficulty processing the concept of adoption and race.


I looked around and saw a vegetable his school was growing, and I used that garden as inspiration to explain my "new" life's story. I also found when I used veggies to explain my mixed-race background; my son had an easier time understanding it.

Q: What do you think the story says about adoption?

A: This story shines a positive light on birth parents. The story also shows the complexities of different family dynamics and how adoption can be a complex process.

Q: What do you think Brittanie Gaja's illustrations add to the book? 


A: I love my illustrator's drawings, and I enjoyed working with and art-directing her. Brittanie has given my story magic with her color palette and design style.

Q: What are you working on now?


A: I've just completed the second part of this book, where Sweet Baby Red will become a big sister!

Q: Anything else we should know? 


A: Readers must read the Author's Notes before diving into the book, as this adoption story is an interpretation of my birth story and why it was hard for my case manager to find me a forever home.


Also, the reader should know that there is a "Things to Consider" page. This page is an excellent resource for educators and parents to talk about the complexities of adoption.


--Interview with Deborah Kalb

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