top of page
  • Ratha Tep

Interview with Brittany J. Thurman, FOREVER AND ALWAYS

Every night when Daddy gets home from work, Olivia gives him a big hug and knows that the evening will be full of love—and fun. But every morning when Daddy goes to work, Olivia worries, worries, worries. Be safe, she and Momma tell him. But what if he isn’t? Sometimes other people aren’t, like the people Olivia sees on the news.



Max's Boat Pick



FOREVER AND ALWAYS

By Brittany J. Thurman and Shamar Knight-Justice

Publisher: Greenwillow Books (January 16, 2024)


Thanks for coming onboard again, Brittany! Can you share how Forever and Always come about? 

BJT: "I don’t remember writing the first draft of Forever and Always, but I do remember the situations happening when this story and Olivia’s voice popped into my head. In 2018, Antwon Rose, Jr was a young Black Pittsburgh teen who lost his life at the hands of law enforcement. I remember the marches, protests, and hurt that stayed on the faces of his loved ones. Around this time, more injustices occurred across the country, and I felt so unsettled. Many questions erupted in my mind. What is safety? How does this continue to happen? What does it mean to be secure and who gets that right? We should all be able to return home to those we love.

 

I began to write draft after draft, until the book sold. During the time of revision between 2020-2021, more people were taken from this Earth who should still be here. Their stories became a part of this story.

 

While the initial idea of Forever and Always revolved around these issues, I also thought of how unpredictable our world is. Safety can mean so many things to so many people, no matter where we are. Olivia’s voice came first. Her words and story fueled my mind as if she were standing right beside me. I vividly saw and heard her love for her father, like the love so many kids around this world have for theirs. I think that Forever and Always is a story that has always been with me. As a child who dealt with anxiety and worry, perhaps Olivia has been in my mind for decades, just waiting to be set free."

 

There's a page in your book where the Momma sees a picture of a man on her phone "who looks like Daddy, sounds like Daddy, could be Daddy," but did not make it home. What did YOU mean by that, and what do you think young readers will take away from it? "With news and information at our fingertips, in seconds we become aware of what is occurring around us, whether it is in our cities, or countries away. I wrote those words after the murder of George Floyd at the hands of law enforcement. I knew that if my safety and security felt shaken after this tragedy, then children must have had similar feelings, too. As George Floyd called for his mother, the sound of that yearning could have so easily been another father, uncle, brother, mother, sister, aunt… the list goes on. 

 

As a child, I worried about so much, especially for those around me. If too much time passed between a loved one leaving the house and the time they were supposed to come home, I panicked. We have a right to safety and security, whether we are inside our homes or not. I want kids to know they are not alone in their feelings and while worry often comes along with waiting, so does hope."


 




For those who love Forever and Always, what would you also suggest? There are many books that I would pair with Forever and Always, but two that stick out are Me & Mama by Cozbi A. Cabrera and Daddy Speaks Love by Leah Henderson and E.B. Lewis. Both books contain wonderful protagonists and the parents they love. The young child in Me and Mama notices all the things her mother does and how the two are similar.











In Daddy Speaks Love, the story revolves around the daughter/father bond and all the ways he brings joy."

 

 






On the topic of daugther/father bonds, I love the way you portrayed Olivia's bond with her father—especially with the dancing scene. And of course I was curious—what sort of "old school" music were you envisioning Olivia and Daddy dancing to? "My grandmother has a record player full of albums. These artists and songs played over holiday dinners, or on the radio along road trips. I envision Olivia and Daddy dancing to the musical artists who have held influence over rhythm, blues, and jazz and whose music ignites our souls, drawing us closer to each other. Those artists and their songs are Tina Turner ('The Best'), Stevie Wonder ('Isn’t She Lovely'), and Bill Withers ('Lovely Day')."

 

“Then I look at you

And the world's alright with me

Just one look at you

And I know it's gonna be

A lovely day”

—Bill Withers, "Lovely Day"


What's next for you? "I am excited for the fourth book in the Fearless series by Mandy Gonzalez to come out on April 2nd, 2024. It was a joy to co-write Fearless: Boulevard of Dreams, which was published in 2022. The fourth book, Fearless: The Takeover follows a young Broadway star who realizes that there is so much more to life besides social media after her online platforms are hacked.

 

Then, in 2025, I will have several titles to hit shelves. Come Catch a Dream, illustrated by Islenia Mil, follows a young boy named Remi whose only dream is to spin on ice. I loved to ice skate when I was a child, but I could never get those twirls right. Come Catch a Dream was inspired by this former passion and a quote from one of my favorite poets, Georgia Douglas Johnson: 'The right to make my dreams come true, I ask, nay, I demand of life.'

 

In the winter of 2025, my first non-fiction picture book will debut. The First Library: The True Story of the First Library by and For Black America is illustrated by Cozbi A. Cabrera and tells of the Western Branch Library, located in my hometown of Louisville, Kentucky. Created out of the need to have a library of their own in the early 1900s, this branch became the first in the country run by Black America and created for the Black community. The librarians of this location, without formal training in library science, inspired the establishment of branches for Black communities across the country."



You have so many books in the pipeline! I'm truly in awe. What new and forthcoming books are you most excited about?


Elijah’s Easter Suit by Brentom Jackson and Emmanuel Boateng

 

"As a kid, I vividly remember how special Easter was to my family. It was a treat to pick out an Easter dress, shoes, and to get my hair styled. I am excited about Elijah’s Easter Suit, which is described as, ‘In a story full of style, sass, and significance, a young boy goes on a quest for the perfect Easter church outfit, inspired by elders from his community…’"






Sydney’s Big Speech by Malcolm Newsome and Jade Orlando

 

"In Sydney’s Big Speech, young Sydney is reluctant to speak up in class. Deemed as shy, Sydney is inspired by Black women leaders, knowing that she too can give a great speech. As a person who was labeled shy when I was a kid, and as an adult who enjoys thinking a lot more than talking, I am excited to meet Sydney and for kids to be inspired by her newfound confidence."

 

 




What's on your list of 100 best picture books of all time? "I think this book is on everyone’s list and it is always at the top of mine. The Snowy Day by Ezra Jack Keats. I used to read this story to preschoolers each winter. I made felt pieces to accompany the characters and setting. Once we finished reading, we would retell the story through the felt pieces. Peter is a timeless character that so many can relate to today. Just as it was vastly important for Black kids to see themselves in books as children full of joy when The Snowy Day came out in 1962, it is equally important for that same joyful representation today. Go Peter!"

Comments


bottom of page