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BlackLit: An Interview With Author and Music Writer Danyel Smith

Iliyah Coles •
Aug 24th, 2023

In honor of Juneteenth, we launched a monthly series called BlackLit, a space where we invite Black writers to speak on the literature that helped shape them, the authors they long to be in conversation with, and the up-and-coming writers they want us to keep on our radar. Our intention with BlackLit is to shine a spotlight on the literary geniuses that aren’t always given the same attention as their white counterparts.

We’re happy to announce that our August installment features acclaimed music writer and award-winning author Danyel Smith, whose books have placed Black women artists where they rightfully belong: center stage. Her love letter to Black women in pop, Shine Bright (2022), continues to receive high praise from critics and readers alike. If you're like us and can't get enough of Danyel, she also hosts a Spotify-exclusive podcast called "Black Girl Songbook," a show that breaks down the influence Black women have had on music — artist by artist, song by song. But before you go check it out, keep reading to see what Danyel’s biggest literary influences are.

Who is a favorite author that you have been delving into recently?

The book I’ve been delving into recently is Donovan X. Ramsey’s When Crack was King: A People’s History of A Misunderstood Era. This book is necessary! And Donovan writes with illuminating detail. It’s amazing.

If you could have a coffee date with any writer, dead or alive, who would it be?

Zora Neale Hurston.

What author, whether you met them casually or in a professional setting, has left you starstruck?

The brilliant Isabel Wilkerson, author of Caste: The Origins of Our Discontents. I met her via phone — we had a long and warm conversation that lives in my heart and comes to mind all the time.

What’s a book that made you want to write your own?

Dr. Paula Giddings’ When and Where I Enter: The Impact of Black Women on Race and Sex in America. I read it so, so long ago, and it continues to inspire me.

What’s your favorite place to go when you want to dive into a good book?

A comfy chair in an indie bookstore. I especially love Reparations Club bookstore in Los Angeles.

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