Denene Millner is one of many black authors that just wants to elevate the art of black storytelling.
As one of many Black authors herself, she has helped A-list celebrities reach the bestseller lists with their memoirs. This year she will work with “Empire” star, Taraji P. Henson to launch her new book.
A successful author in her own right. She has penned popular fiction with fellow authors, Angela Burt-Murray and Mitzi Miller. This includes The Vow, which became a Lifetime movie in 2015. As a wife and a mother of two daughters, she also runs a blog that is popular among black parents, My Brown Baby.
Even amongst all this, she has somehow found the time to bring life to her passion for black children’s books with Denene Millner Books, her own line of black children’s books from Agate Publishing, coming in 2017. This is a positive step for the black author.
Denene first fell in love with black children’s books when she found out she was pregnant with her first child in 1998.
“When you find out you are pregnant, you start decorating and buying baby clothes, and the things you want to have in your baby’s world,”
“I have always wanted to write books for black children that were outside of the civil rights or slave narratives”
Where are the Black stories for children?
She wanted to be able to read to her children black books that reflected her life and the life of her loved ones, but they came few and far between. And while she amassed a great collection, as a black author herself, she knew one thing to be true:
“I firmly believe that if you don’t see it, then you have to create it.”
“I have always wanted to write books for black children that were outside of the civil rights or slave narratives,” said Denene
Drawn to the stories of the everyday lives of her own children, she asked herself,
“How about a story about a black child who is enjoying a day in Harlem? Children deserve to see themselves in books.”
“These questions were swirling around in my head, and then I was asked to write a three-book series called Hotlanta, and a picture book for Scholastic Books by editor Andrea Davis Pinkney.”
By that point, Denene had truly caught the children’s book bug. She began writing magazine articles and blog posts. The natural transition from there for her came when she had a meeting with Agate Publishing, where her husband, award winning journalist and author, Nick Chiles had published books.
The need to diversify the publishing world for children of African descent was illustrated by the attention that Marley Dias, an 11-year-old sixth grader in New Jersey received when she started the 1,000 Girl Book drive earlier this year. As a black girl, Dias asked why she should be limited to “reading about white boys and their dogs.”
Denene won’t author all of the books in the imprint, but she is lined up as the author of the first picture book titled Early Sunday Morning. Since the announcement, she has been flooded with inquiries from other black authors who have finished books ready to go.
Denene says Black children’s books can be hard to find – despite online retailers, it often feels like looking for the needle in the haystack. “You have to be deliberate about finding them because you can’t just walk into a bookstore and see them.” This is something we here at Respect Your Legacy Books will be changing.
Like we do here, Denene recognises that the keys to making these books more available is simple: black buyers must support black authors. She looks forward to more titles focused on the lives of black children and increasing the reach with her imprint and beyond.