Radiah : Tell us about Black Girls Must Die Exhausted.
Jayne: Black Girls Must Die Exhausted is the story of 33-year-old Tabitha Walker. She’s a woman who has really focused on societal expectations and living according to “standards.” What’s more, as a black woman, she faces additional pressures because those standards weren’t necessarily created with her in mind.
The story kicks off meeting Tabitha (who we call Tabby, as we get to know her) on her worst day, just after she’s become aware of a fertility crisis that throws her carefully laid plans into disarray. Everything she’s taken for granted now needs to be reconsidered. And along that process, Tabby must learn a new way to look at fulfillment, apart from just meeting standards and for her own happiness, learn how to shift from just surviving to starting to think what thriving would be like for her.
Jayne: What I hoped to do with this book was authentically center a black female protagonist and show who she is and what her life is like—the good, the great, and the layers of challenges. I think Tabitha is a fantastic person to teach us what it looks like to try to find more authenticity in your everyday life—what that journey could look like in a very relatable way. She also shows us just how much the experience of living outside of our authenticity can deplete us, and reminds us how important our support structures of friends, family, and self-care are on an everyday basis.
Radiah: How did you come up with this title?
Jayne: The title Black Girls Must Die Exhausted came from my own experience. I came up with the idea for this book in 2016 and really started trying to develop an awareness of how I felt as a black woman at that time. There were so many societal issues, the glass ceiling for women, the feeling of walking around in a “black” body – I felt unseen, unprotected, and uncelebrated. The best word that summed up that feeling for me was exhausted. Thinking about living my whole life that way, just seemed overwhelming. Realizing this and then considering all of the black women in generations prior who’d dealt with so much more, the title felt like an acknowledgement. But I also wanted to use the story to change the meaning of the title in different ways relating to the experience of being a black woman in contemporary society. At times in the book the title is an acknowledgement, at times a celebration, at times a call to thrive.
Radiah: What made you decide to have Tabitha deal with a fertility issue in this novel?
Jayne: In dealing with my own fertility issues, I found so few resources in non-fiction and in fiction that I thought it was important to bring this very common real-life issue into this story. It was one that I hadn’t seen before in fiction and thought it was also important to show this as a black woman’s story. I hope this novel helps to normalize the topic and conversations concerning reproductive health and also helps to bring some awareness that the face of infertility can also be a black woman.
Radiah: How has your journey as an author been so far?
Jayne : My journey as an author has had its challenges, but it’s been incredible. I initially had a lot of trouble getting past industry gatekeepers. I was told with Black Girls Must Die Exhausted that my protagonist wasn’t likable and that they were not able to connect to the story. I thought that was strange because Tabby’s story is very much a human story and it shouldn’t matter what perspective that human story is being told from. I decided to initially use my own resources to publish Black Girls Must Die Exhausted as a novel, because I wanted to give readers the last an most important opinion. I’m so glad that I did because an incredible community formed around the book and led to securing my current agent and ultimately a four-book deal with my current publisher Harper-Perennial.
I couldn’t be happier to be on this journey with a community of readers who have played and continue to play such an important role.
Radiah: Where can readers find more about you and your books?
Jayne: My website is www.JayneAllen.com, where I also have a newsletter and I’m pretty active on Instagram as @jayneallenwrites. I’m very excited for my next book, Black Girls Must Be Magic, the follow up to Black Girls Must Die Exhausted, which is scheduled for February 1, 2022.