Virginia DeBerry & Donna Grant

Lorraine Hansberry ... Gwendolyn Brooks ... Margaret Walker ... Nella Larsen ... Dorothy West…all acclaimed African American women and pioneering published authors who told positive, richly woven stories about African American life. Each of these remarkable women paved the way and broke down barriers in a time when being an African American woman writer was unheard of. For best-selling authors Virginia DeBerry and Donna Grant, all of these women are inspirations, but for them, the one writer who truly stands out is Zora Neale Hurston (1891-1960).

“Zora was the most dynamic black female writer of the Harlem Renaissance,” according to Virginia DeBerry. “We read her in school and I was awed by the fact that she was black. Zora’s work opened my mind to the possibility that I, too, could be a novelist.”

Donna and Virginia met 27 years ago as plus-size models in New York City — not the easiest place to nurture a friendship. They were the only two African American models at the same agency and, so, they were direct competition to one another.

They could have become instant rivals, but liked each other almost immediately and thought they were the two funniest people on the planet. It was not long before their occasional meetings blossomed into friendship.

Their first writing venture was Maxima, a fashion and lifestyle magazine for plus-size women. Next, a minor success with a book called, Exposures, made them realize that they could combine their talents and write a novel together.

“Zora wrote about the everyday truth of being a black woman in America,” explains Donna Grant. “She portrayed our emotional life, a side not normally seen or explored. The duality of Zora’s characters is an element we use a lot in our own stories.”

In January 2008, Donna and Virginia released their fifth novel entitled, Gotta Keep On Tryin’ (Touchstone/Simon & Schuster). It is the long awaited sequel to their award winning hit novel, Tryin’ To Sleep In The Bed You Made, a coming of age novel about the consequences of the choices young women make.

Donna and Virginia’s novels successfully capture a slice of African American life — its hopes, dreams, triumphs and setbacks. Their complex characters have a universal appeal that speaks to readers from every walk of life. They are continuing the rich tradition of creating African American literature so future generations can read about our time and be proud.

BLACK HISTORY MONTH FUN FACTOID

WORKS BY ZORA NEALE HURSTON (1891-1960
)
Color Struck (1925) in Opportunity Magazine
Sweat (1926)
How It Feels to Be Colored Me (1928)
The Gilded Six-Bits (1933)
Jonah's Gourd Vine (1934)
Mules and Men (1935)
Tell My Horse (1937)
Their Eyes Were Watching God (1937)
Moses, Man of the Mountain (1939)
Dust Tracks on a Road (1942)
Seraph on the Suwanee (1948)

WORKS BY VIRGINIA DEBERRY & DONNA GRANT
What Doesn’t Kill You (2009)
Gotta Keep On Tryin’ (2008)
Better Than I Know Myself (2004)
Far From the Tree (2000)
Tryin’ To Sleep in the Bed You Made (1997)
Exposures (1990)
Maxima Magazine (1985-1987)