Novelist Angie Thomas used her words to set the young adult world on fire. Thomas was born and raised in Jackson, Mississippi. Growing up in a violent area, her mother fostered Thomas’ passion for reading and writing by taking her to the local library. Writing allowed her to pursue her musical dreams as a teen rapper. Eventually, she set aside her music aspirations to pursue writing, majoring in Creative Writing at Belhaven University.
Her college studies led her to create her first book, The Hate U Give after a professor championed her to translate her upbringing into words. Her experiences, the Black Lives Matter movement, and her love for Hip Hop informed her work from then on. Her manuscript won her the inaugural Walter Dean Myers Grant. The Hate U Give was a New York Times best-seller and adapted into a modest box-office hit with Thomas as a producer.
Thomas has since released two more New York Times best-sellers, On the Come Up and Concrete Rose, in 2019 and 2021. The former was adapted for the screen as a feature-length film directed by Sanaa Lathan. She most recently participated in the YA anthology Blackout, along with other writers Dhonielle Clayton, Tiffany D. Jackson, Nic Stone, Ashley Woodfolk, and Nicola Yoon.
Her upcoming novel, Nic Blake and the Remarkables: The Mainfestor Prophecy, will debut on bookshelves and online on April 4, 2023.
Angie Thomas used her experiences as a voice for those without one. She proved Black writers could use their voices to address topical subjects without compromising their principles and morals. Despite all her success on multiple fronts, Thomas shows no signs of stopping any time soon.
Brave doesn’t mean you’re not scared. It means you go on even though you’re scared.Angie Thomas
Writer and educator Tope Folarin used his experience as a first-generation American to shed light on serious topics. Folarin is the eldest of four siblings raised in Utah and Texas. His parents instilled a love for their native country in their children, sparking his fascination for culture and words. This love translated to him attending and graduating from Morehouse College.
His academic pursuits led to Folarin furthering his studies at Harvard University. He went further as a Rhodes Scholar at the University of Oxford, where he obtained his M.Sc. in African Studies and M.Sc. in Comparative Social Policy. His work soon found him writing several short stories while opening pieces for notable publications like The Atlantic. His writings led him to win the Caine Prize as the first non-native African writer to do so.
Folarin expanded his work into publishing with his semi-autobiographical novel A Particular Kind of Black Man. His debut novel won him the Whiting Award for Fiction. His writings also garnered him a fellowship through the National Endowment for the Arts.
In addition to his writing career, Folarin has used his voice in the educational space for over a decade. He currently serves as executive director of the Institute for Policy Studies and Georgetown University’s Lannan Visiting Lecturer in Creative Writing.
Tope Folarin channeled his thoughts and words to reflect the differences within the U.S. His work championed Black writers to allow their voices to tackle serious subjects in a quest for change. Folarin is trying to change the world with every word.
Art became for me the pathway to, I think, achieving a kind of wholeness… And that was the beginning of my journey, I think, to becoming a more coherent individual human being.Tope Folarin