Born in Newark, NJ but in touch with her southern roots, Benilde Little, best-selling author, visited small-town USA, Whitmire, SC to discuss her passion for writing. This northern belle left a memorable experience and rewarding impact on the folks in the town dubbed “Pearl of the Piedmont”. Her series of novels, include Good Hair, The Itch, Who Does She Think She Is?, Acting Out and her latest Welcome to My Breakdown. Prior to becoming a successful novelist, Little was a former editor for Essence magazine and a reporter for People magazine. Her work has appeared in The New York Times, Allure, and numerous anthologies. In her latest novel, Benilde shares her desire to deconstruct the strong black woman, her relationship with her mother and her own personal bouts with depression.
What is your life motto
Live in a heart space
Who do you wish you could meet?
Renowned author, James Baldwin, whom I lovingly gave my daughter’s name. Oprah Winfrey and former first lady, Michelle Obama. I also wish I would have been able to meet my grandmothers Ola Mae Eleazer and Elease Vandiver Little, unfortunately, both died very young.
What advice would you give your younger college self
Trust yourself (believe in the power within). Travel a lot (there’s a big world out there, don’t be afraid to explore it); Don’t take everything so seriously and lastly – Forgive your friends.
What is your favorite soul food?
Home-made pound cake, macaroni & cheese, and of course fried chicken – If I didn’t have to worry about my cholesterol (and my weight), I would be a fryin’ chicken eatin’ somebody.
If you could do any job, what would that be?
I would be a psychotherapist or documentary filmmaker. Because I believe in philanthropy and the accomplishments that are made through it, serving as CEO of such organizations like The Ford Foundation would be very rewarding.
After the loss of her mother, Benilde suffered with mental depression. It was the driving force that lead her to write her first non-fiction, memoir, “Welcome to My Breakdown.
Mothers, in general, are role models, matriarchs, and the backbone of our families. In her memoir, Little addresses the “elephant in the room” mental depression. In “Welcome to my Breakdown” Clara Little, Benilde’s mother, is the beating heart of this book. She was a loving, devoted mom, a wife, a political activist, community organizer, and a feminist. Her mother, held many hats and it’s why she could grow up in Newark and have the life she now has. Her mother’s expectations of her and her brothers were that they become productive, college educated citizens of the world.
According to Little, the whole idea of perfection is like a prison. Then you add being black (and a woman) on top of it, the standard is even harder. Can a sister get a break? Yes, we need to give each other a break, and the way to really do that is to be vulnerable. Sometimes you have to take the “S” off your chest and realize you can’t do it all.
There’s not a whole lot about our struggle with grief [as black women] and Little hopes her story will lead to more women “owning their stuff,” and no longer being afraid to speak about their flaws and fears.
Seeing the pride and joy as she holds her baby girl, Clara truly was blessed to have the daughter she had always wanted. Pictured here with author (Just Mercy)/attorney/activist Bryan Stevenson With Academy award winning Octavia Spencer
Where can we connect with you?
Facebook: Benilde Little Author Page
Twtter & Instagram: @BenildeLittle
We thank Benilde for taking a moment to chat with us and being a positive voice for black women.