Women of Wednesday: Tiffany Jackson on Telling Diverse Stories and Protecting Girls

WOMEN OF WEDNESDAY is a micro-interview series featuring women of color in various industries and walks of life, focused on highlighting their pursuits and making it easy for readers to support their endeavors. If you would like to be featured, please submit your answers to the below five questions here.

Tiffany D. Jackson, Author (Brooklyn)

1. Tell us about the work you’re doing and why it’s important.

Currently, I’m a YA author at Katherine Tegen Books! My debut ALLEGEDLY comes out Jan 24th. It’s about a girl convicted of murder at nine years old and forced to spend six years in prison. Now sixteen and living in group home, she finds herself pregnant but the only way to keep her baby is to convince everyone she did not commit a crime.

Honestly, I’ve always wanted to be a writer, but I feel now more than ever it’s important for kids to see more diverse characters on the page and writers of color to create stories with prolific, profound, and impactful messages to reach our readers.

2. What has been the biggest challenge you’ve faced in pursuing the work that’s important to you?

When Harper Collins sent out my book to reviewers, it included a personalized letter from me that had the following:

“There was a lot of research put into this. A lots of phone calls with lawyers, doctors, social workers, correctional officers, group home supervisors, and detectives. A lot of hours spent in the Brooklyn Public Library, combing through psychological case studies on child murderers and prison memoirs. Visits to areas deep in Brooklyn I’ve never been before, countless of hours googling statics (ex. Did you know 15% of girls in juvenile detention centers are sexually assaulted by a staff member?) and viewing handfuls of documentaries.”

But, even though I conducted a lot of research, I still don’t feel like I ever obtained consistent answers on how the juvenile criminal justice system works. I could never get a straight story on how one kid could be thrown in jail for three years for potentially stealing a backpack, but another kid spends barely a night. It all seems ever-changing, fluid, yet not specific to their needs. Strange considering the system should be governed by concrete law, which should apply to each person equally.

3. What do you need in order to continue your work in the way you envision?

It’s not so much about my book, but more pushing attention towards the injustices of the juvenile court, the conditions of juvenile prisons, including upholding the ban on solitary confinement, and advocating for mental health programs as to not re-victimized girls entering the system.

4. Where and how can we support you to make #3 happen?

I would start by visiting such sites as Rights4girls.org and educating yourself on the Sexual Abuse to Prison pipeline. Learn about the #FreeBresha movement. Reach out to your local juvenile centers and teen rehabilitation problems to volunteer. Donate books through programs like Books Through The Bars and Liberation Library. Sign petitions, asks questions, be loud. Kids need your voice.

5. What is your favorite quote?

“Hold fast to dreams because if dreams die life is a broken-winged bird that cannot fly.” -Langston Hughes