Fall 2019 Publishers’ Preview: Five Questions for Morgan Parker

Publishers' Previews: Special advertising supplement in The Horn Book Magazine

This interview originally appeared in the September/October 2019 Horn Book Magazine as part of the Fall 2019 Publishers’ Previews, an advertising supplement that allows participating publishers a chance to each highlight a book from its current list. They choose the books; we ask the questions.

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A “five-foot-nothing seventeen-year-old black girl,” Morgan, faces persistent anxiety with the help of her friends, her music, and her sense of humor in Who Put This Song On?

1. Was that your school? Yikes.

A version of it, yep. The story and characters are fictionalized, but I plucked some details and aspects of my school (and myself). I wanted to describe an environment that made fictional Morgan feel the way I felt, and contextualize her world. To do that, I highlighted some things and left out or rewrote others. I used the pieces that made the story hers, not mine.

2. Has anyone ever said to you, “Every single moment starting now will be a surprise”? Did you marry them?

That, for instance, was fictionalized. Unfortunately! I guess I wanted to put it out into the universe in hopes that someone will eventually say it to me—and yes, reader, I would marry them. For now, I say it to myself. When I wrote those words for the story, I knew that the most romantic thing to Morgan was adventure, anything new. It’s also such a simple idea that basically sums up life.

3. A therapist friend tells me everybody should be in therapy. Do you agree?

Absolutely, yes. The traditional format of therapy isn’t for everyone, but I think our world would be entirely different if everyone devoted regular time to learning more about themselves and considering deeply their interactions and relationships. It’s crucial to building self-awareness and empathy.

4. What books have helped get you through trouble?

The Bluest Eye by Toni Morrison, I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings by Maya Angelou, Howl by Allen Ginsberg, Ariel by Sylvia Plath, and The Book of Laughter and Forgetting by Milan Kundera. So, so many poems by June Jordan, Nikki Giovanni, Anne Sexton, Amiri Baraka, Langston Hughes, and Lucille Clifton.

5. What’s the secret to the perfect playlist?

The opening chords, the second song, and the last song are key. Every song should be an invitation and a surprise. Transitions between songs and variety of song genre, pace, and rhythm. And of course, a great title. It sounds like I’m talking about poetry (or love) here—and in many ways, maybe I am.


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