How ‘Chlorine Sky’ Author Mahogany L. Browne Grieves and Grows From Friendship Breakups
The poet and organizer reflects on writing, hoops, and relationships
Poet Mahogany L. Browne made her young adult novel debut in January with Chlorine Sky, a literary gift told in verse. Chock full of resonant Black girl childhood moments, Chlorine Sky is a coming-of-age story about the power and perils of a young friendship and the growing pains it takes to become self-aware and self-assured. We journey through it all with the book’s protagonist, Sky, a teen with mighty basketball skills trying to understand — and accept — who she is and who she is becoming as she experiences colorism and sexism. Whether you’re 14 or 40, it’s a novel that reminds us to not shrink ourselves in the relationships and spaces we navigate.
Browne, an Oakland-born, Brooklyn-based writer and organizer who is also known for her spirit-stirring performance poetry, opens up about the childhood experiences that shaped Chlorine Sky with ZORA. She also discusses the art of revision, grieving and growing from friendship breakups, and a possible screen adaption of Chlorine Sky.
This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity.
ZORA: How vulnerable did you allow yourself to be in accessing your past memories of friendship while writing the book?
Mahogany L. Browne: I didn’t realize it was dirge work. I didn’t realize that until I had finished and I felt depleted. My body felt exhausted. After I turned in the last edit, I allowed myself to grieve. It felt like I was burying the ghost of who I thought I was. As a young person, I thought I was just kind of like a sucker. I was so easily manipulated. I was so naive. But, I realized that there was so much strength in that little girl. This book allowed me to really unwrap some of that fear of weakness and vulnerability and be okay with being this person now.
A memory I recovered, reflected in the book, is someone laughing at me at the pool and my best friend [doing nothing]. I remember being so devastated by her not having my back. But also, I realized how much of that echoed in the way I saw myself for years to come. So I made myself let go of those negative ideas and images that I…