Storyteller: Dinah Johnson
As “Dr. Dianne Johnson,” I am a literary historian and an English professor at the University of South Carolina. My work has helped to document the history of African American children’s literature. A project especially dear to me is The Best of The Brownies’ Book, selections from a magazine for Black children published from January 1920 through December 1921. As “Dinah”—my parents’ nickname for me—I write books for young people about the things I love: my family, my dolls, African American culture. I was born in the historic city of Charleston, SC. But I’ve lived in many states as well as in Iran and Germany, where my sixth-grade teacher encouraged me to write and to think of myself as an author. With my daughter, Niani Feelings, I’ve traveled all around the world. (She’s been to every continent!) My favorite possessions are notebooks and pens. And besides home, my favorite place is any school, sharing my love of words with children.
I’m grateful to have collaborated with brilliant illustrators like James Ransome, R. Gregory Christie, and Tyrone Geter. I’ll have two new books in 2022, H is for Harlem and Indigo Dreaming (illustrated by April Harrison and Anna Cunha). There will definitely be two more being published in 2023. And there are others finding their way from my heart to the page.
On writing for children:
“I want children to experience the feeling of being totally immersed in a book, as words dance on page after page and sing in their ears. I want children to know that they are smart and important and that they have a special role to play in their families and in their communities. I want them to understand that what they experience through reading will help them become powerful and creative citizens of the world. At its best, a children’s book is one of the most important, impactful, inspiring art forms there is, and I am blessed to make my own small contributions.”
What was the most valuable or memorable experience of AMPLIFY for you?
I am so very grateful to be part of the Amplify community.
“I write about the things I love: my family, my dolls, African American history, and more. I love starting with a blank white page, using my imagination, and finally having a book to share with my friends of every age and background.”