Words to Live By features exclusive interviews with authors, artists, and community members.
June 1, 2022
Pierce Freelon is a GRAMMY® nominated musician, author, and educator from Durham. He is the writer, composer and co-director of the animated series History of White People in America, an official selection of the Tribeca Film Festival.
Pierce’s debut Children’s picture book, ‘Daddy-Daughter Day’, was released with Little, Brown books in May 2022. His children’s music has been featured on Today Show, NPR, Billboard, Rolling Stone, Parents Magazine, and more. His album Black to the Future was nominated for Best Children’s Music Album at the 2022 GRAMMY® Awards. Freelon is a former Durham City Councilman, a husband and a father of two.
Is there a book or genre that stands out in your memory from your youth?
Yes. Mufaro’s Beautiful Daughters is a beautifully written and illustrated book about two sisters and an African King. I thought it was so cool that the protagonist was a shape-shifter, and that he chose to be a snake. Snakes are demonized in Western society, but in this book the snake was the protector of the garden. That resonated with me somehow… being misunderstood by a society that thinks you’re bad, when you’re not.
What kind of reader were you as a child?
I loved reading. I was also really into RL Stine books.
What book should everybody read before they turn 18?
Everyone should read The Prophet Kahlil Gibran.
What kind of books are on your bookshelf?
Science fiction, history, biographies, children’s, and lots of graphic novels.
What are you reading currently?
I’m currently reading a bunch of books on screenwriting.
What is your favorite place to read? Pre- and/or during the pandemic?
I love to read outside, in nature.
Who is your favorite all-time character from a book?
I love Lauren Olamina from Octavia Butler’s Parable series.
If you could have dinner with three authors from any period in time, who would you pick?
Oh wow. Jesus Christ was not an author, but he was a storyteller whose words were transcribed. I would love to have some bread and fish and wine with him. Octavia Butler for sure. She’s my favorite author of all time and passed away before she was able to finish the third book of her Parable series. Kahlil Gibran would be my third dinner date.
What are the children in your life currently reading?
My daughter is reading Avatar: The Last Airbender graphic novels. My son is reading Manga. Fire Force, I think.
Do you have a favorite quote from literature? If so, what is it?
“All that you touch, you change. All that you change, changes you. The only lasting truth is change. God is change.” from Lauren Olamina’s Earthseed.
Thank you to Pierce for taking the time to thoughtfully answer our questions! You can read more about his work and latest children’s book “Daddy-Daughter Day” here: www.piercefreelon.com.