A letter from SLAY author, Brittney Morris

Read Brittney Morris’ letter to readers about what inspired her to write her debut novel, SLAY. 

[originally published on www.bkmrk.co.uk]

3 minutes to read

Thank you so much for reading SLAY and for supporting me on my journey as a debut YA author. I wanted to explain my inspiration for the book.

Growing up, I lived between worlds.

During my entire childhood, I was the only Black kid for miles. My classmates asked me how to “speak Black” or “speak ghetto,” and I’d oblige, because I was just a kid who wanted to fit in. I grew up thinking my Blackness was a caricature that I could put on when I wanted acceptance. I was the Black culture expert among my white friends. But when I hung around my Black friends, I felt like an outsider. I hadn’t seen Barbershop. I hadn’t tasted fried catfish. I didn’t know who Missy Elliott, TLC, or Morris Day and the Time were. (I have since been shown the glory of all three, don’t worry.)

I began to wonder: If I was too Black for my white friends, and not Black enough for my Black friends, then what was I?

But since the world rewards those who assimilate, I didn’t confront this double life for years. I existed quietly in a racial existential limbo until several corporate jobs later, when I cut off all my relaxed hair and went natural. I did this first “big chop” in 2013. For the sake of my health, I learned to embrace the political statement I was making as a Black woman, just by wearing my hair natural.

Then I found out at the opening night of Black Panther how small a step it is to go from being proud to be natural to being proud to be Black. I grew up in a tiny town, so I didn’t know what a convention was. I’d never known the magic of being in a room where everyone is into what you’re into, where – just by being there – you are enough.

But I found out that night. Oh, did I find OUT. There were people in that theatre who were relaxed, natural, wearing braids and beads and face paint, and some in full cosplay and – for the very first time in my life – I felt Black enough, just as I was, with my twist-out, glasses, and cardigan. No pop culture knowledge necessary, no gimmicks, no accents. For one night, it was enough to just be.

And it was the energy of that night that propelled me into writing SLAY. I wanted a Wakanda simulator video game to visit always, and since I’ve never coded a thing in my life, writing a book was the next best thing.

And as you experience Kiera’s story, I want the magic of Wakanda for you. I want you to know that you’re not alone, that you are powerful as you are, and that nobody has the right to tell you who to be. Thank you for giving me that opportunity.

Wakanda forever,

Brittney Morris


by Brittney Morris

jacket not available

'We are different ages, genders and traditions ... but tonight we all SLAY'

Black Panther meets Ready Player One. A fierce teen game developer battles a real-life troll intent on ruining the Black Panther-inspired video game she created and the safe community it represents for black gamers.

By day, seventeen-year-old Kiera Johnson is a college student, and one of the only black kids at Jefferson Academy. By night, she joins hundreds of thousands of black gamers who duel worldwide in the secret online role-playing card game, SLAY.

No one knows Kiera is the game developer - not even her boyfriend, Malcolm. But when a teen in Kansas City is murdered over a dispute in the SLAY world, the media labels it an exclusionist, racist hub for thugs.

With threats coming from both inside and outside the game, Kiera must fight to save the safe space she's created. But can she protect SLAY without losing herself?