Malena Crawford knows firsthand what it means to be strong in the midst of tribulation, enduring homelessness, enduring abuse and racism.
Crawford overcame her struggles and fears through faith, vowing to help heal other women along the way. Her debut novel, A Fistful of Honey, is an inspiring and unforgettable tale. It addresses Black women’s healing and humanity’s survival. Crawford’s personal story of redemption from homelessness and abuse is weaved throughout this fantasy fiction.
Iyanla Vanzant is calling the novel “a healing balm of a book” and a “must read.”
Why did you write this book?
I wrote this book because it didn’t exist when I needed it. It was the book I most wanted to read, a story about a Black woman coming into her glory and saving all of humanity.
What’s the story behind the title, A Fistful of Honey?
In the novel, character Alena Ford receives the calling to restore a Lost Kingdom. Without giving too much of the adventure away, one of the keys that Alena receives to fulfill her divine assignment is from slavery era ancestors, ones who sacrificed their “honey” for us. Their suffering paved the way for an entirely new era. Honey is a symbol that represents overcoming, redemption, and the Promised Land. The honey is what’s at the core of the Black girl magic movement, celebrating ourselves and being determined to live a life that is joyful and sweet regardless of how the world regards us.
A Fistful of Honey invites the questions: How will we graciously receive the torch that’s being passed on to us? In the midst of this chaos and destruction going on around us, are we aware of the grace that is happening? Are we open and willing to receive and live in our honey, the sweetness that is our inheritance despite what we have been through? For my women readers, ladies, how will we arise to our “honey” sweetness in terms of our natural femininity despite the struggle narrative the world tries to ascribe to us?
What do you hope readers will glean from reading your book?
I certainly want every single reader to get whatever healing, insight, and inspiration they can from this story along with being thoroughly entertained! I have heard so many different takeaways from so many different readers; from ones who enjoyed it simply because it is a great read to those who were truly suffering through a transition and found the story to be a blueprint for their own process.
I have so much love and respect for Black women and I have been a witness to our magic long before #blackgirlmagic became a movement. I wrote this book because I wanted the world and Black women especially to know how powerful and divine we are, and to have a piece of literature that celebrates us.
How long did it take you to write this book?
The first draft took about nine months to complete, and yes it was just like a pregnancy! The second, third, and fourth drafts stretched the process to about one and half years.
What was your regimen to complete this book?
I starting writing this book after a prayer begging for answers to why there is so much injustice and malice hurled at us. Much of this book is the answer I received to that prayer. So just about every single morning for almost three months I woke up at between 3 and 4 a.m. and just wrote every single thing I was inspired to write in a series of journals. After that, I made sure that I was writing at least five days a week, not so much to churn out word counts, but to finish ideas, characters, and conversations. I let every single part of my life inspire my writing. That was the fun part. I became a student of life as I let the story tell itself. I studied the way people moved and spoke when they were in love, how a gangster would hold a gun when he’s ready to pounce, the cosmos and everything in between! This book was a journey filled with learning, persevering, and working my craft with other writers.
Name three books, works, performances or exhibits that changed how you view life, yourself or both.
Aww man, only three? I read Maya Angelou’s I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings, a gift from my parents when I was 8 years old and from then on I was sure I was going to become a writer! I was a pretty quiet child but I found my voice through writing, like the late and great Dr. Angelou did. From that first little yellow book, I fell in love with her silky unapologetic prose and storytelling and set off to tell my own stories.
Suzan-Lori Park’s Top Dog/Underdog taught me how you can turn a historical tale, in her case Abraham Lincoln’s assassination, into something all your own, something brown and divine! In my case, I brought historical religious figures forward and placed them into my heroine’s journey, a story I wish I’d had at my fingertips when I was younger and really struggling with my sense of identity.
Just about anything Eartha Kitt has done inspired me greatly, especially a performance in Turkish called Uskudara Giderken. Ms. Kitt taught me to let absolutely no one define you, as a Black woman [or] otherwise. She started as an orphan in a slave cabin but none of that stopped her from learning four languages, selling out shows in Paris, or fighting for civil rights so fearlessly that Lyndon B. Johnson essentially sent her into exile.
If you could change one thing about the world, what would it be?
It may sound cliché, but truly I am all about the Spirit, I believe that is where everything starts everything else is just the effect. If I could change one thing it would be that everyone would know that they are worthy of and connected to God and that they would live from their hearts. OK, I know, that’s two things. Feeling disconnected from God makes us fearful and that fear manifests in so many ways. We feel like we have to fight to be loved, to survive. The result is everything we are seeing today, racism, greed, overconsumption of resources, abusing our Mother Earth. If we just knew we were connected, and therefore loved, we would know we don’t have to fight or cause harm.