You had quite an illustrious career as a corporate attorney. What compelled you to switch things up and write this book?
I pursued a career in the law to satisfy an early commitment to myself that financial security and the ability to provide for my family was paramount. This commitment was fostered by a childhood where I watched my mother struggle to provide and give us what we needed. I was determined my struggle would be different – and that if God gave me the blessing of children, I didn’t want them ever concerned about whether they would have the bare essentials. My goal was to be able to give them more than what they needed, but also all the opportunities to be able to achieve what they “wanted”. I decided that a career goal that produced a “license” to provide a service that people always needed, was the way to go. In my young mind, that was either a doctor or lawyer. Since math and science were not my strong suits and were prerequisites for a career in medicine, I decided that becoming a licensed attorney was the next best avenue for me.
I began developing a skill set at an early age that was underpinned by my penchant for writing and public speaking – so practicing law made sense to me. Nevertheless, once I achieved the goal of gaining entry to law school, completing law school and passing the Bar exam, practicing law failed to feed my spirit. After spending the first six years working as a corporate attorney for an energy corporation, I began working for a media and entertainment company in 2008 in an attempt toget closer to the creative side of life. Then, in 2009, I reignited the creative writing I had started as a child writing songs,attempting to assuage an undeniable creative itch to write something other than corporate policy and emails chock full of legal advice. Initially, I began writing fantasy fiction at night, inspired by the genre I enjoyed the most throughout my adolescence. Unlike the stories I devoured as a child, my stories nurtured black and brown characters and neighborhoods that I could see myself and children that looked like me in. After spending years mentoring young law students and young women within my professional pursuits, I often heard that my sharing my inner city beginnings was motivational. I realized I had a coming of age story in me that would speak to the human growth and character development that derives from a human being’s interaction to “hard knock” life challenges and strife…and Gifts in Brown Paper Packages was born! I wrote the book at nightfrom 2016 to 2017, while working as a lawyer during the day.
What advice do you have for women of color aspiring to break into the legal field?
Go to school, study, work hard, identify resources and then utilize them! Resources include – relationship capital. Seek out other women of color who have legal backgrounds. Additionally, don’t be afraid to seek guidance and mentorship from folks that don’t necessarily look like you; some of my most impactful sponsors have been people who don’t look like me. Don’t be afraid to request time; one of my mother’s consistent mantras is, nothing beats a failure but a try! Ask for time to meet for coffee or even a 15 minute phone call where you come prepared to ask questions about the person’s path and experiences. Many professional organizations have formal and informal mentorship programs. You can start with your state bar association (moststates and many counties within cities and states, have bar associations). Other resources include; state, city and/or county fraternity and sorority chapters, Corporate Counsel Women of Color, Minority Corporate Counsel Association, and the Black Entertainment Sports Law Association. Talk to other professionals that you come into contact with about what your interests are. Even if the person you are talking to is not in the legal field, many people have a family member, friend or colleague that is an attorney or knows one – that’s how networking happens! I network without trying because I’m always sharing with people I meet what I’m doing and what I am interested in doing.
Your personal journey, which you address so eloquently in the book, was difficult to say the least. How did you overcome and become the powerful and successful woman you are today?
I began the process of self reflection by the time I was in my early twenties. In full transparency, as a teenager I engaged in a lot of self-deprecating language, e.g., “this treatment is my fault”; “I’m not worthy of being treated well; “I probably deserved to be spoken to in this way…” However, what you say to yourself resonates and when I got out on my own, I realized I had to stop manifesting negative language about myself if I was going to survive. My ability to overcome began when as a young adult, I began to achieve life goals that I set for myself, driven by my own determination and grit. Each accomplishmentbecame an emotional checkmark, an attestation of my ability to overcome. Examples are; my undergraduate degree that I completed over a nine year period as an evening student working full time during the day and my law degree – which I completed full time with a toddler who was 10 months old when I commenced as a full time law student and who was just shy of 3 years old when I graduated and sat for the NY and NJ the Bar exams. Regardless of how difficult the road was and how long it took me, the determination and grit required to accomplish it fostered the appreciation of the value of all that I am. I overcame because with each accomplishment, I felt better about myself. In my early 40’s I embarked upon therapy, and began a more introspective journey to self awareness and self love. I continue on that journey today. Therapy has bec
How do you define success?
Success is a healthy mind, body and spirit and the love of God, family and friends. Additionally, success is happiness epitomized by satisfaction, joy and love of self in the spirit and the soul, and joy in how you spend your time. Financial security is also a fundamental
S.P. BROWN Biography
S.P. Brown’s out of the box acclaim and success with her first novel Gifts in Brown Paper Packages is stunning proof that wherever we may be in our life’s journey, it’s never too late to embrace, share and inspire the world with our inner truths – no matter how raw and painful they may be and how vulnerable they make us feel.
Drawing from some difficult experiences of her own childhood growing up in Harlem, the author uses the fictional character of 17-year old Kyrie as a vehicle to reflect on her ability to overcome the trauma of domestic abuse and somehow, miraculously, turn her physical and emotional survival into a triumphant and thriving life. The New York based author wrote the hard-hitting, flashback driven coming of age narrative over the course of several years while working her demanding high profile job as Vice President, Employment Counsel for a major entertainment conglomerate, often in quiet stolen hours in the middle of the night after her three children (now ages 14, 17 and 23) were in bed.
In the first 72 hours of its Christmas week release, Gifts in Brown Paper Packages debuted at #1 in three categories on Amazon, including ending the second day at #38 in the highly competitive “New Releases Coming Of Age” category and #1 in “Musical Reference” due to her dynamic inclusion of both old school and contemporary artists (from Marvin Gaye & Tammi Terrell to Deniece Williams, Lauryn Hill, Ed Sheeran and Bruno Mars) as the soundtrack to experiences. Currently, it is also ranked on the Kindle Store’s Black & African American Christian Fiction list.
Of the dozens of five-star customer reviews posted so far, perhaps this says it best about the book’s enduring impact on its readers: “I truly enjoyed following Kyrie’s journey through life and how she was able to overcome everything that life threw at her. Reading this story and enjoying every page as much as I did has reconnected me with my love for reading. I cannot wait for more from S.P. Brown.”
The breathtaking journey chronicled in Gifts in Brown Paper Packages hinges on a single life changing question. In the wake of another emotionally and physically abusive episode with the person she refers to as “Man,” should she take the leap through her bedroom window into the unknown? Leaving her mother and young brother behind, she has no idea if she can make it on her own, but choosing the risk of the streets seemed like a better option than staying. With no plan but survival, Kyrie’s story is driven by strength, personal growth, a journey to self-awareness and ultimately acknowledging her deepest realities.
Kyrie’s experiences are sometimes amusing, often shocking and so real and intense that it almost reads like a memoir rather than fiction. Along the way, she learns how to embrace the life lessons (gifts) that strife, struggle, perseverance and the tackling of overwhelming challenges can ultimately grace us with, if only we’re open to seeing life’s hardships that way.
The theme of Gifts in Brown Paper Packages ties in perfectly with Brown’s dedicated involvement with The Safe Center of Long Island (TSCLI), a non-profit agency comprehensively serving the needs of victims of domestic violence and inner personal trauma in Nassau County – and the only organization in the county providing free services to child and adult victims of domestic violence, sexual assault, child abuse and human trafficking. In addition to helping to raise funds for a Capital Campaign project to build an expanded new safe house, she has also served on the nominating committee for the past two years, with the goal of helping to identify diverse talent for TSCLI’s Board of Directors; she is currently their only African American Board Member. In 2020, Brown was named Vice President of the Executive Committee of the Board of Directors. She recently agreed to accept the role of President of the Board beginningMay 2022.
Brown laid the foundation for her emergence as an influential first time novelist back in 2009, when she began writing fantasy fiction at night to, as she says, “assuage an undeniable creative itch to write something other than corporate policy and emails chock full of legal advice.” Her choice of genre was inspired by her childhood passion for books, and particularly stories that took her mind far from the day to day dark reality. She wrote seven chapters in six months and received incredible encouragement from her long ago literature professor at Hunter College, where Brown earned her BA in Human Communications. But then, for whatever reason, she got a crippling case of writer’s block and shut down.
As a person of deep faith, the author has come to trust that God sets us on certain paths for specific, sometimes mysterious reasons. In Brown’s case, her creative output was on the back burner for years until a lawyer friend who was running a program at the DA’s office for youth development andcommunity reent
She felt prompted to share some of her experiences with the group, and the sense of catharsis she felt led her to write what ultimately became the first chapter of Gifts in Brown Paper Packages that night on the plane en route to a conference. After she had written four or five entries, Brown made the decision that she would develop it into a novel written from a third person perspective, telling parts of her story, with fictionalized elements, through Kyrie’s eyes. For a time, she was concerned about writing explicitly about the domestic violence she endured in her youth, but ultimately decided that the narrative could have tremendous impact on others. She felt it was an important part of her life, even though her life had not historically been defined as a domestic violence survivor.
“For many years, I felt a lot of guilt and shame associated with those stories and so felt like sharing them in my professional circles as a lawyer wouldn’t engender real respect,” Brown says. “Eventually, I realized
“The point of the book,” she adds, “is to motivate people to look at their lives through the proper lens, and allow those hard knocks and terrible experiences to ultimately work towards cultivating greatness in them as opposed to defeat. Those lessons don’t always show up beautifully adorned. Sometimes you have to dig through the ugly wrapping to discover the strength within the package. Everyone goes through difficult trials in their lives. The difference between a person who rises above them and succeeds and the one who doesn’t, is perspective.”
“I am proud of the story I tell in Gifts in Brown Paper Packages, and the way I was able to put it together,” the author says. “In line with all the musical references, I truly feel there is a melody in the way it was written. What will make me the happiest is if the book is exposed to the masses and people get something out of it and feel inspired. I am so grateful for all the wonderful feedback I have received thus far, and I want to put myself in the position where I have more opportunities to speak to people who need to hear it. I want Kyrie’s story – and ultimately my own – to touch people and make an important difference in their lives.”