36 Finalists Blog 2024: Junauda Petrus

Junauda Petrus, author of Can We Please Give the Police Department to the Grandmothers?

Children’s Literature Category

Each week leading up to the 36th annual Minnesota Book Awards, we are featuring exclusive interviews with our finalists. You can also watch the authors in conversation with their fellow category finalists here.

What is one detail you wanted to include in this book, but couldn’t find a place for?   

I think I would have liked to have recipes from an array of grandmas, inspired by healing and liberation. Food is so important to me and I see it as a sacred love language. 

Tell us about someone who proved instrumental to the creation of this book.   

My mama, Ingrid. She is one of my most sacred and ongoing inspirations and muses in life and this book. My daddy, Melvin, was also a brilliant creative who I was deeply influenced by. Also my aunt Brenda who is so sweet. And my grandmas who are ancestors now: Pearl Richards and Antoinette Petrus. Their love and warmth made my life possible. 

Tell us about a favorite read from the past year. Why did you find it enjoyable, insightful, or memorable?  

I read The Trees by Percival Everett. The book was able to be funny, heavy, complex and historically thoughtful all at once. I think as a writer, I like to delve into deep topics but also be funny, speculative and weird and also acknowledge ancestral stories. The Trees did that to a perfected state! 

Please tell us something about yourself that is not widely known.

I used to study circus acrobats when I was in my late 20s and that experience gave me inspiration to pursue a life as an artist. I also was a band geek as a kid. I love to cook and want to focus on learning all of the foods from my parents’ countries, Trinidad and Tobago and St. Croix, Virgin Islands. I have an amazing daughter named Isley and two cats that she refers to as my grandkids. Their names are Sugar Mama and Baby Sparkle Toes Peanut Butter Sparkle Muffin McChillington Jackie Poopy Woopy Poopy Woopty. And I love to travel! I went to Zanzibar with my partner Ngowo last year and we swam with dolphins and it made me cry, it was so sacred and beautiful. 

Share your thoughts about the role and value of libraries.   

Libraries were my temples of love, and the librarians were healers to me. I grew up going to Franklin Library in the Phillips Neighborhood and it was a refuge for me. Books and writing were my therapy growing up and libraries were essential to my path of being a writer. I often wish the world was run like libraries. Everyone has access and can be there without money or status. That you can be forgiven again and again, in the ways that library book debt forgives. Libraries are my boo and I would marry them if I could. 

Junauda Petrus is a writer, pleasure activist, filmmaker, and performance artist, born on Dakota land of Black-Caribbean descent. Her work centers around wildness, queerness, Black-diasporic-futurism, ancestral healing, sweetness, shimmer, and liberation.