Influencer: Mariahadessa Ekere Tallie

Award-winning author, PhD student at Brown, and busy mom enjoying life in Providence


You have lived and taught all over the US and the world. What brought you to Rhode Island?

I came to start my PhD at Brown University. I am a student in the Theater Arts and Performance Studies program. I like the smallness of Providence. It’s small but not small-minded.


Tell us something that illustrates your point about Providence not being small-minded.

The murals grabbed me immediately. I took the bus from the South Side to the East Side a lot during my first year here and I saw art that made the things that are important to me visible. That art has multiplied since the murders of Breonna Taylor and George Floyd. The murals downtown, the broadsides made by the artists at AS220, murals about the Earth and our connection to it; all of these let me know that there is a community of artists who share the same concerns I have been writing about for the last 20 years. All the writing I do is connected to health, healing, wholeness, joy, and envisioning a just world.


Your most recent work, children’s book Layla’s Happiness, was awarded the Ezra Jack Keats Honor for writing, a prestigious award given to writers and illustrators whose work reflects diversity. In a year like 2020, did this achievement have a special significance?

Being awarded the honor for writing means a great deal to me, not so much because of the devastating year we just had but because of my journey. I had three books published before Layla’s Happiness. The Ezra Jack Keats honor meant that my work was being seen and being recognized in a way that had not happened before.


What are some of your favorite small businesses around Providence?

The pandemic reminded me of how important herbal teas and tinctures are for maintaining my equilibrium so I’ve been going to Farmacy Herbs. I like many bookstores for different reasons: Symposium has a wonderful selection but they are also beautiful, welcoming, and warm. Riffraff has great children’s books and poetry that you don’t find anywhere else – and they serve amazing drinks. Paper Nautilus is where my youngest daughter and I would go book hunting, and Books on the Square has a great story time on Saturdays!

Learn more at


No comments on this item Please log in to comment by clicking here