Virginia DeBerry

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Virginia DeBerry is the co-author of seven novels, several bestsellers written between 1990 and 2010. In a lighthearted 2010 interview DeBerry and Grant described their books as, "We wreck characters’ lives and put them back together for entertainment ... we wreck characters’ lives, not real people. And we hit them where it counts: their ambition, bank account, politics and family secrets."[1]

A notation on African American Literature Book Club (AALBC) states as follows, "Important Message: Our writing career is officially on "HOLD" (Nov 15, 2012)[2] This was confirmed by the Grant and DeBerry who wrote that writing had become a grind. With publishers demands on types of subjects, faster production, marketing and self publishing on the internet they decided they would cease writing.[3]


DeBerry is a former high school English teacher from Buffalo, New York. She attended Fisk University and is a graduate of State University of New York at Buffalo.[4] from where she graduated with a BA.[5] After almost 10 years in the classroom, she moved to New York and started a successful career as a plus-size model. She was frequently featured in catalogs, advertising, magazines and appeared on several television programs including Today.

During this time she met co-author, Donna Grant, who was also a plus size model vying for the same assignments. Their modeling careers led to the opportunity to launch Maxima, a fashion and lifestyle magazine for plus-size women, where Virginia was editor-in-chief and Donna the managing editor. When publication of Maxima ceased, Virginia and Donna decided to try writing a book together.[1] Virginia and Donna, best friends for more than 30 plus years, have turned a friendship into the most successful collaboration to date in African-American fiction.


Their first effort, Exposures was published under the pseudonym Marie Joyce (for Donna Marie and Virginia Joyce). It was also published in Spain as Instantaneas. Their next book, written as DeBerry and Grant, was Tryin' to Sleep in the Bed You Made, which was a critical success, an Essence Magazine Bestseller, as are all three of their books, and won the Merit Award for Fiction from the Black Caucus of the American Library Association, as well as the 1998 Book of the Year Award from the Blackboard Bestseller List/African American Booksellers Conference-Book Expo America. More than that, it hit an emotional nerve with tens of thousands of readers from all over the world who continue to write to Virginia and Donna ten years after the book's publication. Far From the Tree became a New York Times Bestseller, and Better Than I Know Myself received two Open Book Awards, and was included on the Best African-American fiction of 2004 lists of both Borders and WaldenBooks.

In addition to speaking at book fairs and literary festivals around the country for the past eight years, Virginia and Donna have been keynote, motivational/inspirational speakers and served on panels for a wide variety of meetings, organizations, companies, churches, cultural and educational institutions, including: DELL North America, Women Work!, Alpha Kappa Alpha sorority, Florida Agricultural and Mechanical University, Speaking of Women's Health (Procter & Gamble) & the Texas Conference for Women. Their honest and powerful messages have received praise from literary, business and academic audiences. They have also appeared on CNN, Good Day New York and been featured on the pages of Essence Magazine, Glamour (magazine), American Woman, and Black Issues Book Review. In 2009 they spoke at the first annual California Book Club Summit and were part of a panel discussion on the unease of African Americans about the publishing industry.[6]

In 2008 Donna and Virginia joined with partners Tyrha Lindsey and Tracey Kemble to form 4 Colored Girls Productions. They hoped to make a film of Tryin’ to Sleep in the Bed You Made, based on their 1997 novel, as their first independent feature. They were unhappy with the type of film Hollywood wanted and the film was never made.[7]

Later career[edit]

In 2010 DeBerry became one of three co-founders with Jim Lenihan, and Mike Tublin of the New Bruswick Jazz Project.[8] They wanted to bring jazz music to their city and by 2015 had presented around 700 free shows, many featuring recognized jazz musicians.[4] Her involvement is ongoing.[8]

DeBerry talked about her varying interests

Clearly, I don’t pick things that are easy to do, ... noting how she has added the jazz promoter hat to her resume in the last five years. I can reach a point where I have maximum interest in something. I don’t want to say I get bored, and I don’t want to say I’m a dilettante, because I taught school for 10 years and then I worked in fashion for 10 years, but I pick things that appeal to me in some way. Everything I decided to do because I really felt compelled to do it has turned out well. It’s been successful enough to be self-sustaining, and I haven’t gotten rich doing anything, but I don’t know what else you can want out of life than that, and I know I’m not going to get rich doing this, but that’s okay,[4]

Private Life[edit]

Virginia, born in Wadesboro, NC. the daughter of Juanita DeBerry and the late John L. DeBerry II. She also has a sister, Valerie DeBerry and a brother, Dr. John L. DeBerry III.[9] She grew up in Buffalo, then moved to New York from the early 80’s until ’92. She then moved to Jersey.

Twice married and divorced, now single and happy.[7]


Exposures (as Marie Joyce), Warner Books/Popular Library (New York, NY),1990, BackinPrint (iUniverse) 2005.

Tryin’ to Sleep in the Bed You Made, St. Martin’s Press (New York, NY), 1997.

Far from the Tree, St. Martin’s Press (New York, NY), 2000.

Better Than I Know Myself, St. Martin’s Press (New York, NY), 2004.

Gotta Keep On Tryin: A Novel (sequel to Tryin’ to Sleep in the Bed You Made), Simon & Schuster (New York, NY), 2008.

What Doesn’t Kill You: A Novel, Simon & Schuster (New York, NY), 2009.

Uptown: A Novel, Simon & Schuster (New York, NY), 2010


Black Caucus of the American Library Association 1998 BCALA Honor Award in fiction for Tryin' to sleep in the bed you made [10]

BlackBoard Bestseller List 1998 Book of the Year Award for Tryin’ to Sleep in the Bed You Made [11] It was he best-selling hardcover book among African-American authors in 1997-’98 [4]

Go on Girl Book Club, 1997 New Author of the Year Award [12]

African American Literary Awards Show—Open Book Award, September 29, 2004,

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b "Interview with Virginia DeBerry and Donna Grant 28 March 2010". How did you get there. Retrieved 2 November 2016. 
  2. ^ "[Virginia and Donna Grant]". aalbc African American Book Club. Retrieved 1 November 2016. 
  3. ^ "The end of this chapter 15 November 2012". twomindsfull.blogspot. Retrieved 1 November 2016. 
  4. ^ a b c d "New Brunswick Jazz Project Marks Five Years on High Note 27 May 2015". Retrieved 1 November 2016. 
  5. ^ "Dept of English". University of Buffalo. Retrieved 1 November 2016. 
  6. ^ "California Book Club Summit". International Media TV. Retrieved 2 November 2016. 
  7. ^ a b "My interview with Donna Grant and Virginia DeBerry 13 May 2011". shewrites. Retrieved 1 November 2016. 
  8. ^ a b "New Bruswick Jazz Project". New Bruswick Jazz Project. Retrieved 1 November 2016. 
  9. ^ "Todays [Death] Notices Juanita C DeBerry". Buffalo News. Retrieved 2 November 2016. 
  10. ^ "Black writers recognized among the best of the best 5 March 1998 pge 29". Hoosier State Chronicles. Retrieved 1 November 2016. 
  11. ^ "Virginia DeBerry". Macmillan Publishers. Retrieved 1 November 2016. 
  12. ^ "Go on girl! Book Club Awards". Go on girl! Book Club. Retrieved 1 November 2016. 

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