DeVon Franklin knows he easily could’ve been a statistic. When the 44-year-old author and producer was just 9 years old, his father died of a heart attack, leaving him, his two brothers and his mother behind.
“That tragedy just completely rocked our family,” Franklin told The Christian Post.
But instead of wallowing, Franklin’s mother, Paulette, gathered a village — his aunts Nuna, Ida, Enis, Donna and Sondra — to help raise her children and ensure they had a strong foundation. According to Franklin, that “village of love" changed the trajectory of his life.
“I'm the middle child of three boys raised by a single mother, and we could have been a statistic,” he said. “But because of the sacrifices of her and the village and God intervening and practicing the power of faith, we all survived.”
Today, Franklin is a New York Times bestselling author and a Hollywood producer behind hit movies including “Miracles from Heaven” and “Breakthrough.” He’s also the driving force behind the soon-to-be-released movie "Flamin’ Hot" for Disney and "Kingdom Business" TV series for BET.
Despite his success, Franklin knows firsthand what it’s like to experience pain and loss. He takes a look at his past and the women that played a formative role in his life in his new audible book, It Takes a Woman.
A deeply personal book, It Takes a Woman opens with Franklin and his brothers at the morgue, saying goodbye to their father. It traces his growth throughout the years — both the good times and the bad times — to highlight the tremendous sacrifice of Paulette Franklin.
“So often, I can do an interview with you and say, ‘I’m DeVon Franklin, I fill in the blank; I produce, I write I do all these things,” Franklin said. “And it's so easy for someone to … take that at face value. But you don't understand the tragedy and the pain that all this comes from. I could have been a statistic.”
"I really wanted the listener to go on this journey of intimately understanding where I come from, where my family comes from. We are just like every other family; I'm just like every other person. The rain falls on the just and the unjust, but God is still faithful. And so I really want the listener to hear the tragedy so they can also celebrate the triumph.”
Along with his 69-year-old mother, the book is narrated by Franklin’s Aunt Nuna (96), Aunt Ida (86), Aunt Enis, Aunt Donna (78), Aunt Sondra (76). Listeners get to hear “words of wisdom” from the older generation and advice on handling grief, money, love and relationships.
Releasing just ahead of Mother’s Day, Franklin described the book as a “love letter to single mothers.” He shared how, growing up, his mother often didn’t know if she’d be able to feed or clothe her boys — yet she continually sacrificed, hoping that her children would be OK in the future. Today, Franklin’s older brother is an executive in marketing, while his younger brother is a pastor.
“The book is the payoff to the sacrifices my single mother made,” he said. “So at the end of the book, one of the key takeaways is that she did the best with what she could … and what she could do was more than enough. … There's no right. Do the best you can with what you have, and trust and know that that's going to be more than enough.”
Writing the book, he said, was both painful and cathartic — and helped him have empathy for his mother, who he admittedly didn’t always appreciate.
“As I got older, I gained an appreciation, and I also stopped the blame game,” he said. “[This book] was a catharsis for me, personally, to work out whatever issues I had; I was able to sit down and talk to my mother about them. And the listener is going to hear us work that out. And I'm so grateful for her sacrifices and all that she did. As an adult, I can put in perspective what she was able to do and appreciate the things that she just wasn't capable of doing, and that’s OK.”
Franklin’s story is not uncommon. U.S. Census Bureau data indicates that 15.3 million children were living with their mothers only in 2020, while 3.3 million lived with their fathers only in 2020.
Franklin hopes that through his book, listeners won't feel as alone. He challenged those who resent their parents or have fractured relationships with their mothers to practice gratitude, stressing the dangers of holding a grudge and dwelling in bitterness and resentment.
“The requirement for parenting is not perfection, because nobody can do it perfectly,” he reminded. “So you may have come from a parent that may not have been the best parent for you, that's OK. But thank them for what they do. And if all you can thank them for is giving you life, thank them for that so that you can move forward in gratitude, not in bitterness. … We can hold a grudge, we can be bitter, we can be resentful, but those emotions take us nowhere.”
By transparently sharing his story, Franklin said he hopes to provide hope at a time when people desperately need it. He cited Romans 8:28, which reads: “And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.”
“I want the listener to take away hope, that you cannot control the cards that life will deal, but with love and support system, you absolutely can control how those cards are played,” he said.
Leah M. Klett is a reporter for The Christian Post. She can be reached at: firstname.lastname@example.org