“A house divided against itself cannot stand,” Abraham Lincoln declared in his 1858 speech presaging the Civil War. Such a house sits at the heart of Mat Johnson’s ribald, incisive novel “Loving Day.” Bequeathed to the narrator, Warren Duffy, by his deceased father, it’s a roofless, ramshackle mansion in a black neighborhood in Philadelphia: “I look at the buckling floors. I look at the cracks in all the walls, the evidence of a foundation crumbling beneath us. I smell the char of the fire, the sweet reek of mold, the insult of mouse urine. I see a million things that have to be fixed, restored, corrected, each one impossible and each task mandatory for me to escape again.”
Read the rest of the review here: http://mobile.nytimes.com/2015/06/07/books/review/loving-day-by-mat-johnson.html?referrer&_r=2
Building a Better Canon: Stories of the Mixed Experience
I grew up an awkward, bookish mixed kid. I didn’t feel like I fit in with most of the kids around me partly due to my desire to hang out in the library instead of the soccer field, and partly because of my weird family. My parents didn’t match like most of my friends, and I had an extended family of aunts and uncles and cousins that often visited on weekends. I lived between two worlds as a kid: my mostly white school and the mostly black Baptist church I grew up in. My worlds had different foods and different ways of saying things. I learned quickly how to move between them; I learned to switch parts of who I was depending on where I was. From elementary through middle school, I read books about kids having adventures, (for a whole year I convinced myself I was Harriet the Spy). I read about about teens navigating the new-weirdness of adolescence (Judy Blume will always be my homegirl). But through all that reading, I longed for a book that I could see myself in.
Read More Here:
This week we’re celebrating the publication of novels by Kimbilio Faculty Members Mat Johnson and Dolen Perkins-Valdez. Here’s an article by Mat from BuzzFeed:
Yo, I’m a mulatto. And I have to tell you, it’s great. I was black for most of my life, which is also great, but the thing is I look white and, coincidentally, my dad’s also white (he’s great too), and after a while I needed a word that offered me a better fit, and acknowledge my father and his whole family’s impact on my life, which was also a big part of my identity. So I converted to mulatto, which I see as a subset of the larger African American experience.
I actually love the word mulatto. I love it for its rolling linguistic sound — moo-lah-toe — sliding off my tongue the way Lolita did for Humbert Humbert. But I also love mulatto for the illicit pleasure of watching the uncomfortable cringe the word sometimes elicits from others, even when I say it to describe myself: an African American novelist who just happens to look like a washed-up Latvian rugby player. The discomfort is a response I’ve encountered from black people, from white people, and even sometimes from many mulattoes — or rather, I should say, “first-generation mixed people of black and white ancestry.” That inelegant mouthful is what mulatto means, but I can’t shorten it without saying “mulatto,” because there is no other word in the English language that captures that meaning while connecting it with the larger sociopolitical history of North America.
Read the rest of the article here: http://www.buzzfeed.com/matjohnson/kiss-my-mulatto-ass?utm_term=.ccEPv3D7m
And show some love for your Kimbilio Faculty by ordering your copies of LOVING DAY and BALM today!
Recently, BOMB Magazine published a chapter that had been excised from Kimbilio Faculty Member Jeffrey Renard Allen’s SONG OF THE SHANK.
Making Tom (Return): Behind the Scenes
by Jeffery Renard Allen
He is Tom at the same time that he is too preposterous to be Tom. (Root distinction, difference: Juluster is a rare one, but he belongs. Tom never belonged. Tom never could belong. A challenge—what blind person isn’t?—Juluster is both cooperative and independent in ways that Tom never was, never could be.) He looks somewhat like Tom. A pure and simple brute, this negro with a narrow and sloped forehead, who bears in the middle section of his brain the signs of certain grossly powerful energies. The thinking faculties are poor or even null; therefore, he is possessed by his desire and also by his will, of an often terrible intensity.And physical differences between Tom and his double can be put off to aging—who will remember anyway? The public has not seen Tom for more than five years—although Juluster is Tom’s senior by a decade, having already reached thirty years of age. No. Even that is a lie. On his last birthday he achieved his Jesus year. But he still believes in his youthfulness. More importantly, he believes in the role that Seven has given him to play—game for the game—a role Seven mentally scripts moment by moment from memory—Lait—selling the shadow to support the substance. Since Juluster is game for the game teach him his name. The body is a habit he can break. Even now his flesh quivers, every inch of it, the skin coming unhinged. He seems to be drifting out of himself, becoming other, becoming Blind Tom.
The Original Blind Tom. Seven says the name (title) in a voice that doesn’t sound like his own but rather like the voice of a magician, a sorcerer. (Repeated practice will cause the name to come naturally. So he must remain aware of his tongue. Correct it when it errs, when he says or thinks “Juluster” instead of Tom. So, around the clock, practice saying it. Tom. The Original Blind Tom. Tom. The Original Blind Tom. Until it becomes second nature.) The Original Blind Tom. In the sounds of the name he thinks he hears a way for returning Tom back to the world, back to himself. Each word a twin of itself, telling two stories at the same time, his and Tom’s.I have become a name.
Read the rest of the story here: http://bombmagazine.org/article/107233/making-tom-return-behind-the-scenes
From Publisher’s Weekly, May 18, 2015:
Norton Invests in Jamaican Author’s Debut
For Norton’s Liveright imprint, Katie Adams took North American rights to Nicole Dennis-Benn’s debut novel, Here Comes the Sun. Julie Barer at Barer Literary represented the Jamaican-born author in the deal. The book is set in a small fishing village just outside of Montego Bay that lies on the planned site of a future luxury resort. Liveright elaborated that the book is about four women in the town and explores “the experience of Jamaica’s working class, [and] the universal themes of family, love, acceptance, and identity.” Dennis-Benn, who has received fellowships from the MacDowell Writers Colony and the Vermont Studio Center, has an M.F.A. from Sarah Lawrence College.
Nicole is a Founding Kimbilio Fellow from summer 2013. Congratulations!