Jeffrey joins our faculty at the 2015 retreat.
Read Hope Wabuke’s interview with Jeffrey in Guernica:
YOUNG, GIFTED, AND BLACK
Hope Wabuke interviews Jeffery Renard Allen
May 15, 2015
“In America at that time, the idea of a black genius was not something that anyone could wrap their heads around,” Jeffery Renard Allen tells me. He is talking about the climate surrounding black musician Blind Tom, the historical figure who inspired his most recent novel, Song of the Shank. Set in the 1800s, the book traces Tom’s journey as he’s born into slavery, separated from his mother when still a small child, and forced to perform at concerts for the financial gain of his white owners. Amid all this, Blind Tom finds success; he becomes the first African-American musician to play at the White House. “And yet,” says Allen, “here we are in the twentieth century, and he has been completely written out of history.”
Allen grew up in Chicago in the ’60s. He describes it as a “turbulent time,” recalling the murder of Black Panther leader Fred Hampton by the Chicago Police Department, and the violence against protesters during the 1968 Democratic Convention. But through his mother’s volunteer work for social justice organizations, he came to understand the power of hope—and empathy. In a New York Times review of Song of the Shank, Mitchell S. Jackson wrote of Allen: “One of his immense gifts is his skill at imagining his characters’ piquant voices, the most memorable of which belongs to his protagonist.” Jackson called the novel an “imaginative work only a prodigiously gifted risk-taker could produce.”
Read the Full Interview Here: https://www.guernicamag.com/interviews/young-gifted-and-black/
Today we welcome the long anticipated 2nd novel from Kimbilio faculty member Dolen Perkins-Valdez. Here’s what Publisher’s Weekly says:
The elegantly crafted second novel from Perkins-Valdez (after Wench) captures the fierce energy, diversity, and suffering of Civil War–era Chicago. At its heart are three strangers—two black, one white—whose lives intersect after each arrives in their new hometown. Expecting to join her new husband in Chicago, Sadie Walker discovers that his sudden death has left her a wealthy widow. Her mourning is brief—her father arranged the unwelcome marriage—but then the voice of a recently slain Union soldier invades her mind. She uses his intercession to offer séances for the bereaved, hiring a freed black woman named Madge as a servant.
Read the rest of the review here: http://www.publishersweekly.com/978-0-06-231865-7
Kimbilio Faculty Member Mat Johnson’s new novel is published this week.
Read Mat’s essay in the New York Times on PROVING MY BLACKNESS:
I grew up a black boy who looked like a white one. My parents divorced when I was 4, and I was raised mostly by my black mom, in a black neighborhood of Philadelphia, during the Black Power movement. I put my dashiki on one arm at a time like every other black boy, but I was haunted by the moments I’d be out with my mother and other black people would look at me as if I were a cuckoo egg accidentally dropped in their nest. The contrast between “blackness” and how I looked was so stark that I often found myself sifting through archaic, pre-20th-century African-American racial definitions to find a word that fit me.Mulatto, 50 percent African.Quadroon, 25 percent African.Octoroon, 12.5 percent African. The next stop down, at 6.25 percent African, was mustefino. I’d never heard anyone call himself mustefino, and I didn’t want to personally relaunch that brand.
Read more here: nytimes.com/2015/05/24/magazine/proving-my-blackness.html?smid=fb-share&_r=5
Read an interview between Mat and Kimbilio Advisor Victor LaValle
Mat Johnson and I have been friends since we published our first books fifteen years ago. In that time we’ve spent an untold number of hours bullshitting about writing, parenting, and sundry nonsense. Mat’s new novel, Loving Day—which will be released by Spiegel & Grau on May 26—is the story of a mixed-race comic book artist who returns from Wales to his native Philadelphia to discover a daughter he never knew he’d fathered, a mixed-race cult that hopes to recruit him, and a pair of ghosts haunting his father’s home. Our conversation appears below.
Victor LaValle: Germantown’s Finest, what’s going on?
Mat Johnson: I’m sweating my ass of in Houston Fucking Texas is what’s going on. It’s like Philly in July but for six months down here.
VL: That’s going to ruin your image as a writer. Your Twitter profile photo makes you look like an elegant leg breaker, not a sweating goon.
MJ: Breaking legs builds moisture in your arm pits. I am rugged fiction writer man. I make my own paper from the pulp I chew off trees, man.
VL: Yo, I’m 120 pages into that Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell and you were right that it’s a beast. It took 100 pages for Mr. Norrell to do any serious magic, but somehow I’ve never become bored. How is Susanna Clarke doing this shit?
Read more here: http://review.gawker.com/the-great-american-mulatto-mat-johnson-on-mixed-ident-1705614423
And listen to Mat discuss LOVING DAY on NRP:
It took me all summer to write “How To Hear Music.” The first year of my MFA program was behind me, and after a year of furious writing I was exhausted. I had no new ideas, no new stories to tell. I was living in Berlin.
Every day my boyfriend and I would choose a new cafe to write in — I was diligent, and disciplined, and hopeful. I believed that if I kept writing, if I just sat down to write something, anything, every day, something would come of it. And after 3 months of daily free associating, just a few weeks before I was to return to California, something did.
Read More: http://www.drunkenboat.com/?p=4381
Reviewed in the LA Times:
With her 2006 fiction collection “Get Down,” Asali Solomon established herself as a short-form artist with a knack for writing misfits in black middle-class Philadelphia. Her first novel, “Disgruntled,” is a fitting follow-up — a smart, philosophical coming-of-age tale featuring a vivid protagonist who battles..
Read More Here: http://www.latimes.com/books/jacketcopy/la-ca-jc-asali-solomon-20150201-story.html
THE REVIEW REVIEW reviews KWELI, and name checks Kimbilio Fellow Dahlma Llanos Figueroa (’14)
Online Magazine Showcases Activists and Emerging Writers of Color
Conventional (i.e. not experimental),
Named for truth in Swahili, Kweli is an online quarterly, launched in Dec 2009 with the mission of nurturing new and emerging writers of color. While Kweli offers resources such as an annual writers conference, professional development workshops, and a Kweli Scholars Program, this review is concerned primarily with the journal. The magazine has three sections – prose, poetry, and interviews.
Read more at THE REVIEW REVIEW