Our next reading is ‘Yonder’ by Jabari Asim
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For the top pick of 2022, we’re back to fiction, after a three-month streak of non-fiction. The Book Club’s pick for January is “Yonder”, by local author Jabari Asim. A work of historical fiction, the structure of “Yonder” is that of a group of slaves yearning for freedom, their quest for it and their love for one another, but it is more than that. .
This also applies to Asim, because just calling him an author is woefully insufficient. Granted, Asim is certainly a prolific author and has written over 20 books in several genres – fiction, non-fiction, children’s fiction, children’s non-fiction; essays, memoirs, novels, history, short stories, cultural criticism, etc. But at various points in his life he was also a poet, playwright, editor, critic and teacher. In the past he was editor-in-chief of Crisis magazine – the NAACP’s flagship journal of politics, culture and ideas, founded by WEB DuBois in 1910. He was associate editor of The Washington Post and was the publisher of the St. Louis Post-Expedition. During his time at the latter journal, he was the sole publisher of African-American books in the country. He was a member of the Guggenheim, voter of the National Book Awards and vice-president of the National Book Critics Circle.
In other words, while a lot of people claim to have been there and done it, Asim really embodies the phrase. These days he’s a professor at the local Emerson College, where you won’t be surprised to learn that he wears multiple hats. His electronic signature has seven elements. He is a teacher, MFA Program Director, Elma Lewis Distinguished Fellow in Social Justice and Program Director of the school’s James Baldwin Writers Colony. He skillfully brings all this experience, these strengths, to “over there”.
The novel, Asim’s first since “Only the Strong” in 2015, focuses on a small group of slaves, although they do not refer to themselves as such – they call themselves “the stolen”, their masters, “the thieves”. The narrative comes and goes between the perspectives of the Stolen, as they consider the ideas of freedom presented to them by a visiting preacher, who may not be quite a preacher, or may not be. alone a preacher. The story is beautiful and sharp, and has won star reviews. “Jabari Asim’s masterful ‘Yonder’ undoubtedly made our ancestors dance and rejoice,” writes Deesha Philyaw, author of “The Secret Lives of Church Ladies” and former Book Club moderator. “This novel made me cry, cry, laugh and above all believe.” In his review earlier this week in The New York Times, Vanessa Riley wrote: “With her handling of black love, showing how it existed amid the worst circumstances, tender and memorable, Asim delivers a fresh, sweeping, must-read story.”
Joining Asim for this conversation will be Lily rugo, shift supervisor at the Harvard Book Store, located in the heart of Harvard Square in Cambridge. Originally from St. Louis, Rugo moved to Boston for college and has been working at the Harvard Bookstore since 2019. She also met Asim during her days at Emerson College at an event they both spoke to for the The school’s Publishing Club, which makes it a really fun and unique author and bookseller couple! In addition to her work at the bookstore, Rugo also formed the Boston Asian Book Group (and newsletter) to encourage AAPI millennials to read more Asian and Asian American authors, and is the podcast’s co-host. “Earth’s Mightiest Fangirls,” which focuses on the Marvel Cinematic Universe and other sci-fi stuff.
Harvard Book Store is of course a local institution, in operation since 1932. Opened for a tidy sum of $ 300 by Mark S. Kramer, the store was run by the Kramer family for over 75 years before being acquired by Jeff Mayersohn and Linda Seamonson in 2008. (John Henry, who also owns The Boston Globe, also recently bought a stake in the bookstore.) As well as being one of the best bookstores in the area, Harvard Book Store is also famous for its series of author events and actually hosted Asim on Tuesday. , on the day of the book launch. .
Join the Boston.com Book Club on Tuesday, Jan. 25 at 6 p.m. for a virtual chat with Lily Rugo of Harvard Book Store and author Jabari Asim on “Yonder.”
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Our next reading is ‘Yonder’ by Jabari Asim
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