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Jesmyn Ward in Conversation with William Jelani Cobb and Khalil Gibran Muhammad

September 19, 2013

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Jesmyn Ward in 7 words*: The wolf stalks; she shines the light.
William Jelani Cobb in 7 words*: Queens born, Howard educated, father of one.
Khalil Gibran Muhammad in 7 words*: I do history to teach and inspire.

* Great people in 7 Words:



LIVE welcomes back NYPL Young Lions Fiction Award finalist Jesmyn Ward, author of Where the Line Bleeds and the National Book Award-winner Salvage the Bones.

Though personal experience is at the heart of Ward's previous novels, in her new book, Men We Reaped: A Memoir, she confronts race and reality in America through the story of her own life and the tragic stories of her community. Over five years, Ward lost her brother and four other young men in her life—to drugs, accidents, suicide, and the bad luck that can follow people who live in poverty, particularly black men. And as she began to write about the experience of dealing with these losses, she realized that her brother and her friends all died because of who they were and where they were from, because they lived with a history of racism and economic struggle that fostered drug addiction and the dissolution of family and relationships. Ward is joined in conversation by writer and historian William Jelani Cobb and Schomburg Center Director Khalil Gibran Muhammad.

Jesmyn Ward grew up in DeLisle, Mississippi. She received her MFA from the University of Michigan and has been a Stegner Fellow at Stanford and a Grisham Visiting Writer in Residence at the University of Mississippi. She is currently an assistant professor of creative writing at the University of South Alabama. She is the author of Where the Line Bleeds and Salvage the Bones, for which she won the 2011 National Book Award and was honored with the American Library Association’s Alex Award. Salvage the Bones was also a finalist for the New York Public Library Young Lions Fiction Award and the Dayton Literary Peace Prize, as well as a nominee for the IMPAC Dublin Literary Award.

William Jelani Cobb, PhD is Associate Professor of History and Director of the Institute for African American Studies at the University of Connecticut. He is the author of several books including The Substance of Hope: Barack Obama & the Paradox of Progress, To the Break of Dawn: An Freestyle on the Hip Hop Aesthetic and The Devil & Dave Chappelle and Other Essays.

Dr. Cobb served as a delegate to the 2008 Democratic Convention and was selected as part of the Root 100 in 2013 -- a listing of influential African American thinkers, artists, entrepreneurs and leaders. He is afrequent contributor to and his work has appeared in The New Republic, the Washington Post, the New York Times and Vibe magazine.

Khalil Gibran Muhammad, Ph.D is the Director of the Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture and a former associate professor of history at Indiana University. His book The Condemnation of Blackness: Race, Crime, and the Making of Modern Urban America, published by Harvard University Press, won the 2011 John Hope Franklin Best Book award in American Studies.

Dr. Muhammad’s scholarship has been featured in the New York Times, New Yorker, Washington Post, The Guardian (UK) and Atlanta Journal Constitution, as well as on Bill Moyers and Company, CSPAN, National Public Radio and Pacifica. He has been an associate editor of The Journal of American History. And he currently serves on the National Academy of Science’s Committee on the Causes and Consequences of High Rates of Incarceration; the board of The Barnes Foundation; and the editorial board of Transition Magazine, published by the W.E.B. Du Bois Institute at Harvard University.

Khalil graduated from the University of Pennsylvania with a B.A. in Economics in 1993. After working at Deloitte & Touche LLP, he received his Ph.D. in American History from Rutgers University in 2004, specializing in 20th-century U.S. and African-American history. He spent two years as an Andrew W. Mellon Postdoctoral Fellow at the Vera Institute of Justice, a nonprofit criminal justice reform agency in New York City, before joining the faculty of Indiana University.



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