Wednesday, 7:00 pm EDT September 22, 2021
Online via Zoom
This event was originally scheduled for July 26 with Honorée Jeffers and Natasha Trethewey. It will now take place on Wednesday, September 22 at 7pm with Jeffers and poet A. Van Jordan.
Honorée Fanonne Jeffers (The Age of Phillis), the award-winning poet and essayist, joins us to discuss the launch of her much-anticipated fiction debut The Love Songs of W.E.B. Du Bois. Her book follows Ailey as she delineates the story of her various ancestors—Black, Indigenous, and white—and pieces together the numerous tales of oppression and resistance within her family’s past. Kirkus Reviews says, “If this isn’t the Great American Novel, it’s a mighty attempt at achieving one.”
Jeffers will be joined in conversation by poet A. Van Jordan (The Cineaste).
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Honorée Fanonne Jeffers
Honorée Fanonne Jeffers
Honorée Fanonne Jeffers is a fiction writer, poet, and essayist. She is the author of five poetry volumes and has published writing in The Fire This Time, Kenyon Review (where she is Critic at Large), Iowa Review, and more. For her latest volume of poetry, The Age of Phillis, Jeffers was longlisted for a National Book Award and was a finalist for the Los Angeles Times Book Award and the PEN/Voelcker Award for Poetry Collection. Honorée was recently named the winner of the 2021 United States Artists Fellowship and has been nominated for a NAACP Image Award. She was one of a handful of authors highlighted in the recent ABA Buzz Panel. Jeffers teaches creative writing and literature at University of Oklahoma.
Photo Credit: Sydney A. Foster
A. Van Jordan
A. Van Jordan
A. Van Jordan is the author of four collections: Rise, which won the PEN/Oakland Josephine Miles Award (Tia Chucha Press, 2001); M-A-C-N-O-L-I-A (2005), which was listed as one the Best Books of 2005 by the London Times; Quantum Lyrics (2007); and The Cineaste (W.W. Norton & Co., 2013). Jordan has been awarded a Whiting Writers Award, an Anisfield-Wolf Book Award, and a Pushcart Prize. He is also a recipient of a Guggenheim Fellowship (2007), a United States Artists Fellowship (2009), and a Lannan Literary Award in Poetry (2015). He serves as the Robert Hayden Collegiate Professor of English Language & Literature at The University of Michigan.
Photo Credit: Anthony Alvarez
The Love Songs of W.E.B. Du Bois
By Honorée Fanonne Jeffers
Published by Harper
The great scholar, W. E. B. Du Bois, once wrote about the Problem of race in America, and what he called “Double Consciousness,” a sensitivity that every African American possesses in order to survive. Since childhood, Ailey Pearl Garfield has understood Du Bois’s words all too well. Bearing the names of two formidable Black Americans—the revered choreographer Alvin Ailey and her great grandmother Pearl, the descendant of enslaved Georgians and tenant farmers—Ailey carries Du Bois’s Problem on her shoulders.
Ailey is reared in the north in the City but spends summers in the small Georgia town of Chicasetta, where her mother’s family has lived since their ancestors arrived from Africa in bondage. From an early age, Ailey fights a battle for belonging that’s made all the more difficult by a hovering trauma, as well as the whispers of women—her mother, Belle, her sister, Lydia, and a maternal line reaching back two centuries—that urge Ailey to succeed in their stead.
To come to terms with her own identity, Ailey embarks on a journey through her family’s past, uncovering the shocking tales of generations of ancestors—Indigenous, Black, and white—in the deep South. In doing so Ailey must learn to embrace her full heritage, a legacy of oppression and resistance, bondage and independence, cruelty and resilience that is the story—and the song—of America itself.
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