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On America

On America: Maura Cheeks on Acts of Forgiveness and the Future of Reparations with Jennifer Baker

Thursday, 7:00 pm EST February 15, 2024

The Center for Fiction
& Livestreamed

The Center for Fiction welcomes Maura Cheeks to discuss her engrossing debut novel, Acts of Forgiveness—a moving story of ambition and inheritance and an insightful addition to the conversation about reparations. Inspired by Cheeks’s reporting for the Atlantic on the racial wealth gap and by Cheeks’s family background, Acts of Forgiveness imagines the nation’s first federal reparations program—which ambitious single mother Willie Revel sees as the solution to impending bankruptcy. In order to qualify, Willie must prove that her ancestors were enslaved, but the rest of the family isn’t as eager to dig up the past: her mother is adopted, her father doesn’t trust the government, and her daughter is just trying to make it through the fifth grade at her elite private school. As Willie delves into their history, she begins to learn just how complicated family and forgiveness can be. Writer, editor, podcaster, and advocate Jennifer Baker joins Cheeks in conversation about her writing and research, the implications of reparations movements, and what leaving behind a legacy truly means. After the conversation, Cheeks will sign books.

Acts of Forgiveness jacket

In Conversation

  • Maura-Cheeks-©-Nicole-Mondestin-scaled

    Maura Cheeks

    Maura Cheeks

    Maura Cheeks has published writing in the New York Times, the Atlantic, the Paris Review, and Tin House, among others. In 2019 she was awarded a masthead reporting residency with the Atlantic where she produced the feature-length article which would later inspire the idea for her book. Acts of Forgiveness is her first novel.


    Photo Credit: Nicole Mondestin

  • Jennifer Baker - Eliana Cohen-Orth

    Jennifer Baker

    Jennifer Baker

    Jennifer Baker was named the 2019 Publishers Weekly Star Watch “SuperStar” because her “varied work championing diversity in publishing has made her an indispensable fixture in the book business.” She is the recipient of a 2017 NYSCA/NYFA Artist Fellowship and a 2017 Queens Council on the Arts New Work Grant (as well as the QCA Jr. Board Artistic Excellence Award) in Nonfiction. Her essay “What We Aren’t” was also listed as a Notable Essay in The Best American Essays 2018. Her short story “The Pursuit of Happiness” was nominated for a Pushcart Prize for 2017 by Newtown Literary Journal and is featured in the anthology What God Is Honored Here?. Jennifer is the editor of Everyday People: The Color of Life—A Short Story Anthology with Atria Books (an imprint of Simon & Schuster). Her Y.A. novel Forgive Me Not was published in August 2023 with Nancy Paulsen Books (an imprint of Penguin Random House).

    Jennifer is a publishing professional with over 20 years experience in a range of roles (editorial, production, media) and is an instructor for Bay Path University’s Creative Nonfiction MFA, as well as the creator/host of the podcast Minorities in Publishing (a 2018, 2019, 2020 finalist for the Digital Book World Best Use of Podcasting in Book Marketing). She previously served as a contributing editor to Electric Literature. She freelances as a proofreader, copyeditor, and/or development editor across genres and has written for various publications in print and online.

    From 2014-2017, Jennifer was panel organizer and social media manager for We Need Diverse Books, a nonprofit organization that sprang to life from the #WeNeedDiverseBooks media campaign to increase minority representation in literature. She was the social media director and a writing instructor for Sackett Street Writers’ Workshop. Previously she volunteered with I, Too Arts Collective.


    Photo Credit: Gaby Deimeke