My name is Kenji Nathaniel Jasper and I am author. But I know that in this day and age "authors" come a dime a dozen. It is no longer an event when one of our own publishes a book, or paints an image of our world which we find familiar. To be honest these days there are far too many books to choose from about our lives, whether we're old or young, married or single, gay, straight or somewhere in between. There are more African American authors than there will ever be time to read. But I can tell you that I'm one who who is definitely worth your time, money and the word of the mouth I hope you'll provide the minute you read my last line.
You may have seen my name in the magazines and newspapers you read all the time: Essence, VIBE, Honey, XXL, The Village Voice, The Charlotte Observer, The Chicago Sun-Times, on Africana.com, etc. You may have heard my commentaries on National Public Radio's The Tavis Smiley Show. Years ago you may have even seen me during the first four years of Black Entertainment Television's "Teen Summit." But it's fiction that I've been doing the longest. I wrote my very first story at the age of nine, and I'll keep going as long as my lungs have breath.
But I'm writing you because you've been on my mind lately. On my recent book tour it was your faces I missed the most when I came through your town. I wanted to hear what you had to say. I wanted to know which characters in my latest novel, Seeking Salamanca Mitchell, might have moved you, and what things remained in your mind long after you finished the final pages. But you weren't there. And that isn't your fault. It's mine.
Unlike many of the authors that your clubs might read, I am not self-published. As a matter of fact I'm signed to the largest publishing company in the world, a big entity owned by white folks with a lot of money and no clue of how to use it to promote their authors, particular the ones of my shade. Their idea of promoting a book is to schedule me in the middle of the week at your local chain bookstore and think that people will just show up, like they don't have to work, like they don't need to come home from a long day and take care of their families no matter how much they might want to come and hear me read from the book they heard about. And their idea isn't working, or at least not in the way I'd like for it to. So I'm going to try things my own way.
I write stories about Generation X and Black America, which here and now means folks in their 20's and 30's trying to find their way through a world that isn't the one they dreamed about. And though they are young, their lives and conflicts are shaped by souls older and younger, by their parents and grandparents, by their lovers, haters, bosses, tormentors and everyone in between. My first novel, Dark, deals the aftermath of a young man committing a murder and being forced to leave his home for the first time in his 19 years of life. My second novel, Dakota Grand, is an Atlanta man's story of the hip hop music industry and how his dream job as a music journalist quickly becomes his worst nightmare. And my most recent novel, Seeking Salamanca Mitchell, is the epic love story of a man and a woman separated by time, prison and the evil man who was supposed to protect both. Yet the two remain determined to find each other again and be a family no matter what the cost.
I am reaching out to you and your clubs because it is you who wield the most
power within our community. The books you choose make their way into the hands
of your membership, who in turn pass them on to others outside of the circle.
Before you know it ten becomes 10,000. A book can become a movement. If you
don't believe me ask E. Lynn Harris
or Michael Baisden
about how they got started. Barnes and Noble and Borders don't tell you what to
read. You tell them. Then they order
I'm writing this in hopes that you and your clubs will choose me, that you
will open your lists to a young author (I am 28 and published Dark at 25) who
promises to give you a different reading experience, one which will travel past
your monthly meetings, one whose stories will not only remind you of people you
know, but will also give you reason to pay attention to the folks you don't, and
even a few you may have forgotten about. My name is Kenji Nathaniel Jasper and I
am an author. If you'd like to learn more about me please log on to
www.kenjijasper.com or look for my work
at your local bookstore.
From acclaimed author Kenji Jasper comes an edgy, gripping new novel that asks if family life turns a hustler soft-or just hardens his heart.
He Killed For Hate.
Life on the darker streets of D.C. can turn a clean kid grimy. Snow was one of those good kids-until a gang killed his next door neighbor and he decided to settle the score. But doing what he thought was right only plunged him deeper in a deadly game. Now he's a killer for hire, a grown man who's willing-and able-to do anything necessary to survive. But even a cold-blooded hit man has a heart.
Now He May Die For Love.
When Snow falls in love and becomes a father, he's more willing than ever to do what it takes to support his woman and his baby girl. But what that means for a hit man and what it means for a family man are two very different things. When the clash between his home life and his street life threatens to explode, Snow decides to make one last score to put his family on easy street, and get out of the game. But as much as he wants to break out, there's someone just as dangerous, and just as determined to keep Snow right where he is.
House on Childress Street:
A Memoir of My Grandfather
Jesse James Langley, Sr., was married to his wife, Sally, for more than fifty years and fathered four children. To his grandson, Kenji Jasper, he was an enigmatic figure, a man who declared himself 'The Lone Ranger' and kept to himself during family gatherings. Still, he became a mainstay in his grandson's life, and when he passed away, Jasper's grief was profound.
Determined to learn more about the man he loved but barely knew, Jasper sought out various family members and spoke to them about his grandfather's influence. His journey took him along the dirt roads of the South, to the ghettos of Washington, D.C., and into the nightlife of New York City. Jasper also ventured into previously unexplored emotional territory where he gained a deeper understanding of his parents' tumultuous marriage and the relationships other family members had to each other and to the Lone Ranger.
Jasper has written an intensely personal memoir and a fascinating chronicle of African American history. Through the oral histories of his family, Jasper brings to life the Great Migrations from the South, the urban areas of the North, and his generation's disconnection from the values of older generations. Filled with moving revelations and infused with warmth and humor, The House on Childress Street is a remarkable contribution to the canon of African American memoir.
Salamanca Mitchell: A Novel
Benjamin Baker knew love for the second time when his eyes met Salamanca
Mitchell's. The first came at age eleven, when he sat down at a piano to play
his first original composition. But both of those loves are nearly destroyed
when he goes to work for Alfonse Mitchell, Salamanca's father and a prominent
face amongst D.C.'s most powerful.
Dakota Grand is a young music journalist who's left his Southern roots behind and moved to the Big Apple to cover the rough-and-tumble world of rap. He's part of the star-making machinery, spinning the web of interviews, reviews, and "inside stories" that move the CDs off the racks. He's good at this, but all it's gotten him so far is an apartment in deepest Brooklyn, a check-to-check freelancer's existence, and a hit-and-run love life. When the break of his career comes: the opportunity to interview one of his rap heroes, Mirage, one half of the legendary group Arbor Day, for a cover story for The Magazine. Puffing on a spliff, Mirage spills plenty of beans to Dakota Grand, but he's less than pleased by the resulting article, In fact, he has his boys assault Dakota in a midtown elevator and send him to the hospital. What ensues is an increasingly tense and violent duel between Mirage and Dakota Grand, with the young writer determined to fight back for his own honor and that of his fellow journalists.
Dark: A Novel
Thai Williams is walking a thin line between two worlds. On one side he has his job as a filing clerk for the Washington, D.C., Department of Public Works, his girlfriend Sierra, and his plans for going to college. But on the other, darker side there are his friends Snowflake and Ray Ray, men who run the neighborhood streets dodging the dangers of the criminal life and its aftereffects. But that thin line disappears when Thai walks in on Sierra with another man, whom he eventually kills in a haze of jealousy and confusion. From there Thai finds himself on the run and away from the five-block stretch where he's lived for all his life. He finds his way to Charlotte, where Enrique, his closest friend of all, has moved in search of a better life. In the course of the week that follows, Thai encounters a series of men and women who show him aspects of life he never dreamed of in his narrow ghetto existence. All of them are looking for answers, but it is Thai who must find his own path out of the dark and into the clear light of moral responsibility and repentance for his actions
Remembering Dark Streets