In this rather extraordinary memoir, Jamal Joseph recounts his journey from Black Panther to prison to professor at Columbia University.
Joseph gave the Arthur Curley Memorial Lecture at ALA Midwinter in Dallas last month, which was followed by this interview with American Libraries Associate Editor Pamela A. Goodes: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kzKLO2fdXiU
Goodes begins by asking, “So many lessons to be learned, especially for the youth today. Is that why you decided to tell your story?”
Joseph answers, “Yes, it actually is. I work with young people in New York. I travel the country speaking to high school students and college students. And every one of them has a similar question, and it’s What was it Like? What was the experience like of growing up in the movement? How did you become who you are today? So the book is written from that perspective through the curious eyes and passionate heart of a 15-year-old…”
That being said, fortunately, the book doesn’t come off as a history book, or as an adult trying to instruct young people. It is a thrilling you-are-there narration of his amazing life. Take a look at the book trailer.
Adult/High School–In 1968, America was coming apart at the seams. Protests against the war in Viet Nam and demonstrations for racial justice turned violent. The assassinations of King and Kennedy bookended the spring. The Beatles sang Revolution. Jamal Joseph, 15, realized that the only way to overcome racism and the oppression of the poor was by fighting back, revolution. He attended his first Black Panther meeting that summer, willing to be a soldier for the cause of black power. But instead of guns he was handed books and began to learn that empowerment depended on education and that power belonged to all people. He was not averse to violence and was prepared to die for the cause at a time when police brutality and government retaliation against black activists was rampant. He was arrested, fled as a fugitive, and eventually served time in prison where he earned three degrees and emerged a playwright and poet. His writing talents make his memoir a series of riveting events that will have readers hooked from the first pages. That he is the godfather of Tupac Shakur will attract many teens to the book, but it is Joseph’s life dedicated to change and community that will inspire them. His experiences provide a unique insight that contributes to our understanding of a time of profound social upheaval in America. It should be a part of any reading list for students studying the ‘60s.–John Sexton, Greenburgh Public Library, NY