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Asim, Jabari 1962–

PERSONAL:

Born 1962; married; wife's name Liana; children: five.

ADDRESSES:

Office—Washington Post, P.O. Box 17370, Arlington, VA 22216.

CAREER:

Writer, journalist, columnist, editor, poet, and playwright. St. Louis Post-Dispatch, St. Louis, MO, served as book editor, copy editor of the daily editorial and commentary pages, and arts editor of the weekend section; Washington Post Book World, Washington, DC, senior editor.

WRITINGS:

(Editor, with Shirley LeFlore) Wordwalkers, Creative Arts & Expression Laboratory (St. Louis, MO), 1988.

The Road to Freedom (novel for young adults), Jamestown Publishers (Lincolnwood, IL), 2000.

(Editor) Not Guilty: Twelve Black Men Speak Out on Law, Justice, and Life, Amistad Press (New York, NY), 2001.

The N Word: Who Can Say It, Who Shouldn't, and Why, Houghton Mifflin (Boston, MA), 2007.

Also author of the plays Caribbean Beat, produced by Muny Student Theatre Project; Peace, Dog, produced by The New Theatre; Believe I'll Testify, produced by Gettys Productions; and New Blood Symphony and Didn't It Rain, both staged by Pamoja Theatre Workshop. Contributor of essays to anthologies, including The Furious Flowering of African-American Poetry, University Press of Virginia, and Step into A World: A Global Anthology of the New Black Literature, Wiley. Contributor of fiction and poetry to anthologies, including In The Tradition: An Anthology of Young Black Writers, Harlem River Press; Brotherman: The Odyssey of Black Men in America, Ballantine; Soulfires: Young Black Men on Love and Violence, Viking Penguin; Beyond the Frontier: African-American Poetry for the 21st Century, Black Classic Press; and Role Call: A Generational Anthology of Social & Political Black Literature & Art, Third World Press. Contributor to periodicals, including the International Herald Tribune, Los Angeles Times Book Review, Salon.com, Detroit News, Village Voice, Hungry Mind Review, XXL, Code, Emerge, Phoenix Gazette, and BlackElectorate.com. Assistant editor of Drumvoices Revue and founding editor of EyeBall.

CHILDREN'S BOOKS

Whose Knees Are These?, illustrated by LeUyen Pham, Little, Brown (New York, NY), 2006.

Daddy Goes to Work, illustrated by Aaron Boyd, Little, Brown (New York, NY), 2006.

Whose Toes Are Those?, illustrated by LeUyen Pham, Little, Brown (New York, NY), 2006.

SIDELIGHTS:

Jabari Asim is a longtime journalist and newspaper editor who, in addition to being a syndicated columnist, has written fiction, plays, poetry, social criticism, and children's books. In his book The N Word: Who Can Say It, Who Shouldn't, and Why, Asim explores the history of racism and bigotry in the United States by examining the use of the word "nigger" as a derogatory appellation for African Americans. "I had my preconceived notions about the word, but I tried for them to not be a guiding influence," the author told Mark Anthony Neal in an interview on the Salon.com. "I wanted to be as open-minded as I could honestly be. I wanted to look into it and see where it led me."

"The N Word is the first comprehensive look at this most incendiary word in our divided culture," commented a contributor to the Frost Illustrated Web site. "Unlike any previous book … The N Word is a cultural history that traces the origins, growth, and current state of the slur." In addition to examining the roots and uses of the "N" word, from minstrel shows to movies to modern rap culture, Asim also examines the evolution of racial views in America. In the book's final chapters, he discusses the black community's use of the word.

In a review of The N Word for the Library Journal, Emily-Jane Dawson noted that the author "is most eloquent when relating how African Americans have been characterized in our culture." Other reviewers had even higher praise for the book. "The N Word should be considered among the gold standard of serious attempts to historically ground discussions of American popular culture," wrote Todd Steven Burroughs in the Black Issues Book Review. A Publishers Weekly contributor noted that the author "sweeps over … sensitive and contradictory terrain … with practicality, while dispensing gentle provocations."

Asim is also editor of Not Guilty: Twelve Black Men Speak Out on Law, Justice, and Life, which was inspired by the shooting of an innocent black man by New York City police officers. The book includes twelve black writers, including E. Lynn Harris and Mark Anthony Neal, commenting on what it means to be black in America. "The twelve essays are well-written pieces that speak not only to race and racism but class, street culture, fatherhood, education and perceptions that African Americans have about themselves," wrote Tracy Grant in the Black Issues Book Review. A Publishers Weekly contributor noted that "these essays work as an instrument for taking apart the myths of ‘monolithic black experience and the singular black perspective’ on civil society."

In addition to his adult-oriented works, the author has written several illustrated children's books, including Whose Knees Are These?, illustrated by LeUyen Pham. The rhymed story focuses on various knees, from the knees of toddlers themselves to grown up knees. In the process the story asks readers to identify the owners of the various knees. Kornelia Longoria, writing on the Armchair Interviews Web site, noted that she has read the story often to her own daughter and wrote: "Every time you read it, it is as much fun as the first time." Asim and illustrator Pham also teamed up for the similar book Whose Toes Are Those? Commenting on both books in the School Library Journal, Amelia Jenkins wrote: "The stories are sweet and simple."

Daddy Goes to Work, illustrated by Aaron Boyd, features a young African American girl describing a day when she accompanies her dad to the office. Told in rhyming couplets, the story begins with the little girl having breakfast with her father, riding with him to work, and then her helping out during the day. Writing in Booklist, Gillian Engberg noted that the author's "words emphasize the warmth between father and daughter."

BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:

PERIODICALS

Black Issues Book Review, January-February, 2002, Tracy Grant, review of Not Guilty: Twelve Black Men Speak Out on Law, Justice, and Life, p. 65; March-April, 2007, Todd Steven Burroughs, review of The N Word: Who Can Say It, Who Shouldn't, and Why, p. 28.

Booklist, October 1, 2001, Vernon Ford, review of Not Guilty, p. 273; February 1, 2006, Gillian Engberg, review of Daddy Goes to Work, p. 66; February 1, 2007, Vernon Ford, review of The N Word, p. 21.

Books, May 13, 2007, Rebecca L. Ford, "Attempting to Put a Racial Slur in Its Place," review of The N Word, p. 8.

Kirkus Reviews, April 15, 2006, review of Daddy Goes to Work, p. 401.

Library Journal, November 1, 2001, review of Not Guilty, p. 119; March 1, 2007, Emily-Jane Dawson, review of The N Word, p. 92.

New York Law Journal, December 31, 2002, Thomas Adcock, review of Not Guilty, p. 2.

Publishers Weekly, October 15, 2001, review of Not Guilty, p. 59; January 22, 2007, review of The N Word, p. 179.

Reference & Research Book News, May, 2002, review of Not Guilty, p. 134.

School Library Journal, June, 2006, Amy Lilien-Harper, review of Daddy Goes to Work, p. 104; June, 2006, Amelia Jenkins, review of Whose Knees Are These? and Whose Toes Are Those?, p. 104.

Washington Post, November 5, 2001, Jeffrey Rosen, "Twelve Thoughtful Men," review of Not Guilty, p. 4.

ONLINE

Armchair Interviews,http://reviews.armchairinterviews.com/ (August 14, 2007), Kornelia Longoria, review of Whose Knees Are These?

California Newsreel,http://www.newsreel.org/ (August 14, 2007), biography of author.

Frost Illustrated,http://www.frostillustrated.com/ (August 14, 2007), review of The N Word.

Racialicious.com,http://www.racialicious.com/ (June 13, 2007), review of The N Word.

Salon.com,http://www.salon.com/ (April 15, 2007), Mark Anthony Neal, "Who Gets to Use the N Word?," interview with author.

Truthdig.com,http://www.truthdig.com/ (November 5, 2006), Jabari Asim, "Stir over Slurs"; (August 14, 2007), biography of author.

Asim, Jabari 1962–

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