McLarin, Kim 1964-
McLarin, Kim 1964-
Born 1964, in Memphis, TN; married; children: two. Education: Duke University, A.B.
Home—White Plains, NY. E-mail—[email protected]
Writer, journalist, and educator. Emerson College, Boston, MA, writer-in-residence, beginning c. 2003; previously taught at Northwestern University, Evanston/Chicago, IL. Has worked for the Associated Press, the Philadelphia Inquirer, Philadelphia, PA, and the New York Times, New York, NY.
Taming It Down: A Novel, Morrow (New York, NY), 1998.
Meeting of the Waters: A Novel, Morrow (New York, NY), 2001.
(With Ilyasah Shabazz) Growing up X (memoir), Ballantine (New York, NY), 2002.
Jump at the Sun (novel), William Morrow (New York, NY), 2006.
Author's short fiction has been published in Obsidian 11: Black Literature in Rerun; WV; and Confrontation.
Journalist Kim McLarin made her debut as a novelist in 1998 with Taming It Down: A Novel, the story of a black female reporter caught between two worlds in her professional and private lives. Twenty-eight-year-old Hope Robinson, a reporter for the Philadelphia Record who was educated on scholarship at a prep school, has been cut off from her racial heritage by living in the white community. She is at odds with both black and white worlds, feeling confused and alone.
When she becomes romantically involved with a white editor at the newspaper and is then rejected, she figuratively explodes with rage.
Andy Solomon in the New York Times Book Review praised McLarin's "vibrant, wry voice" and "vivid details." Although he felt McLarin tried to tackle more than possible in a single novel, Solomon described her as a "writer of significant promise." V.R. Peterson in Essence called Taming It Down a success for its "keen humor" and "sharp" edge, and a Booklist critic characterized it as "excellent."
McLarin's second novel, Meeting of the Waters, focuses on an interracial love affair and the personal and societal pressures put upon it. White reporter Porter Stockman finds himself in harm's way during the Los Angeles race riots of 1992. He is rescued by a black journalist named Lenora Page, who subsequently takes a job at the same newspaper. How Porter and Lenora resolve their considerable differences to find love forms the crux of the narrative. In an interview in Book-Remarks, McLarin said that Meeting of the Waters is "far less autobiographical" than her first book, although she did cover the riots as a reporter. She added: "I suppose the inspiration came from wanting a way to explore race relations in this country, and remembering that the time of the riots was a real turning point."
In Redbook Ellen Zguta called Meeting of the Waters "more than a love-will-conquer-all tale," and Booklist contributor Lilian Lewis commented that McLarin "handles the subject of interracial love superbly." In Library Journal, Jennifer Baker noted that the author "illuminates the roadblocks that society and endemic distrust place in the path of biracial couples."
Between writing these novels, McLarin collaborated with Ilyasah Shabazz on a memoir about Shabazz's life as a daughter of Malcolm X and Betty Shabazz. Although Ilyasah Shabazz was only two when her father was killed, she grew up aware of his presence in her life through her mother's hard work and dedication to the family. Library Journal writer Thomas J. Davis called the biography "interesting" and noted that Ilyasah Shabazz takes care to "correct what she views as the unusually fragmented and false understanding" of her father and his work.
In interviews McLarin has described herself as a studious person who prefers the solitude of novel-writing to the more public demands of newspaper journalism. She told Book-Remarks that she does not shy from tackling difficult issues in her fiction. "I think if you're not writing about something important (and probably painful) you're wasting your time," she said. "A great novel pries open your mind a little, makes you squirm, leaves you thinking and wondering."
In her next novel, Jump at the Sun, the author follows generations of Polk women as they endure slavery and poverty and then try to cope with modern life. The story begins in Mississippi in 1941 with a meeting between a man called "the preacher's son" and teenage Rae. As the novel progresses, the story of this meeting is told years later by Rae's granddaughter, Grace, who is a sociologist. The reader also learns of Grace's mother's life and Grace's own battles. Commenting on the book on her home Web page, McLarin noted: "Jump at the Sun is a novel of motherhood. It is also a novel of race, of love and sacrifice, of isolating suburban life and the continuing legacy of slavery, of generational change and the price of living the dream for which our parents fought and several other [things], but primarily it's a novel of motherhood. It is not a sentimental one."
As Grace tells Rae's storey and her own, the reader encounters a modern, educated woman with a successful scientist husband and two daughters. Nevertheless, Grace feels unfulfilled, and readers learn not only of her yearnings but also those of her grandmother Rae, who often abandoned her own children, and Grace's mother Mattie, who sacrificed everything for hers. A Publishers Weekly contributor noted that the "characters' … deeper struggle is to resolve their longing for fulfillment with ties of the heart." Reviewers generally praised Jump at the Sun as a realistic portrayal of black women's struggles via generations. Patty Engelmann, writing in Booklist, commented that the author "gives her readers a thought-provoking story." Regina Cash-Clark noted in Black Issues Book Review that the author "creates sympathetic characters to whom the reader can relate on a very personal level."
BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:
Black Issues Book Review, May-June, 2002, Elsie B. Washington, review of Growing up X, p. 57; July-August, 2006, Regina Cash-Clark, review of Jump at the Sun, p. 37.
Book, May-June, 2002, Erick Wargo, review of Growing up X, p. 81.
Booklist, May 1, 1998, Lillian Lewis, review of Taming It Down: A Novel, p. 1504; August, 2001, Lilian Lewis, review of Meeting of the Waters: A Novel, p. 2087; June 1, 2006, Patty Engelmann, review of Jump at the Sun, p. 38.
Book World, August 20, 2006, "Dissent of a Woman," p. 6.
Boston Magazine, July 1, 2006, Cheryl Alkon, review of Jump at the Sun, p. 24.
Essence, August, 1998, V.R. Peterson, review of Taming It Down, p. 64.
Kirkus Reviews, June 1, 1998, review of Taming It Down, p. 762.
Library Journal, May 1, 1998, Ellen Flexman, review of Taming It Down, p. 138; October 15, 2001, Jennifer Baker, review of Meeting of the Waters, p. 108; May 1, 2002, Thomas J. Davis, review of Growing up X, p. 112.
New York Times Book Review, September 13, 1998, Andy Solomon, review of Taming It Down, p. 27.
Publishers Weekly, April 8, 2002, review of Growing up X, p. 220; May 29, 2006, review of Jump at the Sun, p. 36.
Redbook, December, 2001, Ellen Zguta, review of Meeting of the Waters, p. G1.
School Library Journal, August, 2002, Joyce Fay Fletcher, review of Growing up X, p. 224.
African American Literature Book Club,http://reviews.aalbc.com/ (July 6, 2007), Idrissa Uqdah, review of Jump at the Sun.
Book-Remarks Web site,http://www.book-remarks.com/ (April 1, 2003), interview with Kim McLarin.
Books for Breakfast,http://books4breakfast.blogspot.com/ (August 15, 2006), review of Jump at the Sun.
Emerson College Web site,http://www.emerson.edu/ (July 6, 2007), faculty profile of author.
Kim McLarin Home Page,http://kimmclarin.com/ (July 6, 2007).
One Day at a Time,http://adh-oneday.blogspot.com/2006/ (September 26, 2006), review of Jump at the Sun.
Time Warner Bookmark Web site,http://www.timewarner.com/ (August 12, 1999), interview with Kim McLarin.