PERSONAL: Born March 20, 1971, in Boston, MA; married Rita Nakouzi, March 19, 2005. Education: Attended Emory University and Columbia University's graduate school of creative writing.
ADDRESSES: Home—New York, NY. Office—Black Entertainment Television, 1900 West Place N.E., Washington, DC 20018.
CAREER: Writer, novelist, journalist, editor, and television producer. Black Entertainment Television (BET), writer, host, and consulting producer, 2005–.
Frequent guest on television shows, including the Today Show, O'Reilly Factor, Paula Zahn Now, Anderson Cooper 360°, and Topic A with Tina Brown. Served as host of Spoke N Heard on MTV2.
AWARDS, HONORS: Zoetrope: All Story award for short story "A Hot Time at the Church of Kentucky Fried Souls and the Spectacular Final Sunday Sermon of the Right Revren Daddy Love."
The Portable Promised Land (short stories), Little, Brown (Boston, MA), 2002.
Soul City (novel), Little, Brown (New York, NY), 2004.
Never Drank the Kool-Aid (essays), Picador (New York, NY), 2006.
Contributor to books, including The Best American Essays 1999, edited by Robert Atwan and Edward Hoaglund, Houghton Mifflin (New York, NY), 1999; Da Capo Best Music Writing 2004, edited by Mickey Hart, Da Capo Press (New York, NY), 2004; and Best American Erotica 2004, edited by Susie Bright, Touchstone (New York, NY), 2004. Contributor to periodicals, including the New Yorker, Rolling Stone, Playboy, Village Voice, Vibe, Tennis Magazine, and the New York Times. Contributing editor, Rolling Stone, for ten years.
SIDELIGHTS: Television correspondent, commentator, producer, journalist, and editor Touré is also a novelist, short-story writer, and essayist. He has been a popular culture correspondent for the television network CNN, a frequent guest on other television news and commentary programs, and a producer for BET news. Regarding his one-word name, a biographer on the Touré home page noted, "Touré is his real name, the name his mother gave him when he was born, the name his parents consciously chose for him." In "the one-namedness there's a reference to the dislocation implicit in the African-American family name and a reach back to the unknown last names of Africa," the biographer wrote.
Touré's The Portable Promised Land is a short-story collection that is a "sharp celebration of black urban life, filled with characters at once surreal and familiar," observed Library Journal reviewer Ellen Flexman. With a combination of humor, social commentary, and magic realism, Touré approaches black culture and black stereotypes, allowing both to be "reclaimed and transformed to artfully address the politics and construction of race," stated Keir Graff in Booklist. The residents of Soul City populate the stories. In "Steviewondermobile," Huggy Bear Jackson drives the most tricked-out car in town, one that plays only the music of the soul-singing Wonder. Reverend Love preaches to his congregation inside a converted Kentucky Friend Chicken restaurant in "A Hot Time at the Church of Kentucky Fried Souls and the Spectacular Final Sunday Sermon of the Right Revren Daddy Love," until someone sets fire to the place in retaliation for the good reverend's repeated sexual misadventures. In "Blackmanwalking," young men learn the methods of the black man's strut at UCLA (the University at the Corner of Lenox Avenue in Harlem). In other tales, magical Air Jordan shoes give a youngster the ability to fly, and break-up ceremonies become as popular as wedding ceremonies. "More than anything," commented an Antioch Review critic, in this collection "there is an intensity of imagination rare in any writer." Touré "has blazed his own trail into fiction," commented Mondella Jones in the Black Issues Book Review. "The writing is fresh and exhilarating and serves as a breath of fresh air for readers looking for an alternative to mainstream fiction."
Touré revisits Soul City in his novel of the same name. This time, a hundred-foot afro pick stands as the city's landmark; a magical biscuit shop, where a DJ spins tunes and the baked goods are magically dabbed in heavenly butter, is the main meeting place; in their hug shop, a group of loving grandmothers heal the city's ailments better than doctors; a character named Fulcrum Negro travels back and forth to Heaven on a concealed pathway; and a ten-year-old boy preacher, the Revren Lil' Mo Love, delivers electrifying, and eclectic, sermons. In the main story, journalist Cadillac Jackson, a reporter for Chocolate City Magazine, arrives in Soul City to cover the mayoral election. While there, however, he falls in love with resident Mahogany Sunflower, the direct descendant of a family of black people who possessed the ability to fly. Touré "draws on his awareness of today's popular culture amusingly and smartly as very few writers have," commented Clarence V. Reynolds in the Black Issues Book Review. A Publishers Weekly reviewer remarked that "this charming and quirky fairy tale for grownups comes as a restful change." Library Journal reviewer David A. Berona stated: "This is a cleverly written page-turner whose only disappointment is that it has to end."
Never Drank the Kool-Aid, a selection of Tourés essays, is a "varied collection of lucid, colorful pieces," according to a Publishers Weekly contributor. Many of the essays are personality profiles of hip-hop, rock, and R&B artists, including Prince, Wynton Marsalis, DMX, Lauryn Hill, and Eminem, as well as political figures such as Al Sharpton and sports stars such as Jennifer Capriati. The author explores the difficulties faced by a gay rapper; compares the structure of well-known rap collectives such as Wu-Tang Clan with traditional African family structure; and offers a deeply felt personal essay. A Kirkus Reviews contributor called the book "a wholly involving and piercingly intelligent examination of contemporary popular culture."
BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:
Antioch Review, winter, 2003, review of The Portable Promised Land, p. 186.
Black Issues Book Review, July-August, 2002, Mondella Jones, review of The Portable Promised Land, p. 36; September-October, 2004, Clarence V. Reynolds, review of Soul City, p. 50.
Booklist, June 1, 2002, Keir Graff, review of The Portable Promised Land, p. 1689; September 1, 2004, Vanessa Bush, review of Soul City, p. 66.
Daily Pennsylvanian, November 5, 2004, Courtney Edwards, "Writer Brings Novel to Life with Voice Impressions," profile of Touré.
Entertainment Weekly, September 3, 2004, Abby West, review of Soul City, p. 81.
Essence, November, 2004, Janice K. Bryant, review of Soul City, p. 138.
Kirkus Reviews, July 15, 2004, review of Soul City, p. 659; January 1, 2006, review of Never Drank the Kool-Aid, p. 35.
Library Journal, June 1, 2002, Ellen Flexman, review of The Portable Promised Land, p. 199; October 1, 2004, David A. Berona, review of Soul City, p. 74.
Publishers Weekly, May 27, 2002, review of The Portable Promised Land, p. 32; August 9, 2004, review of Soul City, p. 231; January 2, 2006, review of Never Drank the Kool-Aid, p. 48.
Review of Contemporary Fiction, spring, 2003, Rob Mawyer, review of The Portable Promised Land, p. 138.
Tribune Books (Chicago, IL), June 2, 2002, review of The Portable Promised Land, p. 5; June 29, 2003, review of The Portable Promised Land, p. 6.
BlackNews.com, http://www.blacknews.com/ (March 15, 2006), "Pop Culture Personality Touré Headed to BET News."
Touré Home Page, http://www.toure.com (March 13, 2006).