Virtual Event: Jabari Asim
in conversation with ADRIAN WALKER
January 11, 2022
7:00 PM ET
Join our online event (or pre-register) via the link in the event description.
Free - $5 contribution suggested at registration
Harvard Book Store's virtual event series welcomes JABARI ASIM—director of the MFA Program in creative writing at Emerson College and acclaimed author of We Can’t Breathe: On Black Lives, White Lies, and the Art of Survival—for a discussion of his latest novel, Yonder. He will be joined in conversation by celebrated Boston Globe journalist ADRIAN WALKER.
Contribute to Support Harvard Book Store
While payment is not required, we are suggesting a $5 contribution to support this author series, our staff, and the future of Harvard Book Store—a locally owned, independently run Cambridge institution. In addition, by purchasing a copy of Yonder on harvard.com, you support indie bookselling and the writing community during this difficult time.
They call themselves the Stolen. Their owners call them captives. They are taught their captors’ tongues and their beliefs but they have a language and rituals all their own.
In a world that would be allegorical if it weren’t saturated in harsh truths, Cato and William meet at Placid Hall, a plantation in an unspecified part of the American South. Subject to the whims of their tyrannical and eccentric captor, Cannonball Greene, they never know what harm may befall them: inhumane physical toil in the plantation’s quarry by day, a beating by night, or the sale of a loved one at any moment. It’s that cruel practice—the wanton destruction of love, the belief that Black people aren’t even capable of loving—that hurts the most.
It hurts the reserved and stubborn William, who finds himself falling for Margaret, a small but mighty woman with self-possession beyond her years. And it hurts Cato, whose first love, Iris, was sold off with no forewarning. He now finds solace in his hearty band of friends, including William, who is like a brother; Margaret; Little Zander; and Milton, a gifted artist. There is also Pandora, with thick braids and long limbs, whose beauty calls to him.
Their relationships begin to fray when a visiting minister with a mysterious past starts to fill their heads with ideas about independence. He tells them that with freedom comes the right to choose the small things—when to dine, when to begin and end work—as well as the big things, such as whom and how to love. Do they follow the preacher and pursue the unknown? Confined in a landscape marked by deceit and uncertainty, who can they trust?
In an elegant work of monumental imagination that will reorient how we think of the legacy of America’s shameful past, Jabari Asim presents a beautiful, powerful, and elegiac novel that examines intimacy and longing in the quarters while asking a vital question: What would happen if an enslaved person risked everything for love?
Praise for Yonder
“Exceptional. A splendid addition to the library of fiction on American slavery, which—given the centuries it existed—is not as large as it could be. Skillfully wielding a number of literary tools, including a grand way with language, Asim reveals the slaves’ everyday world away from the lash and brutality: the loves, the laughter, the age-old tussles with life. Yonder builds a permanent place in a reader’s mind. Asim is to be applauded.” —Edward P. Jones, author of The Known World
“Jabari Asim’s masterful Yonder has no doubt set our Ancestors to dancing and rejoicing. A compelling and dazzling storyteller, Asim beautifully captures the depth of their bonds, intellect, and unwavering commitment to each other, honoring the fullness of their humanity against the backdrop of enslavement. This novel made me shout, cry, laugh, and, most of all, believe.” —Deesha Philyaw, author of The Secret Lives of Church Ladies
“The magic of Yonder is the hope and love and devotion that shine from its pages despite the darkness and brutality that surround its loving, beloved characters. Asim’s story is utterly absorbing. His people have wings; let them transport you.” —Margot Livesey, New York Times bestselling author of The Flight of Gemma Hardy
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