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WEB EXCLUSIVE! KCRW reinvents the art of cultural conversation with UpClose, a series of intimate gatherings featuring our program hosts' one-on-one with a variety of special guests from across the cultural landscape. In the first of what will become many conversations with leading and up-and-coming literary figures, Bookworm's Michael Silverblatt sat down with poet and author Sapphire for a candid talk about her latest book, The Kid. Michael introduced Sapphire by recounting how he felt challenged to read her work when her publisher mentioned while pitching it that "it might not be your kind of thing." What he discovered unexpectedly was that, not only was it his kind of thing, but he had come across a genuine and original American writer for the ages.
To set the scene for the afternoon's discussion, Sapphire delivered a dynamic reading from The Kid, where she introduced 9-year-old Abdul Jamal Louis Jones at his mother's funeral. She then explained that her role was not that of cultural massage therapist. She had to kill Precious Jones, Jamal's mother and the beloved protagonist from her first novel, Push. She also discussed the necessity of writing Abdul's story. One woman in particular stood out as a catalyst for the author. The incapacitated reader wrote her to say that she could not sleep at night worrying about Precious and her boy. Michael asked her what it was like to write in the voice of an angry young man, to which she replied that it was easier when he was nine. As he grew, his voice often eluded her, much like a real adolescent growing distant from his mother. The conversation continued with real insight into the mind of a true and feisty writer.
Read an excerpt from The Kid.Banner image: Salvador Farfan