Among cheese plates and chatter, just a stone’s throw from the set of Will & Grace, new books by Emerson faculty waited for their spot on the shelves. Last Thursday, the Iwaski Library hosted its annual Emerson Authors event to honor faculty and staff that had works published in the previous year.
Twenty books were published by 18 faculty members in 2011. These included works like Lennon: The Man, The Myth, The Music - The Definitive Life, a bulky biography of the Beatle by journalism professor Tim Riley, and Emblem, a new book of poems by Writer-in-Residence Richard Hoffman.
The faculty speaker at this year’s event was writing, literature, and publishing associate professor Jabari Asim. Asim has authored 10 books, the most recent of which is A Taste of Honey, a collection of short stories set in the civil rights era. He has been an editor and columnist at The Washington Post and since 2007 has been the editor-in-chief of The CRISIS, the official publication of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People. Asim has even graced the set of The Colbert Report on two occasions as a guest.
Asim, in a light brown suit and electric blue Pumas, read with authority and poise from a statement prepared for the event. He began with an African proverb: “Until lions have their own historians, tales of the hunt will always glorify the hunter.”
Asim spoke of falling in love with language in his boyhood, and consequently its use in his social and civil rights activism. He interspersed this personal narrative with accounts from other African-American writers like Frederick Douglass and James Baldwin, on the importance of writing and social change. Asim also addressed the intolerance and discrimination still present in American life.
Asim finished with James Baldwin’s quote, “The root function of language is to control the universe by describing it.” Asim added his own coda, saying, “My ambitions are considerably less grand. They involve researching, writing, and when I’m able, speaking for the Lions.”
Robert Fleming, executive director of the library followed Asim and offered words of his own for the 2011 authors.
“What I find impressive about this group is not only their individual accomplishments,” said Fleming, “but the incredible diversity of genres and subject areas they explore in this collective body of work.”
Later, in an interview, Asim said that he was appreciative of the event.
“It’s a really terrific way for the college to recognize the work we do,” said Asim. Asim explained that the faculty are often seen as teachers first, but their writing and published work is why they are teaching in the first place.
Asim felt that the Emerson Authors event was another example of the “embrace of the creative impulse at Emerson.”