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Listen to Chadwick Boseman read Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass.

Vanessa Willoughby

November 29, 2021, 11:54am

On this day, the magnetic, beloved actor Chadwick Boseman would have been 45 years old. I know that I speak for many people when I say that it was truly heartbreaking to learn that Boseman had been privately battling colon cancer for four years, including during the making and release of Black Panther.

Born in Anderson, South Carolina, Boseman was a graduate of Howard University, where he took an acting class with Phylicia Rashad, who later helped finance Boseman’s trip to the British American Drama Academy in Oxford, England, with assistance from Denzel Washington. After graduation, Boseman moved to New York and pursued a theater career. He wrote and directed a few plays, such as Deep Azure and Hieroglyphic Graffiti. He also taught acting to students at the Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture in Harlem. Boseman eventually relocated to Los Angeles after accepting a recurring role on the ABC Family TV series Lincoln Heights. The switch from stage actor to film star was new territory for Boseman, but as they say, the rest is history.

Boseman’s breakout role saw him as legendary baseball player Jackie Robinson in the 2013 biopic 42. In 2014, he played James Brown in the biopic Get On Up and in 2017, he took on the role of Thurgood Marshall in Marshall, which he also co-produced. Boseman’s T’Challa officially hit the big screen in 2018’s Black Panther (the character made a brief appearance in 2016’s Captain America: Civil War). His final on-screen roles were 2020’s Norman Earl “Stormin’ Norm” Holloway in Spike Lee’s Da 5 Bloods and Levee Green in the film adaptation of Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom.

The actor also wasn’t afraid to speak out against injustice and racism. Boseman, along with over 300 other Black actors and professionals in Hollywood, signed an open letter organized by Kendrick Sampson (Insecure), which called for the industry to divest from the police.

Boseman certainly left his mark on the world, which is even more incredible considering the nonstop volume of work he contributed before his untimely death.

In the below video for education company Amplify, Boseman’s theater training is put on full display as he reads the first chapter of Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass. As Boseman’s singular, commanding voice infuses Douglass’s testimony with emotional depth and gravitas, it’s easy to understand why Boseman captivated audiences.

COVER REVEAL: Northwestern University Press’s collection Growing Up Chicago.

Literary Hub

November 29, 2021, 8:15am

Lit Hub is pleased to reveal the cover for the story collection Growing Up Chicago, edited by David Schaafsma, Roxanne Pilat, and Lauren DeJulio Bell with a foreword by Luis Alberto Urrea, which will be published by Northwestern University Press in May.

Growing Up Chicago is a collection of coming-of-age stories, primarily memoir, that reflect the diversity of the city. Northwestern University Press describes Growing Up Chicago as “collect[ing] work by writers who spent their formative years in the region to ask: What characterizes a Chicago author? Is it a certain feel to the writer’s language? A narrative sensibility? The mention of certain neighborhoods or locales? While the authors represented here write from distinct local experiences, some universals emerge, including the abiding influence of family and friends and the self-realizations earned against the background of a place sparkling with promise and riven by inequality, a place in constant flux. The stories evoke childhood trips to the Art Institute of Chicago, nighttime games of ringolevio, and the giant neon Magikist lips that once perched over the expressway, sharing perspectives that range from a young man who dreams of becoming an artist to a single mother revisiting her Mexican roots, from a woman’s experience with sexual assault to a child’s foray into white supremacy. This book memorably explores culture, social identity, and personal growth through the eyes of Chicagoans, affirming that we each hold the ability to shape the places in which we live and write and read as much as those places shape us.”

Here is the cover, designed by artist and graphic novelist Emil Ferris:

“I chose the Art Institute of Chicago [for the cover of the book] because that great museum is my spiritual sanctuary,” Ferris told Lit Hub. “I get a shiver of excitement prior to every visit. During my past nine-month episode in recovery from West Nile virus, I wheeled my wheelchair into that sanctuary and absorbed courage from every great painting, drawing, and sculpture I saw there. As every artist knows, being creative requires courage and a belief in the unseen.

When I’m creating, I start with an image in my mind, one that makes me hungry to draw it. As I draw I feel the physical substance of what I’m drawing—the softness of skin or of fur, the coolness of marble, the grain of wood. I also feel the emotional weight of the beings I draw, and I think that goes into every stroke of the pen. I sculpt the image into existence by means of thousands of loving strokes. Having lost the ability to draw during my time with West Nile virus, I cherish the gift with my whole heart and always seek to give the most I can to my wonderful viewers.”

You can preorder Growing Up Chicago now.

Treat yourself: 5 fictional shopping sprees to fuel your Black Friday.

Katie Yee

November 24, 2021, 1:24pm

Because capitalism is alive and well, ahead of Black Friday (which seems to be encroaching earlier and earlier), I’ve been thinking about a few fictional shopping sprees. While shopping can be gluttonous and indulgent, wasteful and vapid, in literature it also sometimes signifies transformation or the start of a journey. (For one particular maximalist, it’s the whole journey!) So… treat yourself to the literary equivalent of a mall montage. And, remember, the best place to shop is always at your local bookstore.


From Rachel Ingalls’ Binstead’s Safari:

“She was going from shop to shop one day, looking for a nice purse to send her sister, Betty. The sun was out, she waited at the curb for the traffic lights to change, and then when they did, she caught sight of herself in the plate glass of a store opposite. She was an ordinary woman, mooning along the street, who looked like somebody else. She thought: My God, I look like somebody’s mother. The thought paralyzed her for an instant.

[…] If I don’t do something, she thought, nobody else will. I’ve got to do something. It’s already too late anyway, so why not? Could anything be worse than the way things are? 

She went and had her hair cut, bought some clothes and earrings, makeup, bead necklaces, a bracelet and some nail polish which she never used but suddenly thought she might try.”

From Nicholson Baker’s The Mezzanine:

“When I drew close to the up escalator, I involuntarily transferred my paperback and CVS bag to my left hand, so that I could take the handrail with my right, according to habit. The bag made a little paper-rattling sound, and when I looked down at it, I discovered that I was unable for a second to remember what was inside, my recollection snagged on the stapled receipt. But of course that was one of the principal reasons you needed little bags, I thought: they kept your purchases private, while signaling to the world that you led a busy, rich life, full of pressing errands to run.”

From Sophie Kinsella’s Confessions of a Shopaholic:

“I honestly feel as though I’ve run an obstacle course to get here. In fact, I think they should list shopping as a cardiovascular activity. My heart never beats as fast as it does when I see a ‘reduced by 50 percent’ sign.

I count out the money in tens and twenties and wait, almost shivering as she ducks behind the counter and produces the green box. She slides it into a glossy bag with dark green cord handles and hands it to me, and I almost want to cry out loud, the moment is so wonderful.”

From Truman Capote’s Breakfast at Tiffany’s:

“The rest of the afternoon we were east and west worming out of reluctant grocers cans of peanut butter, a wartime scarcity; dark came before we’d rounded up a half-dozen jars, the last at the delicatessen on Third Avenue. It was near the antique shop with the palace of a bird cage in its window, so I took her there to see it, and she enjoyed the point, its fantasy: ‘But still, it’s a cage.’

Passing a Woolworth’s, she gripped my arm: ‘Let’s steal something,’ she said, pulling me into the store, where at once there seemed a pressure of eyes, as though we were already under suspicion. ‘Come on. Don’t be chicken.’ She scouted a counter piled with paper pumpkins and Halloween masks. The saleslady was occupied with a group of nuns who were trying on masks. Holly picked up a mask and slipped it over her face; she chose another and put it on mine; then she took my hand and we walked away.”

From Virginia Woolf’s Mrs. Dalloway:

“Mrs. Dalloway said she would buy the flowers herself.”

After 40 years, the man wrongfully convicted of Alice Sebold’s rape has been exonerated.


November 24, 2021, 1:13pm

The rape conviction at the center of The Lovely Bones author Alice Sebold’s memoir, Lucky, has been overturned after an executive producer on its Netflix adaptation started asking questions about the guilt of Anthony Broadwater. Broadwater, now 61, served 16 years in prison after his conviction.

In Lucky, Sebold wrote about being raped as a first-year university student in 1981 and then recognizing a man in the street months later as her attacker. “He was smiling as he approached,” wrote Sebold in Lucky. “He recognized me. It was a stroll in the park to him; he had met an acquaintance on the street. ‘Hey, girl,’ he said. ‘Don’t I know you from somewhere?’ . . . I looked directly at him. Knew his face had been the face over me in the tunnel.”

After Broadwater—who is Black—was arrested, Sebold identified a different man in a police lineup. But Sebold identified Broadwater as her rapist on the witness stand. Overturning the conviction, the defense argued that the case had relied solely on Sebold identifying Broadwater in the courtroom and microscopic hair analysis, which has now been discredited. “Sprinkle some junk science onto a faulty identification, and it’s the perfect recipe for a wrongful conviction,” Broadwater’s lawyer told the Post-Standard.

“I’m not going to sully this proceeding by saying, ‘I’m sorry.’ That doesn’t cut it,” Onondaga county district attorney William Fitzpatrick said at the court hearing. “This never should have happened.”

Broadwater’s exoneration was set in motion by Tim Mucciante, producer of the Netflix adaptation of Lucky. Mucciante had signed on as executive producer of the adaptation, but when he saw the first draft of the script—which was significantly different from the book—he became skeptical of Broadwater’s guilt. “I started poking around and trying to figure out what really happened here,” Mucciante told the Associated Press. Mucciante hired a private investigator, who put him in touch with the defense lawyers who eventually overturned Broadwater’s conviction.

“I’ve been crying tears of joy and relief the last couple of days,” Broadwater told the Associated Press. “I’m so elated, the cold can’t even keep me cold.” Broadwater finished his sentence in 1999, but remained on New York’s sex offender registry as he worked as a trash hauler and handyman; Broadwater had refused to have children with his wife due to the stigma they would face.

Broadwater told The New York Times he, 20, had just returned from the Marine Corps in California, to visit his ill father, when he was arrested; his father died after Broadwater was imprisoned. “I just hope and pray that maybe Ms. Sebold will come forward and say, ‘Hey, I made a grave mistake,’ and give me an apology,” Broadwater told The New York Times. “I sympathize with her. But she was wrong.”

A spokesperson for Scribner, Sebold’s publisher, told The Guardian: “Neither Alice Sebold nor Scribner has any comment. Scribner has no plans to update the text of Lucky at this time.”

Breaking: Alaska teen turns Gilgamesh into rap.


November 24, 2021, 12:19pm

Something actually, genuinely fun to send you off on your holiday weekend: Tracen Wassily, a junior at Dillingham High School in Alaska, has turned the Epic of Gilgamesh into a rap.

According to KDLG, Public Radio for Alaska’s Bristol Bay, Wassily chose to produce a rap for his literature class, where the assignment was to write an essay, skit, or song on the topic of Gilgamesh. Though at first he didn’t like the Epic of Gilgamesh, Wassily got more excited when he started making beats. “Not even a day after—like, right after school, I got to work producing a beat, a good rhythm, like a fast-paced rhythm for what I’m going to be doing,” Wassily told KDLG. “Cause that’s what I’m most comfortable on.”

From there, Wassily produced “G and Enkidu,” a fast-paced, minute-long rap. “The stuff I was rapping about, or singing about, was fast-paced as well, so it kind of fit really good,” Wassily told KDLG. “They were fighting Humbaba [a forest-guarding monster].”

The rap begins: G and Enkidu on a quest for glory / Slayin Humbaba is the start of his story / Our heroes make it to the gate / But before they serve H his fate / Their knees begin to shake / They feel their stomachs ache / Couple minutes later Kidu slashin with his saber / The repercussions of this act Kidu gonna feel later . . .

Making “G and Enkidu,” Wassily took inspiration from his favorite artists: Denzel Curry, XXXTentacion and Zillakami. “They just have really good energy, really good lyrics,” said Wassily, “and their delivery is just like perfect for me.”

Is the lesson “let students make things they like”? Probably. Whatever! I love this. Listen to “G and Enkidu”—and read the full lyrics—here.