Thursday, November 7, 2019

Saeed Jones

Saeed Jones is the author of Prelude to Bruise, winner of the 2015 PEN/Joyce Osterweil Award for Poetry and the 2015 Stonewall Book Award/Barbara Gittings Literature Award. The poetry collection was also a finalist for the 2015 National Book Critics Circle Award, as well as awards from Lambda Literary and the Publishing Triangle in 2015.

Jones's new memoir, How We Fight for Our Lives, describes how owning his homosexuality required distancing himself from his mother's love, and was recently named winner of the nonfiction Kirkus Prize.

From the transcript of Jones's Fresh Air interview with Terry Gross:

TERRY GROSS: Saeed Jones, welcome to FRESH AIR. Let's start in the library, not just because you're a writer, but because the library is where you first went to get answers to your questions about homosexuality. So before you do the reading, I just want to set it up a little bit. You'd been reading James Baldwin's "Another Country," which had two significances for you. One was the content of the book, and the other was the photo in the book. So tell us a little bit about both, which will lead into the reading.

SAEED JONES: Sure. Yeah. My mom didn't graduate from college. She grew up in Memphis, Tenn. She went to, you know, a state school there for a few semesters, but she kept her books. And among them were, you know, copies of books by Toni Morrison and Alice Walker, James Baldwin. And by the time I am 12, as you see in the opening chapter of my memoir, I start gravitating towards those books because they're in the middle of our living room. And I pick up her copy of "Another Country," and I'm immediately pulled in by the language, the setting in Harlem. It's sexy. It's invoking jazz, and it feels like jazz as I'm reading it. And, you know, there are interracial relationships. There's queerness. There's bisexuality, a lot of fluidity, a lot of back and forth with all of the characters.

But also I found a Polaroid photograph of my mom and this man, this young man, that I didn't know that was dated Jackson, Miss., 1982. And so I asked my mom about it when she got home from work that day and she - my mom was a bit terse. She held her cards close to her chest when it came to life stories. And she just eventually kind of admitted that, you know, that was a friend of hers. They were close when they were college students. They would take road trips. And then she just kind of went on and then quickly just threw off that, you know, and later he found out that he was sick and killed himself. And I'm like, wait, what? Huh? And then she just quickly said...[read on]
Saeed Jones's top six books on family roots and grief.

--Marshal Zeringue