About Boyz n the Void
Writing to his brother, G'Ra Asim reflects on building his own identity while navigating Blackness, masculinity, and young adulthood--all through wry social commentary and music/pop culture critique
How does one approach Blackness, masculinity, otherness, and the perils of young adulthood? For G'Ra Asim, punk music offers an outlet to express himself freely. As his younger brother, Gyasi, grapples with finding his footing in the world, G'Ra gifts him with a survival guide for tackling the sometimes treacherous cultural terrain particular to being young, Black, brainy, and weird in the form of a mixtape.
Boyz n the Void: a mixtape to my brother blends music and cultural criticism and personal essay to explore race, gender, class, and sexuality as they pertain to punk rock and straight edge culture. Using totemic punk rock songs on a mixtape to anchor each chapter, the book documents an intergenerational conversation between a Millennial in his 30s and his Generation Z teenage brother. Author, punk musician, and straight edge kid, G'Ra Asim weaves together memoir and cultural commentary, diving into the depths of everything from theory to comic strips, to poetry to pizza commercials to mapping the predicament of the Black creative intellectual.
With each chapter dedicated to a particular song and placed within the context of a fraternal bond, Asim presents his brother with a roadmap to self-actualization in the form of a Doc Martened foot to the behind and a sweaty, circle-pit-side-armed hug.
"Like any great mixtape, Asim's compilation is the most personalized of gifts. Layered, deeply revealing, it's a rhythmic journey through the indices, subgenres, and touchstones that encapsulate the refinement of an increasingly rare gem--Black singularity. Written with love, erudition, and the utmost respect, Boyz n the Void is a genuine keepsake." --Paul Beatty, author of The Sellout, winner of the Man Booker Prize and the National Book Critics Circle Award
" Boyz n the Void is a critical ethnography of growing up Black and punk in the aughts. Asim strikes a balance between total immersion in the scene and the intimacy of a letter sent between brothers. Boyz n the Void manages to be ambitious, scholarly, and cool all at once--a testament to its necessity and authenticity. Boyz n the Void is essential reading for Black weirdos, punks of all ages, and those invested in impeccably rendered American history." --Cyrée Jarelle Johnson, author of Slingshot, winner of the 2020 Lambda Literary Award in Gay Poetry
"In this wise, funny, and heartfelt meditation on the vagaries of post-conventional identity, G'Ra Asim writes that to be a successful Black artist you 'must not only untether yourself from essentialized notions of Blackness but create with such fluency as to move your audience to jettison the same constraints.' Boyz n the Void is many things--an impassioned paean to high-stakes cultural invention, a brutally honest excavation of the twenty-first-century color line, and a work of brotherly love--but it also marks the emergence of an important Black artist." --Chris Lehmann, editor of The New Republic
"G'Ra Asim's Boyz n the Void is full of dopamine hits and heartbreak. You don't want to stop listening, even when it aches. It becomes part of you. These essays are rigorous and tender and funny all at once, charged with humor that doesn't deflect from difficult honesty so much as it takes you deeper into the maze of truth. Asim is attentive to small acts of intimacy and solidarity and vulnerability--a punk kid parting the curtain of his mushroom haircut, or learning to love the sweat and leather of a mosh pit--even as he dissects and illuminates, with searing, razor-sharp brushstrokes, the daily brutalities and hidden curriculums of structural racism. I'd gladly read anything by 'Ra the Exhorter--for his brilliance, his wit, his heart, and his electric illuminations of those forces of love and rebellion that might be able to remake our broken world." --Leslie Jamison, New York Times best-selling author of The Empathy Exams
About the Speakers
G'Ra Asim, a writer and musician, is an assistant professor of nonfiction writing at Ithaca College. He holds an MFA in nonfiction from Columbia University and a BA in writing, literature and publishing from Emerson College. He has served as writing director at the African American Policy Forum and as graduate teaching fellow in Columbia's Undergraduate Writing Program. His work has appeared in Slate, Salon, Guernica, The Baffler, and The New Republic. When not writing prose or teaching, he sings, plays bass and writes lyrics for NYC DIY pop punk band babygotbacktalk, who were named one of Afropunk's Top 8 Punkest Bands on the Planet Right Now.
Jabari Asim is the recipient of a Guggenheim Fellowship in Creative Arts and the author of seven books for adults-including We Can't Breathe: On Black Lives, White Lies, and the Art of Survival-and ten books for children. His poems are included in several anthologies, including Furious Flower: African American Poetry from the Black Arts Movement to the Present; Beyond the Frontier: African American Poetry for the 21st Century; and Role Call: A Generational Anthology of Social & Political Black Literature & Art. After more than a decade at the St. Louis Post-Dispatch and The Washington Post, he now directs the MFA program at Emerson College.
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