Jabari Asim

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Jabari Asim
Born August 11, 1962
St. Louis, Missouri, United States
Occupation Professor, Editor, Author, Poet, Playwright
Genre African American literature
Notable works What Obama Means, The N Word

Jabari Asim (born August 11, 1962) is an author, poet, playwright, associate professor of writing, literature and publishing at Emerson College in Boston, Massachusetts,[1] and since August 2007, has been the Editor-in-Chief of The Crisis magazine, a journal of politics, ideas and culture published by the NAACP and founded by historian and social activist W. E. B. Du Bois in 1910.

In welcoming Asim to The Crisis in August 2007, then publisher Roger Wilkins said: “Mr. Asim is a seasoned editor, a fine writer and author of a new best selling book. He is a gentleman devoted to the cause of racial justice, is excited about his new role with the NAACP and we are energized by his joining our ranks.”[2]

Asim was chosen by the National Book Foundation to serve on the nonfiction panel for the 2013 National Book Awards. Harold Augenbraum, executive director of the foundation, "lauded Asim’s ability to approach difficult topics with humility."[3][4]

In April 2009, the John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation awarded Asim a fellowship in nonfiction, one of 180 fellowships awarded to artists, scientists and scholars in 2009 selected from a group of almost 3,000 applicants.[5]

From 2008 to 2010, Asim was Scholar-in-Residence in African-American Studies and in the Department of Journalism at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.[6]

Asim spent eleven years (1996–2007) at The Washington Post, serving as deputy editor of the book review section, children's book editor, poetry editor, and editor of the Washington Post′s Education Review. For three years he also wrote a Washington Post Writers Group syndicated column on political and social issues for the Post. Asim is a former vice president of the National Book Critics Circle.[7]

Prior to his stint at The Washington Post Book World, Asim was book editor of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, during which time he was the only African American to supervise book/publishing coverage at a major metropolitan daily. His experience at the Post-Dispatch also included copy editor of the daily editorial and commentary pages, and arts editor of the weekend section.[8]

Jabari Asim lives in Boston, Massachusetts, with his wife Liana and their five children.


Asim is the acclaimed author of What Obama Means (William Morrow, January 20, 2009; ISBN 978-0-06-171133-6), as well as the author of the controversial The N Word: Who Can Say It, Who Shouldn’t, And Why (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt; ISBN 978-0-618-19717-0).

He is a frequent public speaker and commentator who has appeared on The Today Show, The Colbert Report, Hannity & Colmes, The Tavis Smiley Show, the Diane Rehm show and countless other programs. He has lectured at many of the nation’s universities, including University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, Northwestern University, Syracuse University and the University of Florida.

Asim's reviews and cultural criticism also have been published in The New York Times, the International Herald Tribune, The Wall Street Journal, the Phoenix Gazette, Los Angeles Times Book Review, Salon.com, the Detroit News, The Village Voice, Hungry Mind Review, XXL, Code, Emerge, Essence, Africana.com and BlackElectorate.com.

He is editor of Not Guilty: Twelve Black Men Speak Out on the Law, Justice and Life, published in November 2001.


Asim’s debut work of fiction, A Taste of Honey, is a collection of 16 connected stories told from multiple perspectives which take place in a fictional Midwestern town called Gateway in 1968, published by Broadway Books in March 2010. It was featured in the March 2010 issue of Essence magazine.

Go On Girl! Book Club selected A Taste of Honey for its 2011 Reading List for May.[9]

In January 2011, A Taste of Honey was nominated for Outstanding Literary Work - Fiction, 42nd NAACP Image Awards[10]

Children's books[edit]

The Road To Freedom, Asim's first novel for young readers, was published in 2000.

Other children’s books include Whose Toes Are Those, Whose Knees Are These, and Daddy Goes to Work. Girl of Mine and Boy of Mine were published in spring 2010 by Little Brown.

Fifty Cents and a Dream: Young Booker T. Washington was published December 4, 2012, by Little, Brown Books for Young Readers. The book was on the School Library Journal 2012 Editor's Choice List, was a Kirkus Best Children's Books List Selection, was the Fall 2012 Parent's Choice Silver Award Winner, and was an NAACP Image Award Nominee.[11] [12]


A poet, playwright and fiction writer, Asim has published work in a number of anthologies and literary magazines. He was the only writer to have both poetry and fiction included in In The Tradition: An Anthology of Young Black Writers (eds Kevin Powell and Ras Baraka, 1992); his short story "Two Fools" appeared in Brotherman: The Odyssey of Black Men in America (eds Herb Boyd and Robert L. Allen, Ballantine, 1996); and his poems, along with "Peace, Dog," a one-act play, were published in Soulfires: Young Black Men on Love and Violence, the 1996 anthology compiled by Rohan Preston and Daniel Wideman.[13][citation needed]

His critical essay "What Is This New Thing?" appears in The Furious Flowering of African-American Poetry (ed. Joanne V. Gabbin, 1999), and an essay appeared in Step Into A World: A Global Anthology of The New Black Literature (ed. Kevin Powell, 2000).

Poetry by Asim was published in African American Writers: A Literary Reader, as well as in the anthologies Role Call: A Generational Anthology of Social & Political Black Literature & Art (eds Tony Medina, Samiya Bashir & Quraysh Ali Lansana, 2002), Beyond The Frontier: African-American Poetry for the 21st Century (ed. E. Ethelbert Miller, 2002), Herb Boyd's The Harlem Reader: A Celebration of New York’s Most Famous Neighborhood from the Renaissance Years to the 21st Century (2003), and in From the Black Arts Movement to Furious Flower: A Collection of Contemporary African American Poetry.




  • A Taste of Honey (Broadway Books, 2009)


  • Fifty Cents and a Dream: Young Booker T. Washington (Little Brown Books for Young Readers, December 4, 2012)
  • Girl of Mine (Little Brown Kids, Spring, 2009)
  • Boy of Mine (Little Brown Kids, Spring, 2009)
  • Whose Toes Are Those? (Little Brown Kids, March 2006)
  • Whose Knees Are These? (LittleBrown Kids, March 2006)
  • Daddy Goes to Work (Little Brown, 2006)
  • The Road to Freedom (Jamestown Publishers, 2000, ISBN 0809206250)


Book reviews by Jabari Asim[edit]

The Washington Post Book Club online chats with Jabari Asim[edit]

Commentary links[edit]

Audio links[edit]

Video links[edit]

External links[edit]