In Conversation: On The Awkward Black Man

Walter Mosley is the recipient of the 2020 National Book Awards Medal for Distinguished Contribution to American Letters (DCAL). Walter Mosley’s The Awkward Black Man is a collection of 17 […]


In Conversation: On The Awkward Black Man

Authors:Walter Mosley, W Paul Coates


Walter Mosley is the recipient of the 2020 National Book Awards Medal for Distinguished Contribution to American Letters (DCAL).

Walter Mosley’s The Awkward Black Man is a collection of 17 short stories in which the heroes are awkward, nerdy, self-defeating, self-involved, and, on the whole, odd. They include a man who keeps a pet fly, another who prefers living as a vagrant, and one who’s an accidental prophet. Mosley is joined by W. Paul Coates, founder and director of Black Classic Press and a subject of the book The Brother You Choose: Paul Coates and Eddie Conway Talk About Life, Politics, and The Revolution.

Walter Mosley

Walter Mosley is the author of more than fifty critically acclaimed books, including the major bestselling mystery series featuring Easy Rawlins. His work includes literary fiction, science fiction, political monographs, and a young adult novel. The Awkward Black Man (Grove Press) collects seventeen of Walter Mosley’s short stories presenting distinct characters as they struggle to move through the world. These heroes are awkward, nerdy, self-defeating, self-involved, and, on the whole, odd. Mosley overturns the stereotypes that corral black male characters and paints a subtle, powerful portrait of each of these individuals. It includes a man insecure about his weight, who allows himself to be taken advantage of in return for a little human comfort; a man working as a mailroom clerk and his pet fly; and “Almost Alyce,” a tale of failed loves, family loss, alcoholism, and a Zen approach to the art of begging. In a starred review Booklist said Mosley has created “a beautiful collection about Black men who are, indeed, awkward in their poignant humanity… Mosley’s is an essential American voice and his portraits of Black men will have profound resonance.”

W Paul Coates

W Paul Coates owned and operated The Black Book (1972 – 1978), a Baltimore-based bookstore. He is the founder and director of Black Classic Press, which specializes in republishing obscure and significant works by and about people of African descent. He is co-editor of Black Bibliophiles and Collectors: Preservers of Black History. A former member and Maryland State coordinator of The Black Panther Party, Coates was instrumental in the establishment of the Black Panther Party Archives at Howard University. Susie Day began listening to people in prison at the DC Jail, where she interviewed four women charged with the 1985 bombing of the U.S. Capitol. The Brother You Choose: Paul Coates and Eddie Conway Talk about Life, Politics, and the Revolution (Haymarket Books) is a record of the lives of, and the relationship between, Eddie Conway, Lieutenant of Security for the Baltimore chapter of the Black Panther Party,  convicted in 1971 of murdering a police officer and sentenced to life plus thirty years behind bars, and Paul Coates, a community worker at the time. Eddie and Paul met in the Baltimore Panther Party, they were in their early twenties. Paul didn’t know Eddie well, and the little he knew, he didn’t much like. But he was dead certain that Eddie’s charges were bogus. He vowed never to leave Eddie – and in so doing, changed the course of both their lives. When, in 2014, Eddie Conway finally walked out onto the streets of Baltimore, Paul Coates was there to greet him. Today, these two men remain rock-solid comrades and friends – each, the other’s chosen brother. In The Brother You Choose, Paul and Eddie, now in their seventies, tell their stories, and speak about their immeasurable bond in their own voices. Author Walter Mosely called The Brother You Choose “a landmark book for anyone who wants to understand the deep connectivity of Black America. It provides a ringside seat to the bruising fight for Civil Rights with two men, Eddie Conway and Paul Coates, as they provide necessary lessons on politics, change, community and enduring bonds.”

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