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Julius Lester,'s Biography

Member Info

Belchertown Mass.
17 years to Milan Sabatini
Sep 2008

Since 1968 I have published more than 40 books of fiction, nonfiction and poetry for children and adults. In addition I recorded 2 albums of folk and original songs for Vanguard in 1966-67, a compilation of which has recently been released by Ace Records and is available on iTunes. I was a photographer during the civil rights movement and my photographs have been exhibited and are part of the permanent collection at Howard University in Washington, D.C. From 1968-75 I had a radio show on WBAI-FM in New York. I taught for 32 years at the University of Massachusetts at Amherst in the AfroAmerican Studies department for 17 years and in the Judaic and Near Eastern Studies department for 15 years. I also taught a course on the 1960s in the History department and one on Religion and Literature in the English department. Since retiring from the university at the end of 2003, I have been devoting my time to photography. 

 

Influences

It is difficult to talk about influences because there have been many, but some have been of short duration and others lifelong. So, I will talk about the lifelong. The first name that comes to mind is Aldous Huxley whom I began reading in the late fifties when he had a monthly column in Esquire magazine. Huxley showed me that it was possible to write across genres and to write about almost anything. My most enduring influence has been musical, not literary, and that is J.S. Bach. I listen to music often as I write and the complexity and order in Bach's music encourages me to dare. These are the two who have been with me for almost all my life. If other names come to me, I will add them later.

Upcoming Works

In November, 2008, HarperCollins will publish GUARDIAN, a novel about a lynching from the point of view of a 14 year old white boy. Many years ago I exchanged letters in the New York Times Book Review with the then-editor of the Children's Books section, and in that exchange I stated that instead of whites writing about blacks, why didn't a white writer write a novel about a lynching from the point of view of someone white. To my knowledge, no one ever did. Maybe it was my book to write all along.

Sometime in 2009 Penguin/Dial will publish a picture book, THE HUNGRY GHOSTS, which grew out of a story I made up many years ago for my two oldest children.

Agents

Neil Ross Authors and Artists
Claudia Menza & Manie Barron Agency

Recommended Links

Publishers

HarperCollins, Penguin/Dial

Interests & Hobbies

Reading, Photography, French