I'm happy to report that Jazz Moon's first review is simply GRAND. Here's part of what Library Journal has to say about my debut novel:
"Okonkwo’s sweeping debut novel combines the rich history of jazz’s golden age with the emotional turmoil of an African American male coming to terms with his sexuality."
Library Journal reviews Jazz Moon alongside well-known authors Eric Jerome Dickey and Zane.
I'm so pleased that Jazz Moon has earned yet another prestigious endorsement. This just came in from Mary Monroe, prolific author of God Don't Like Ugly, The Upper Room, and many, many others. Here's what she says about Jazz Moon:
"Joe Okonkwo is an incredibly unique new voice and a very familiar one at the same time. His haunting style is reminiscent of Richard Wright, James Baldwin, and Gabriel Garcia Marquez. Jazz Moon is an elegantly written gift and a stunning literary debut. The characters are so vibrant and precise! The delicate plot about race, jazz, betrayal, and sex in early Harlem and Paris snatched me and held me hostage until the very last sentence."
I love this painting. It' called Big Wind in Georgia. It's by Hale Aspacio Woodruff (1900-1980), one of great painters of the Harlem Renaissance era. Woodruff was influenced by post-impressionism, cubism, and Diego Rivera.
Big Wind in Georgia was completed in 1933.
I'm privileged to have earned the endorsement of Felice Picano, author of Nights at Rizzoli, Like People in History and many, many, many other books. Mr. Picano is also a poet, publisher, and critic, and one of the Grand Fathers of contemporary gay literature. Here's what he says about Jazz Moon:
"Jazz Moon is an unexpected and original grand romance: sweeping, evocative, and colorful. Okonkwo is an author to enjoy now and watch in the future."
...I'm posting this. It's by Richard Bruce Nugent. He was one of the bad boys of the Harlem Renaissance and this painting tells you why. Nugent is well-known for his 1926 homoerotic, interracial prose poem "Smoke, Lillies, and Jade."
Richard Bruce Nugent lived from 1906 to 1987. This painting is called Lucifer. Nugent completed it in 1930.
Today I finished the final proofing of Jazz Moon and sent my corrections to my publisher. Jazz Moon began as a short story in the summer of 2004.
It's done. This is it. No more writing, editing, or correcting. I feel sad and triumphant. Jazz Moon will be PUBLISHED by Kensington Books on May 31, 2016. This is how I celebrated:
I came across a quote that resonates with me. It's from Gloria Naylor, one of my favorite writers who, unfortunately, doesn't seem to write anymore. She's written magnificent books like Mama Day, Linden Hills, and, my favorite of hers, Bailey's Café. The Women of Brewster Place is her most famous work, but I can't say I'm crazy about it.
"Not only is your story worth telling, but it can be told in words so painstakingly eloquent that it becomes a song." — Gloria Naylor
Just saw this wonderful movie about Empress of the Blues, Bessie Smith. I highly recommend it.
I'm extremely pleased to announce that Jazz Moon has received another exuberant endorsement. This one is from James Smalls Ph.D. He is an art historian specializing in race, gender, and gay sexuality in art and visual culture. He teaches at the University of Maryland, Baltimore County. I'm very grateful for Dr. Smalls' endorsement.
"Joe Okonkwo’s Jazz Moon has it all: drama, intrigue, gay sex and romance, crime, drugs, alcohol, poetry, blues, love and betrayal, ecstatic joy, lost dreams, regrets, and redemption. The story transports the reader back to a time of guarded liberation in an underground world full of indulgences, expectations and compulsions to fulfill them. It is a richly human and poignant story about all of us. With commitment and compassion, the author deposits the reader back in time as he takes us on a roller coaster ride of human experiences and emotions. He conjures an alluring, nostalgic, sentimental, but also tragic atmosphere of black gay Harlem and Paris during the heyday of the Jazz Age. Through its emotionally and psychologically complicated protagonist, an aspiring poet named Ben Charles, the narrative dramatizes what we already know, or more precisely, what we think we know about Harlem and Paris during the 1920s. The reader does not have to be gay or black, or gay and black, to empathize with the human aspects and complications of fraught intimate relationships from folks of varying racial and cultural backgrounds."—James Smalls Ph.D., author of Gay Art and The Homoerotic Photography of Carl Van Vechten: Public Face, Private Thoughts
One of my favorite quotes, from my favorite writer incidentally.
The term "p.c." has become shorthand for discrediting ideas. You're not stripping language by requiring people to be sensitive to other peoples' pain. What I think the the p.c. debate is really about is the power to define. The definers want the power to name. And the defined are now taking that power away from them. —Toni Morrison
This is one of my favorite paintings. It's called Blues. It's by Archibald Motley (1891-1981) whose 1935 painting Saturday Night graces the cover of my debut novel Jazz Moon. Motley completed Blues in 1929.
I've just launched my official author page on Facebook. This page will be a go-to place for info on Jazz Moon, my other publishing and literary activities, and events. It also contains fun and informative galleries of Harlem Renaissance artists and their artwork, jazz musicians, and other luminaries.
Wanna follow me on Facebook? Click here!
I'm very excited to report that David Ebershoff, author of The 19th Wife and The Danish Girl (which was recently adapted for film) has endorsed Jazz Moon! He calls it "A passionate, alive, and original novel about love, race, and jazz in 1920s Harlem and Paris — a moving story of traveling far to find oneself."
David Ebershoff joins trailblazing author Larry Duplechan in endorsing my novel. Larry wrote the late 1980s novel Blackbird--the first black, gay coming-out story. This novel was also recently adapted for film. Larry says, “Jazz Moon mashes up essences of Hurston and Hughes and Fitzgerald into a heady mixtape of a romance: driving and rhythmic as an Armstrong Hot Five record, sensuous as the small of a Cotton Club chorus girl’s back. I enjoyed it immensely. Frankly, I wish I’d written it.”
I'm very pleased and very honored to have received such fantastic endorsements from these esteemed writers.