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Writer Walter Mosley to discuss racial equality


April 01, 2011

Celebrated novelist and social commentator Walter Mosley will present “The Only True Race is the Human Race” as this year’s A. Wade Smith Memorial Lecture on Race Relations at Arizona State University. The lecture, which is free and open to the public, will be given at 7 p.m. April 5 in the Old Main Carson Ballroom on ASU’s Tempe campus. A book signing will follow the lecture.

Mosley, who has written more than 35 books in genres ranging from the crime novel to literary fiction, nonfiction, political essay, young adult and science fiction, devotes his writing to exploring race relations by providing a compelling and multifaceted perspective of the social, political and moral issues intertwined in today’s cultural issues.

This prolific writer was born in Los Angeles in 1952 to an African-American father and a mother of Polish Jewish background. In his acclaimed fiction, Mosley has explored the black experience in America over the past seven decades, beginning with the migration of African-Americans from the Deep South to his native Los Angeles in the post-World War II era and through post-Obama election-era New York.

Mosley, who has lived in Manhattan since 1981, features New York’s environs, as well as those of Los Angeles, in his two popular private eye mystery series: Easy Rawlins in Los Angeles and Leonid McGill in Manhattan.

“I wrote the Easy Rawlins series as homage to my father’s generation. They went to Central Avenue, they fostered blues, R&B and jazz, they moved us forward into the future. And nothing was written about them. I felt like I needed to write about those people’s history in order to have the story at least somewhere on the shelves,” said Mosley in a May 23, 2010, interview with ASU Regents’ Professor Alberto Ríos on “Books & Co.,” a television show that explores the craft of writing from the author's perspective that is produced by Eight, Arizona PBS.

“But Leonid McGill, it’s my story. Leonid McGill is my century and my world. That’s a very important thing to me, to be able to make that move,” Mosley told Ríos.

“Devil in a Blue Dress” is perhaps Mosley’s best known novel and his first to be published. It introduces readers to Easy Rawlins. The story, as well as his crime novel “Always Outnumbered, Always Outgunned” have both been adapted for film.

Other fiction include his latest Leonid McGill mystery, “When the Thrill is Gone,” out this month, and “The Last Days of Ptolemy Grey,” which was released last year.

Scheduled for release this April is “Twelve Steps to Political Revelation,” a thought-provoking exploration of the different forms that oppression takes in everyday lives and how to break free.

Mosley’s short fiction has appeared in a number of publications, including the New Yorker, GQ, Esquire, Los Angeles Times Magazine and Playboy. His nonfiction has been published in the New York Times Magazine, Newsweek and The Nation. His honors include an O’ Henry Award, Grammy, Sundance Risktaker Award, and PEN America’s Lifetime Achievement Award.

Mosley’s journey to eminence was unconventional; in 1977, he graduated from Johnston State College and worked a variety of jobs, one being that of a computer programmer for more than a decade. The catalyst to his work as an author was when he decided to quit working in order to study literature full-time at City College of New York. With the help of one of his mentors, Mosley was encouraged to take advantage of his diverse ethnic background by infusing it into his writing. Since then, Mosley’s writing has garnered high acclaim through his strong usage of diction and formation of multidimensional characters in creating invigorating narratives. In 2005, Mosley received an honorary doctorate from City College.

The A. Wade Smith Memorial Lecture on Race Relations, presented by ASU’s College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, is held to celebrate and honor the work Smith accomplished during his lifetime. Smith, a former professor and chair of sociology at ASU, dedicated much of his life to the improvement of race relations on campus and within his community. The lecture series was established after his death in 1994 through funding from his family and friends in their hopes to continue Smith’s work of improving race relations in Arizona.

The past 15 lectures have been given by prominent individuals in public service or at universities. The inaugural lecture was with Princeton University’s Cornel West, speaking on “Race Matters.” Other distinguished lecturers were: William Julius Wilson, Morris Dees, Henry Louis Gates Jr., Roger Wilkins, Michael Eric Dyson, Mary Frances Berry, Johnnetta Cole, Ray Suarez, Christopher Edley Jr., Robin Kelley, Darlene Clark Hine, Leonard Pitts Jr., Julianne Malveaux and Kimberlé Crenshaw.

Additional information about the A. Wade Smith Memorial Lecture on Race Relations is online at http://clas.asu.edu/smithlecture or by phone at 480-965-7765 or email at clasevents@asu.edu.


Written by Chanapa Tantibanchachai.

MEDIA CONTACT:
Carol Hughes, carol.hughes@asu.edu
480-965-6375
College of Liberal Arts and Sciences