TTBF Q&A 2019: Author Lamar Giles

Lamar Giles interview graphic

A #TTBF Q&A with Author Lamar Giles

What’s your go-to karaoke jam?

LG: I’m not actually brave enough to sing, but I feel like I’d be a “Living on a Prayer” kind of performer.  

Your book centers around a suspicious death. What is one book death you are still not over? (RIP HEDWIG, #NEVERFORGET)

LG: This is fairly fresh, but I feel like I’m never going to recover from THE NICKEL BOYS by Colson Whitehead. 

What inspired you to write about a grassroots hip hop scene? Have you ever wanted to record music yourself?

LG: I grew up in the golden era of hip-hop, the 80s and 90s. It was just threaded into every part of my day to day life. The sounds. The clothes. The swagger. And, living in Virginia, I can claim to be from a place that’s generated genuine hip-hop legends (Missy, Timbaland, Pharrell). I wanted to put that on the page. As far as ever wanting to record myself, not really, it’s just not my skillset, but I was happy to love the music from afar.  

We heard that you got to see Beyonce perform with Destiny’s Child before she was super famous. WHAT?! Details, PLEASE.

LG: Yes, this is true. I actually saw her perform with Destiny’s Child (versions 1.0 and 2.0) something like nine times. There are longer stories to be told, but in summary, I saw and met her once as concert goer in 1998 when DC was opening for Boyz II Men. In that encounter, I stepped on her toes and momentarily feared that her body guard with crush me (she was super cool about the whole thing though). The other eight times were during a short period when I worked at The Magic Kingdom in Walt Disney World and the group was booked for several performances to entertain thousands of high school seniors during the park’s “Grad Nights”. I did not injure her during that particular booking.  

You’re a founding member of We Need Diverse Books. Have you seen progress being made? What advice do you have for readers who want to see more diversity on bookshelves? 

LG: There has been some progress (there are still miles to go). I think you can see evidence in some of the most popular books of this time. Think about it, it’s not that the books suddenly became good enough for readers to notice, but publishers stopped (in some cases) perpetuating the self-fulfilling prophecy that diverse books don’t have an audience and can’t sell.  That’s a good thing that needs to be continued and amplified. For readers, I think they simply need to keep doing what they’re doing. Support a wide variety of authors/stories/cultures, and when they recognize gaps, demand that more authors/stories/cultures be made visible. 

If you could choose three books to include on our official “Read Everything” book list for 2019, what would they be?

LG: The Nickel Boys by Colson Whitehead, Dealing in Dreams by Lilliam Rivera, Let Me Hear a Rhyme by Tiffany Jackson