In the early half of the 21st Century – an era that will probably be remembered as the “Dark Ages” – André Melvin Jones, Jr., a 23 year old author from New Jersey, is making his latent convictions and concerns heard. His latest book, The Renaissance Generation: A Soapbox Polemic, was born out of a desire to enlighten and inspire his contemporaries and also to contribute further to a greater discussion of where we need to be as Americans, right now, socially and politically.
WS: Why the title, The Renaissance Generation: A Soapbox Polemic?
AJ: After watching an episode of The Boondocks (The Block is Hot) which featured “Riley” (one of the main characters) handing out pamphlets from atop a soapbox, I had this nagging feeling that: A) I need to include “soapbox” somewhere in my book’s title; and B) young people need to rise up. Seeing the soapbox was a reminder of a classical mode of free-speech that Americans once exercised: they would simply go outside; head into town; mount their soapbox; and, unapologetically, let their voices be heard! You can either be militant—like “Riley”—or eloquent, but you can still be a contributor to the revolution.
WS: Who’s your target audience?
AJ: I kept hearing and seeing things on the news. I felt that my generation needed something more besides the stuff being presented in and on the news. They needed a more relatable perspective—one seen through the lens of perhaps a close friend. I really want to engage my generation with this book. I do hope, however, that the older generations are attracted to it as well. I’m hoping for a universal audience. I don’t want readers to get lost in a barrage of information and vocabulary. It’s a peer-to-peer read. It’s, honestly, as if we were all sitting down in a classroom – either taking notes, reading, following the teacher, whatever – and I just got up and went off on a tangent!
WS: You’re 23 years of age; do you think your generation will understand what you’re saying?
AJ: I think so. With Obama running, becoming president and all that he’s done so far, I think he has activated us. It’s time for us, now, to operate. Maybe what I’ve written will strike a cord with some of them and possibly lead them to do their own research. But I’m confident that it will be like music, universal.
WS: As writers we reveal a little about ourselves through our writings. Are you ready for the criticism?
AJ: Interesting you should ask that. There’s a quote by Martha Graham that comes to mind. “There is a vitality, a life force, an energy, a quickening that is translated through you into action, and because there is only one of you in all of time, this expression is unique. And if you block it, it will never exist through any other medium and it will be lost. The world will not have it. It is not your business to determine how good it is nor how valuable nor how it compares with other expressions. It is your business to keep it yours clearly and directly, to keep the channel open. You do not even have to believe in yourself or your work. You have to keep yourself open and aware to the urges that motivate you. Keep the channel open. … No artist is pleased. [There is] no satisfaction whatever at any time. There is only a queer divine dissatisfaction, a blessed unrest that keeps us marching and makes us more alive than the others.”
I did ask myself, “Did I put too much of myself in this book?” “Are people going to hate or scrutinize me for writing it?” But so far I’ve received a lot of positive feedback. And considering the tone and content of the book: why should I care anyway? Who knows who this may inspire into becoming a great leader, or activist or freedom fighter? I see myself as a major component that is part of the bigger “body”. And if you know anything about the body, then you know that all of the components are important.
WS: How long did it take you to write this?
AJ: Several months. For a year I wasn’t really doing anything but writing. I spent a lot of time in local libraries and Barnes and Noble bookstores just reading and tapping into great minds the likes of Dr. Cornel West, Fredrich Nietzsche, Ralph Waldo Emerson, and a catalog of others—all of which, in some way, inspired my writing. The writing itself, however, did take a mental toll. After filling yourself with the dark inner workings of some of these men and how they thought, how could it not? But I felt like a major weight had been lifted off of my shoulders when I finished. I was happy.
WS: Was there a particular event, situation or a series of events that led you to write this book?
AJ: It was a divine appointment. A combination of political, social and economic situations led me to write this. If I didn’t write it would’ve been very irresponsible of me.
WS: How are you promoting your book?
AJ: Word-of-mouth marketing is an old and powerful tool, so that, of course. I’m also on Twitter and FaceBook. I have some upcoming blog and magazine features, and I’ll be visiting a few college radio stations in the weeks ahead. This type of book warrants a guerrilla grassroots type of marketing plan so I figured I stick with what I know: the Internet.
WS: When does it hit stores?
AJ: Since I’m self publishing I’m looking at an early 2010 release date – I say about January, February.