Friday, October 05, 2007

Jewcy: TAN Interviews Julius Lester

I first discovered Julius Lester while in the midst of a James Baldwin moment.

Then I found out he had a blog, and felt compelled to share.

Now I've interviewed this black-jewish renaissance negro author-academic who's probably smarter than you for Jewcy.


Lester had some interesting things to say about negroes and jews, and old[er] folks and new media. Here's the intro, followed by another photo from his portfolio:

As an assimilated negro, Black Jews just tickle my fancy. (Any girls out there who identify as a hybrid of Sarah Silverman and Oprah, call me!) I agree with the writer Julius Lester when he says, “What I find remarkable about Jews: They’re the only ethnic group that seems to care about blacks. At least Jews want to learn.”

I’ve certainly tried to learn a Jewish girl a thing or two on blacks, so I figured Julius Lester might have some words of wisdom for me. I first discovered Lester when I stumbled upon his must-read 1984 New York Times interview with James Baldwin (during which Baldwin exclaimed “Fuck Norman Mailer!” when Lester mentioned the author of “The White Negro”—sadly, the Times struck it from the record.) Besides being an academic and literary star—he's author of over 45 books and a decorated professor emeritus of UMass—Lester also happens to be that most intriguing of exotic birds, a Black Jew. He made a name for himself as a writer, radio commentator, and avowed atheist during the civil rights era, but converted to Judaism in 1982 after years of religious searching (Lovesong, his spiritual memoir, details this journey.)

At 68, Lester is still writing; next spring Harper Collins will publish his novel about lynching, told from the point of view of a 14-year-old white boy. I took to asking him some questions over e-mail...

“Our Lives Do Not Begin With Our Births” [Jewcy]


  1. This comment has been removed by the author.

  2. This piece shows real range and growth in your work, TAN. Your questions are thoughtful,and Lester's responses are compassionate and wise. Bien hecho, Papi.

  3. TAN -- this was very good. Julius Lester was a revelation. I too am an assimilated Negro and I'd heard of Lester, but did not realize just how hip he is. Thanks for this.

  4. i've heard of Lester, as I grew up with some close family friends who are black jews. interesting post. nice to see a different angle.

  5. I am a black Jew. Not by conversion, but by birth (Ashkenazim in the house)

  6. Nice! I discovered Lester when researching my Oh Word Devin the Dude / Briarpatch feature 2 years back. From what I've read, he's a great writer and reader.

    I'll have to check this interview tomorrow when I'm more awake.


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