When They Tell You To Be Good
Prince Shakurk’s debut memoir brilliantly mines his many eras of radicalization and self-realization through examinations of place, childhood, queer identity, and a history of uprisings.
Winner of the Hurston/Wright Crossover Award
After immigrating from Jamaica to the United States, Prince Shakur’s family is rocked by the murder of Prince’s biological father in 1995. Behind the murder is a sordid family truth, scripted in the lines of a diary by an outlawed uncle hell-bent on avenging the murder of Prince’s father. As Shakur begins to unravel his family’s secrets, he must navigate the strenuous terrain of conquering one’s inner self while confronting the steeped complexities of the Afro-diaspora.
When They Tell You to Be Good charts Prince Shakur’s political coming of age from closeted queer kid in a Jamaican family to radicalized adult traveler, writer, and anarchist in Obama and Trump’s America. Shakur journeys from France, the Philippines, South Korea, and more to discover the depths of the Black experience, and engages in deep political questions while participating in movements like Black Lives Matter and Standing Rock. By the end, Shakur reckons with his identity, his Jamaican family’s immigration to the US before his birth, and the intergenerational impacts of patriarchal and colonial violence.
A profoundly composed narrative parallel in identity to that of George M. Johnson’s All Boys Aren’t Blue and Eddie S. Glaude Jr.’s Begin Again: James Baldwin’s America and its Urgent Lessons for Our Own, Shakur compels the reader to consume the political world of young, Black, queer, and radical millennials today.
Publisher: Tin House Books
Publication Date: October 4, 2022
"Searing. . . . a deeply personal reflection that celebrates self-discovery in the face of intergenerational trauma and a violent colonial legacy."
"A scorching, nonlinear journey through a Black man’s search for self."
― Kirkus Reviews
"Electric. . . . moving. . . . captivating. . . . A searing account of self-discovery in the face of structural oppression."
― Publishers Weekly
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Prince Shakur is a queer, Jamaican-American author, freelance journalist, videomaker, and NY Times recognized organizer. His writings range from op-eds in Teen Vogue to features on the violent impacts of policing and cultural essays that delve into black icons, like Bob Marley or Huey Newton. In 2017, his video series, Two Woke Minds, earned him the Rising Star Grant from GLAAD. As an organizer, he brought Black Lives Matter to his university campus, organized for labor rights in Seattle, disrupted a Bill Clinton speech in 2016, did solidarity work at the US/Mexican border, and organized with Black Queer Intersectional Collective during the height of the George Floyd protests.
Tags: Adult, Nonfiction, LGBTQIA+, BIPOC