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Jabari Asim
Portrait of Jabari Asim
Portrait of Jabari Asim
Born August 11, 1962 (1962-08-11) (age 60)
St. Louis, Missouri, United States
  • Professor
  • editor
  • author
  • poet
  • playwright
Genre African American literature
Notable works What Obama Means, The N Word

Jabari Asim (born August 11, 1962) is an author, poet, playwright, and professor of writing, literature and publishing at Emerson College in Boston, Massachusetts. He is the former editor-in-chief of The Crisis magazine, a journal of politics, ideas and culture published by the NAACP and founded by historian and social activist W. E. B. Du Bois in 1910. In February 2019 he was named Emerson College's inaugural Elma Lewis ’43 Distinguished Fellow in the Social Justice Center. In September 2022 he was named Emerson College Distinguished Professor of Multidisciplinary Letters.

Life and career

In welcoming Asim to The Crisis in August 2007, then-publisher Roger Wilkins said: "Mr. Asim is a seasoned editor, a fine writer and author of a new best selling book. He is a gentleman devoted to the cause of racial justice, is excited about his new role with the NAACP and we are energized by his joining our ranks."

Asim was chosen by the National Book Foundation to serve on the nonfiction panel for the 2013 National Book Awards. Harold Augenbraum, executive director of the foundation, "lauded Asim's ability to approach difficult topics with humility."

In April 2009, the John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation awarded Asim a fellowship in nonfiction, one of 180 awarded to artists, scientists and scholars selected from a group of almost 3,000 applicants.

From 2008 to 2010, Asim was scholar-in-residence in African-American Studies and in the Department of Journalism at the University of Illinois at Urbana–Champaign.

Asim spent eleven years (1996–2007) at The Washington Post as deputy editor of the book review section, children's book editor, poetry editor, and editor of the Washington Post′s Education Review. For three years he also wrote a Washington Post Writers Group syndicated column on political and social issues for the Post. Asim is a former vice president of the National Book Critics Circle.

Prior to his stint at The Washington Post Book World, Asim was book editor of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, during which time he was the only African American to supervise book/publishing coverage at a major metropolitan daily. His experience at the Post-Dispatch also included copy editor of the daily editorial and commentary pages, and arts editor of the weekend section.

Jabari Asim lives near Boston, Massachusetts, with his wife and children.

Literary career


Asim is the author of several nonfiction books. We Can’t Breathe: On Black Lives, White Lies and the Art of Survival (2018), a collection of essays, was named A Finalist for the PEN/Diamonstein-Spielvogel Award for the Art of the Essay in 2018.


Asim's debut work of fiction, A Taste of Honey (2009), is a collection of 16 connected stories told from multiple perspectives which take place in a fictional Midwestern town called Gateway in 1968. It was featured in the March 2010 issue of Essence magazine. Go On Girl! Book Club selected A Taste of Honey for its 2011 Reading List for May. In January 2011, A Taste of Honey was nominated for Outstanding Literary Work – Fiction, 42nd NAACP Image Awards

Asim's debut novel, Only the Strong, was published May 12, 2015. His second novel, Yonder, was published January 11, 2022.


Asim's poetry has been published in African American Writers: A Literary Reader, as well as in the anthologies Role Call: A Generational Anthology of Social & Political Black Literature & Art (eds Tony Medina, Samiya Bashir & Quraysh Ali Lansana, 2002), Beyond The Frontier: African-American Poetry for the 21st Century (ed. E. Ethelbert Miller, 2002), Herb Boyd's The Harlem Reader: A Celebration of New York's Most Famous Neighborhood from the Renaissance Years to the 21st Century (2003), and in From the Black Arts Movement to Furious Flower: A Collection of Contemporary African American Poetry.

His first collection, Stop and Frisk, was published June 15, 2020.

Children's books

The Road To Freedom, Asim's first novel for young readers, was published in 2000.

Fifty Cents and a Dream: Young Booker T. Washington (2012) was on the School Library Journal 2012 Editor's Choice List, a Kirkus Best Children's Books List Selection, the Fall 2012 Parent's Choice Silver Award Winner, and an NAACP Image Award Nominee. It won the Carter G. Woodson Book Award in 2013.

Preaching to the Chickens: The Story of Young John Lewis (2016) was named a New York Times Best Illustrated Children's Book of 2016.

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