Episode 68 - Rasheed Newson
This episode is brought to you by Butters & Bars, a Black woman owned and operated skin care company.
I had a great time sitting down to talk with Rasheed Newson. I caught up with him over Zoom ahead of his appearance on a panel at the Miami Book Fair, and he was refreshingly down-to-earth. In addition to being a debut novelist, Rasheed is the co-executive producer and showrunner for Bel-Air. He's also written and produced for other shows including The Chi and Narcos. But he wasn't Hollywood at all. He was super cool.
His debut novel, My Government Means to Kill Me, was one of my favorites of 2022, and a lot of critics agreed. The New York Times named it one of the 100 notable books of the year.
This coming-of-age novel is written in the style of a memoir and tells the story of Trey, a young, Black, gay man living in New York City in the 1980s as the AIDS crisis is just getting underway. After hearing that, I understand if you think this is going to be a very serious book about a very serious disease, but you'd be wrong. This novel is actually a really fun read. Trey is a character you will like from jump. He comes to the city at 17 from Indiana with $2,000 in his pocket. His wealthy family doesn't accept him because of their homophobia. But he makes friends and figures out how to survive. Then, things really change for him once he gets involved in activism.
Rasheed says he wants this novel to provide a guide to activism for young people who are just taking up a cause. In addition to providing a close look at activism, the book also really provides an education for readers through his ample use of footnotes. The novel mentions a lot of real people. For example, Trey meets civil rights activist Bayard Rustin at a Black bathhouse in the city. Readers can learn about Rustin's role in planning the March on Washington along with the fact that there's no proof he visited bathhouses as well as pop culture tidbits about people like The Weather Girls.
During out interview, Rasheed reveals...
- Why he wanted this novel to be sexy and sex positive even though it's set during the AIDS epidemic
- How he came up with the novel's dynamic title
- Why he's not interested in reading the old white men of the canon
You can listen to the episode here and help Rasheed and the show by purchasing My Government Means to Kill Me on our site.
The first listener to reach out to us on Facebook or Twitter to tell us the name of one of the poets Rasheed mentioned during our interview will receive a free copy of My Government Means to Kill Me.
If you've won a ReadMore giveaway in the last 90 days, you're ineligible. If you and I ever watched The Preacher's Wife or It's a Wonderful Life together, you're probably ineligible. ReadMore doesn't have a friends and family plan. But we'll always have those sweet holiday memories.
ReadMore listeners can also take advantage of a special Butters & Bars promotion. Go to naturalbuttersbars.com and use the code ReadMore to get a 15 percent discount on your purchase.