John Gone (The Diaspora Trilogy Book 1)

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Coretta Scott King Book Awards - All Recipients, 1970-Present

He liked Greek mythology because everyone in it seemed to be naked. The bridge made him sob. Where do we go now? After graduating, he got a job as a copywriter for a Kingston ad agency. He started going to church again after another close friend, a pastor, suggested that the answer he was looking for could be found in Jesus. They said a prayer of invitation together and James considered himself born again. He joined a charismatic evangelical church in Kingston, with a mostly upscale congregation, where people spoke in tongues and services lasted for hours.

James attended worship on Sundays, went to Bible study on Mondays and Wednesdays, planned church events on Thursdays, helped out with a youth group on Fridays. He did graphic-design work for the church in his spare time. No Way! Relieved, James decided that he was straight; he just had a hero-worship problem.

He began sneaking novels inside a leather Bible case to read during worship. He wrote a scrap of an African fantasy story, set in a world ruled by eight evil spirits. Then he began writing a novel about two mysterious preachers battling for control of a fictitious Jamaican village, Gibbeah, in the nineteen-fifties. They are driven by sexual secrets, and Gibbeah is obscurely cursed: dead cows with upside-down heads wash up in the river, and the sky drips with black feathers and blood. It was rejected seventy-eight times. But, in , he took an old copy of the first chapter to a workshop held by Calabash, a literary festival on the south coast of Jamaica that had been founded just a few years before.

She found the chapter astonishingly assured, and asked to see the rest of the book. James located a copy of the complete manuscript in his e-mail outbox. Jones read it, and offered to edit it free of charge. At church, James was still stuck in a cycle of temptation, transgression, confession, and redemption.

He had seen other congregants receive exorcisms, and he decided that he needed one, too. The pastor called a church across town, aiming for discretion.

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James went there on a Tuesday morning. A man and a woman were waiting for him, in a room that was empty except for a chair and two plastic bags. He sat down and told them about his compulsive use of pornography. The woman asked James about his mother, and he started to bawl. James, traumatized, began to vomit, eventually filling both plastic bags. The deliverers cast the spirit of homosexuality out of him, and the spirit of blasphemy, and the spirit of disbelief. They told him that they heard eight demons inside him; he had the delirious thought that they were hearing the spirits that he had invented for his African fantasy story.

After a while, he stopped crying, and he ordered his demons to leave. The woman held his face in her hands and told him he was free. For several months, there were no struggles. Then he turned to the pornography again. The exorcism had worked, he realized—it had just got rid of the wrong thing. He is forty-eight now, and teaches creative writing at Macalester College, in St.

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Paul, Minnesota. He splits his time between Minneapolis and New York, where he rented an apartment, in Williamsburg, last winter. A shadow appeared on my page, accompanied by a Jamaican accent.

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He has a deep, mellifluous voice; it sounds like a brass instrument being played sarcastically. But I always thought Wharton was a writer second, and a snob first.

James, who is six feet two and muscular, has a scar between his eyebrows, a scruffy beard, and shoulder-length dreads that he often ties back in a low ponytail. He carries himself with a swagger that he dates to his first visits to New York, in In the book, a new preacher attempts to purge the village of sin and ends up unleashing disorder. Temple loved it. While Temple was editing the book, he asked James for his views on the subject. James flinched at the question, assuming that Temple was asking if he was gay. We cut a lot of that shit out of the novel, thanks to him.

John Gone (The Diaspora Trilogy Book 1) by Michael Kayatta - BookFab

Akashic had an office near Union Square, and, as the book was being edited, James started coming to New York for months at a time. He revelled in downtown pleasures—record stores, anonymity—and wandered from bookstore to bookstore, amassing piles of paperbacks that he would coax a friend, who worked at an airline, to ship to Jamaica for him. He felt minor.


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In those years, there was an active independent literary blogosphere, with Web sites like the Millions and Bookslut dissecting the publishing industry. As James began work on his second book, he created a blog of his own. He was a natural: verbose, opinionated, eager to provoke.