Donovan Mixon is a musician and first-time young adult novelist, debuting his book Ahgottahandleonit published by Cinco Puntos Press of El Paso, Texas. This interview features Mixon reading a passage from his new book and playing an original song. On Feb. 22 at 7 p.m., Mixon will do a reading at the Evanston Public Library in the Small Meeting Room, 1st floor.
For decades Mixon enjoyed international success as a jazz musician. In 1988, as a full-time faculty member at Berklee College of Music, you won an NEA grant for jazz composition. Moved to Europe for professional and artistic development, turned out to be a 17-year sojourn living as a freelance performing artist, clinician and college professor (Istanbul Bilgi University, University of Bologna), performing at major jazz festivals (Umbria, Monticello, Istanbul, Ankara) and as a clinician at educational institutions in Istanbul, Budapest, Shanghai and Singapore.
During these years, Donovan released four recordings featuring prominent musicians from Boston to Milan to Istanbul. The apex of his recording career was the recording Free With Lee with the great alto saxophonist Lee Konitz. (More information can be found at donmixon.com).
Donovan lives and works in Evanston with his wife Diana and son Ozan.
Ahgottahandleonit is Donovan Mixon’s first novel. Audio renditions of Tim’s poems (main character) from Ahgottahandleonit can be found at donovanmixonwriter.com
It has been said that he has an ear for dialogue like August Wilson, the African-American playwright who wrote a play for every decade of the century. Wilson wrote Fences, now a movie in theaters Starring Denzel Washington and Viola Davis,. August Wilson's dialogue is stunning and so is Donovon Mixon's dialogue.
Tim, already two years behind in a Newark inner-city high school, will be a sophomore again if he doesn’t pass the English proficiency exam. He’s got good street creds, riffing strange rap-rhymes and running like the wind. Marie, a girl in his class, catches his eye, but he’s still thinking about his ex, Rene.
At home, he’s packed into a 3-flat with his mom, sister and Uncle Gentrale. His father, a drunk, recently walked out on the family, wanting some “freedom.” He tells Tim, “Ahgottahandleonit.” He doesn’t. Nor does Tim. The last day of school before summer, in front of his classmates, Tim insults Mr. Jones, the one teacher who has wanted to help. Tim doesn’t know why he did this. It was just always there, a rage born of some dark history, one his dad cannot explain.
His uncle tries though––it’s about some crazy shit going down when he and Tim’s dad were young, living on the farm. In a fight with some gangbangers, Tim’s rage boils over. He ends up slamming Chucky’s head with a rock. He steals his phone and carries it, like an albatross, throughout the summer. He wants to run, to hide, to get revenge, to be free. Maybe Mr. Jones will understand?
Tim wants his life to matter.
How autobiographical is this book, was this your youth?
Why are you writing a young adult novel? Why that audience, who will read this book?
The Kirkus review mentioned the dialogue in this book is almost physical, spit and food flying with the raw and colloquial words. How did you create such authentic dialogue, talk about your process or technique.
In the author's note, you make the point that racism robs a black kid of the ability of being ordinary. Talk about the plight of young black men in America, which is what this book is really about.
What elements of Tim’s life could have pointed him in a different direction and do we leave Tim in a hopeful place at the end of the book?
Social Justice warrior Bryan Stevenson says we are still dealing with the aftershocks of slavery.
Visit publisher Cinco Puntos Press to purchase Ahgottahandleonit
The Lisa D Show is a podcast celebrates creatives. Listen to 20 minute, unedited conversations with host Lisa D. and the creatives who make our world a more connected, interesting and beautiful place to live. Podcasts will be posted at https://thelisadshow.blogspot.com
This podcast is recorded at 1100 Florence, an art event space in West Evanston, IL, owned and operated by Lisa Degliantoni and Dave Ford. It is a former Polish Grocery store, probably not the BEST place to record a podcast (boomy to say the least) but we're new and it will get better. Reach out to thelisadshow[at]gmail.com