Award-winning author Mitchell S. Jackson joined a capacity crowd of students, employees and community members in Brookdale’s Student Life Center on Oct. 11 to kick off this semester’s Visiting Writers Series, running through Dec. 5 in Lincroft.
Author of the internationally acclaimed debut novel The Residue Years and winner of the Whiting Award and the Ernest J. Gaines Prize for Literary Excellence, Jackson is also a prolific public speaker and advocate for criminal justice reform.
During his free presentation, Jackson gave a reading of his past work and spoke frankly with students about the life experiences, influences and motivations that have informed his art.
As an author universally praised for his distinctive voice – described by the New York Times as a “spoken-word cadence, the language flying off the page with percussive energy” – Jackson also encouraged the aspiring wordsmiths in attendance to hold true to their own voices, even as they attempt to forge new identities as “serious artists.”
“At community college, people are trying to figure out what kind of student they want to be,” said Jackson, who began studying at community colleges in the American northwest.
“You read stuff, you watch shows, you listen to other people talk and you think that you have to look or sound a certain way to be considered serious. Some of that is true, but you don’t want to lose who you are, walking around like a cookie-cutter academic. I think there is a way to love the literature, learn the craft, and also maintain a sense of self. Because, ultimately, if you’re writing, that is what is going to make you distinct.”
The program was emceed by associate English professor Suzanne Parker, who has hosted Brookdale’s Visiting Writers series for the past 15 years.
“I could think of no better start to this year’s programming than an appearance by Mitchell,” said Parker. “The concept of the series is not about art or writing, per se, but more about bringing in captivating authors who can speak to a wide audience about their lives, their passion, their view of the world. No matter what they may be studying, our goal is to leave students inspired.”
The series will continue on Nov. 8 with a presentation by award-winning poets Emari DiGiorgio and Lauren Schmidt, and conclude on Dec. 5 with a presentation by acclaimed performance poet and National Book Award finalist Patricia Smith. All programs begin at 7 p.m. in the Student Life Center. Admission is free, with a $3 suggested donation to the Brookdale Creative Writing Club.
To learn more about this year’s Visiting Writers Series, click here.
Learn more about Mitchell S. Jackson and pick up a copy of The Residue Years here.