R. Kayeen Thomas, 28, is a poet, playwright, hip-hop artist and social justice advocate. He received his bachelor's degree in African-American Studies from Carleton College and is studying for his Master's in Divinity at Wesley Theological Seminary. His latest novel, Antebellum (Strebor Books, June 26), is about a rap star who is transported back to slavery times. Thomas lives in Washington, D.C., with his wife and daughter.
On your nightstand now:
I don't have a nightstand. Black people are still in a recession. I do have a copy of Kindred by Octavia Butler on the floor beside the bed, though. Almost everyone who has heard what my book is about has compared it with Kindred, so I decided to check it out. I must say, it's pretty good.
Favorite book when you were a child:
Any of the books from the Goosebumps series. R.L Stine is a sick man. Some of those story ideas were crazy. Still, I was highly addicted.
Your top five authors:
Percival Everett. Erasure is my favorite book of all time. Some of his other stuff was a little shaky, but Erasure was genius.
Walter Mosley. Easy Rawlins is one of my favorite characters of all time. You can't go wrong with Mosley.
Jean Toomer. A lot of people haven't heard of him, but he was a writer during the Harlem Renaissance. His book Cane inspired my first published work.
Maya Angelou. Have you read I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings? Angelou's novels should be divided into verses and made into the first black epic poem--to hell with The Iliad.
Richard Wright. Bigger Thomas is my other favorite character of all time. I think every black man in America has a little bit of Bigger Thomas in him. That should scare the hell out of white folks, but not many people are reading Native Son these days, post-racial society and all....
Book you've faked reading:
Democracy Matters by Cornel West. I'm sorry, I love Cornel, but that book isn't written in English.
Book you're an evangelist for:
Antebellum by R. Kayeen Thomas. Evangelism starts at home.
Book you've bought for the cover:
Erasure by Percival Everett. They have since changed it, but on the cover of the first edition, there was a little black boy in a cotton shirt and suspenders, with what looked to be some type of crop field behind him. He had a huge grin on his face, a toy gun pointed at his temple, and his finger on the trigger.
Book that changed your life:
The Fire Next Time by James Baldwin. I'm a pastor's son, and I got hold of that book in college after I'd completely turned my back on the church. I felt like Baldwin's and my experiences with church were very similar, and that he was saying things I couldn't quite put into words yet.
Favorite line from a book:
"If growing up is painful for the southern black girl, being aware of her displacement is the rust on the razor that threatens the throat. It is an unnecessary insult." --from Maya Angelou's I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings.
Book you most want to read again for the first time:
The Death and Life of Superman by Roger Stern. The novel, not the comic book. I read it in high school and almost failed Algebra II.