Jamil Shabazz, Aurora’s Visionary Author and Publisher
Summertime is leisure time, and we sometimes pass the time reading a good book in the quietness of ourhomes,travelling on a plane, or simply for some downtime alone. What world you choose to enter through your reading is a highly individual decision. There are numerous classics in African American literature, but instead why not choose a newer author with a fresher perspective on familiar surroundings. Aurora author Jamil Shabazz, will publish his second novel, “Hiding Behind the Night,” August 18.
The book is a follow up to “Not Another Night,” a dramatic narrative that follows characters Nila and Drian through the streets of Aurora in sometimes harrowing, stressful situations, yet in familiar relatable settings like the Waffle House. Shabazz is an Overland HighSchoolalum, and graduated from Metropolitan State University of Denver (MSUD) in African American Studies a year ago. He felt he had stories to tell, but everything he had read had settings in major metropolitan cities like Chicago, New York and Los Angeles. But he knows that everyone’s lives are important, and that their stories, with all their challenges deserve airing that are accessible.
“But I wanted a story that I could genuinely tell sincerely about places I’ve been, places I’ve lived, places I know, places people around me know and recognize and I think that adds a bit of quality to the book where if you are from that part of town, and you can say I know where that is. And it seems to be able to draw in the reader…I know exactly where that is or I know exactly what that is,” said Shabazz. “So I think it is very engaging, and it shows a positive image of the city, in termsofyou live here and you write about where you’re from that necessarily doesn’t have to be one of those major cities at least the way that other people would consider it.”
Lots of us can think of stories we want to tell, but few step forward to tell them. Literature is art, which gives readers a view into worlds that are both familiar and different from their own. It reflects our values and spirit, frequently inspiring our personal trajectories. Not Another Night is readily accessible in print on Amazon, and in the Nook and Kindle formats. But numbers of purchases and downloads, while success measures, take a backseat in Shabazz’s view.
“I wouldn’t view it as asuccess, because here is the thing. A lot of people will come to you and say they read the book. And that is fine and dandy, but I just didn’t set out to just write a book. I set out to write works of art, things that would make people think and change and give them something to leave with – something other than just a story that was exciting, titillating or something of that nature,” said Shabazz. “So to just say that you wrote a book, yeah that’s nice, but I don’t know that I can judge success in quantitative terms. It wasn’t like I sold x amount of copies or made x amount of money. I feel most honestly that as long as you keep writing and keep creating, you don’t think about what is successful and what is not successful in that regard. Did it touch people, was it meaningful to people; is it something that I can look back on and be proud of?”
Shabazz touches on a number of latent topics related to the Black community which may not have been given a previous airing, including homosexuality, blended families, male relationships, and the real dramatic love relationship that drives the first book. Like in many previous novels, the Black males struggle to find their power and their place.Drian is trying to start his own business. Nila is viewed as stronger and more accomplished, because she is a corporate VP of Communications, and she loves and is protective of Drian’s pre-teen daughter as if she were her own. But in their relationship there is genuine love, and no jealousy or ill feelings like males have towards women in works like “Native Son” or “The Color Purple.”
Shabazz sees a new reality, and he deftly handles these hopeful characters with vivid descriptions, sometimes laced with gritty language. These stories are a part of Shabazz’s soul, which came to him as he finished his academic career at MSUD. “I was in the midst of my next to last semester at Metro and with all the paperwork that was due and all the papers to be turned in. I remember not being able to sleep much, because I was working full time and trying to go to school full time and in one insomnia lead haze, I just started to write something down, how I felt, my thoughts, things of that nature. And then, I ended up taking the first couple of pages of what turned out to be my first novel to work with me and asked a couple of women to read it. I would ask them ‘what do you think about this?’ I just came up with this short story, and their reaction was quite positive.”
Shabazz’s audience is women 18 to 50. His grandmother even read “Not Another Night.” Academics and other authors often question whether men should even write with a first person point of viewofwomen, because they don’t fully understand them and the biological and social differences that make us different. But we are human first, and we all have human needs, to love and be loved, to be cared for and for someone to show an interest and let them know that they matter, and to fight for them. These aren’t romance novels but rather dramatic examinations of how we can overcome together and get through life’s situations and challenges hopefully unscathed.
“I would say it is a love story, but not romance in the traditional sense. It would be a drama novel. There would also be bits of comedy in there with love. I look at it more so as a novel about the test to the human spirit, about how to build relationships. I would say it is a relationship novel, more so than a flat out love story,” said Shabazz. “And in “Hiding Behind the Night” I feel like I got the opportunity to expand on family, and the union and chaos that can come with marrying, merging two families, and the personalities that come along with it. The second book brings in a more familial tone and incorporates the drama that comes along with it.”
Nila and Drian’s story continues with the launch of “Hiding Behind the Night in August.” It will be the first book out under his company, Shabazz & Co. Publishing. Before his first book, he had approached numerous publishers, but all either passed on it or wanted more control than he was willing to allow. “I spent all that time writing the work, so why would I let someone else dictate the distribution and content of my art?” said Shabazz. “Shabazz & Co. Gives me the freedom to be independent, while adding another weapon in my intellectual and entrepreneurial arsenal. I also founded the company with more than just my own self-sufficiency in mind. I want to be a bridge for other creative individuals who want to take the next steps in their literary career, but are unsure which direction is best.
For me, the release of “Hiding Behind The Night” is about more than just a book. It is an opportunity to introduce the world to Shabazz & Co. Publishing, while putting another brick in the foundation of my legacy.”
Editor’s note: Jamil A. Shabazz, will be autographing copies of his new book at the Blair-Caldwell African American Research Library on Saturday, Aug. 19 at 2 p.m. Refreshments will be serviced. Follow him on Facebook, #HidingBehindTheNight.