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ABR author addresses dualities within African-American culture

By Carolina Astrain
Aug. 30, 2015 at 9:54 p.m.
Updated Aug. 31, 2015 at 6 a.m.

Clifford Thompson

Clifford Thompson

When Clifford Thompson listens to jazz, the author says, he feels in tune with the differences between African Americans and white Americans.

Jazz helped him figure out the puzzle of black identity versus American identity, Thompson said.

"One of the conclusions I came to was that jazz was a really good metaphor for the heritage of black Americans and is sort of a symbol that ties me to American-ness as well as blackness," Thompson said.

Thompson will read parts of his memoir "Twin of Blackness" and a collection of essays at noon Monday during the American Book Review fall reading series. He said he likes to use elements of jazz in his writing.

"I first got interested in jazz when I was in my 20s," Thompson said. "I like the music for itself, and I just love the sound of jazz and the searching qualities it has."

Thompson, a Brooklyn resident, has received a Whiting Writers' Award for nonfiction in 2013 for his collection entitled "Love For Sale and Other Essays."

Thompson shares stories from his early college life and the abrupt death of his father in "Twin of Blackness."

The Brooklyn resident has taught at Columbia University and New York University.

In a news release, Jeffrey Di Leo, ABR editor and publisher and dean of the UHV School of Arts and Sciences, described Thompson as a straightforward, honest writer.

"Mr. Thompson is a gifted writer who brings to the table a great deal of insight and profound perspectives," Di Leo wrote. "His reading will be a terrific way to open up the series."

After writing fiction for years, Thompson penned his first novel, "Signifying Nothing," but was unable to land a deal with a big publishing house.

Instead, he self-published the book.

"I still very much like the novel and one day would like to publish it the traditional way, but I was happy with how it turned out," Thompson said.

After completing his essays and memoirs, Thompson said he hopes to communicate to readers his own enthusiasm for other art forms he loves.

"Chiefly books, film, jazz and painting," Thompson said. "I love exploring the connection between those things and weaving a discussion of those art forms into my own story."


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