Every week (or so), we'll ask authors how they chose their book title. Today: Patrice Evans (TAN) on book, Negropedia: The Assimilated Negro's Crash Course on the Modern Black Experience.
OK, gonna do this off the dome, one-take Hov style...
NEGROPEDIA was pitched/sold late 2008 during peak Obama-fever time (those halcyon days; were we ever so young and hopeful?), and the title feels, still, like it has a bit of a Fassbender staring-at-you-while-riding-the-train dare/shame to it — hey girl, are you d2f NEGROPEDIA, right here, right now, in front of all these people? Don't be shy, say my name, slide those Kindle-cover panties to the side and let Negropedia be embraced, 'cause those other books are practice… hmmm — don't forget the one-take Hov part — anyways, that little bit of danger I think helped in the selling.
As you may recall there was a lot of gusto in those pre- post-Obama days, in anticipation of seeing what freedom for black people might look like. There was Aretha Franklin's inauguration hat (sartorial freedom); GQ had a piece about black dudes getting laid more (Obama as wingman; interracial date-mate freedom); black bloggers were getting job offers and book deals (freedom to read and write, be thoughtfully irreverent); Kanye West pre-Obama was "Jesus Walks" and post-Obama is "I Am A God" (Yeezus is second-term freedom, but still…). No one race should have all this power, am I correct? We eating skittles after dark, holla! Caught up in the spirit, the actual first-burst version of my title was "BROOKLYN STAND UP OVERDOSAGE IMPERIAL PISTOLS FEROCIOUS GIVE US FREE! NEGROOOOOPEEEEEDIA, BITCHES: (blocka blocka!)" Later pared down to Negropedia. And once it sold I went back to where I grew up in the Bronx, all teary-eyed and Bravehearting like, YOU N'S SHOULD TASTE THIS AMERICAN DREAM AND WRITE BLOGS AND AIRQUOTE HUMOR BOOOOOOKS AIRQUOOOOOOTE!!!). Oh wait, sorry, off-track... (all those caps are auto-tune btw, so its not like I'm shouting, more singing.)
OK, still one-take Hov...
So after late 2008 came 2009 — which, lawd, what a year. Even typically pithy bloggers are going longform on that mf'er (hi Choire; he edited me at Gawker circa book deal time, so maybe this is relevant?…sorry EDIT TK ONE TAKE HOV) — Soo my editor, who was going to play a very important role, as you can see, and some other key members of the Random House/Three Rivers team were part of all the "tumult" and for a while the book (and I) drifted airless, directionless, fighting for survival, amidst disaster... much like the movie Gravity. In iMax 3D with Bullock, Clooney, and Negropedia (…I imagine, cause I haven't seen it yet? (but totally plan to)) So 2009 was basically lost (to space).
And 2010 ...oh, wait... *title, focus* … so the title started getting pushback during this time in limbo, which was weird, since everyone human was getting laid off, but pushback still appeared, creepily, like some malevolent ghost of corporate capitalism? Like The Shining, but instead of redrum and elevators of blood the ghost was like, "Negropedia? Yikeseys! Change it." So all this paranormal publisher activity scared me into a new title Black is the New Black (I wrote a post about originality of this construction in context of trends…) TRAPPED IN THE ALL WORK, NO PLAY WINTER OF THIS LABYRINTHINE INSANITY, and really just wanting to get to the finish line, I chopped through my bathroom door with an axe (true story, ask my ex) and agreed to whatever the ghost publisher wanted. And, so, yeah, all to say the experience of titling my book was something like Gravity + The Shining bracketed by scenes of fassbenderian sexual aggression on a train… if that makes sense.
But eventually the mysterious demon was exorcised (the power of
Chappelle's Show Key & Peele compelled it?), and a new regime full of spry sparkly Random House employees, but basically geniuses, soon settled the chaos, saying let's call the child by her original name and go forth and sell some of these bad rudeboys. And lo, NEGROPEDIA had returned. We reclaimed the original title. Like the N-word, if the n-word were Negropedia. Which, when said among mixed company, or at, like, the Brooklyn Book Festival, it kind of is…
For the subtitle: "The Assimilated Negro's Crash Course on the Modern Black Experience," I remember us having an email thread where I generated — with some help — approximately a billion jillion small variations of the same sentiment. Ahhh, the human brain on a hamster wheel, so beautiful. But "Crash Course" infuriates me even now, not that it's terrible, but to know it was "the choice" from so many. It's like drafting Shane Battier in your fantasy basketball draft. So not infuriating so much as joyless. Aggh, let's not even talk about it. Anyways, hi, how are you?
Patrice Evans was the first black man to be shot [at] in the Gawker Media offices.