Claflin Lyceum Series to Feature Award-Winning Author Dr. Jewell Parker Rhodes

Jan 10, 2019

Claflin University’s 2019 Lyceum Series will feature award-winning author and educator Dr. Jewell Parker-Rhodes on Tuesday, February 5, at 7 p.m. in the W.V. Middleton Fine Arts Center. Admission is free and the public is invited. 

Rhodes is the author of five novelsjewell parker rhodes.jpg for middle-grade children, including Ghost Boys, a New York Times bestseller and #1 Kids' Indie Best Pick.  The story centers on Jerome, a black youth who is killed by a police officer who mistakes his toy gun for a real threat. As a ghost, Jerome observes the devastation that’s been unleashed on his family and community in the wake of what they see as an unjust and brutal killing.  He soon meets another ghost: Emmett Till, a boy from a very different time but with similar circumstances.  Together, they embark on a journey towards recognizing how historical racism may have led to the events that ended Jerome’s life.

“We are very fortunate to have a widely-acclaimed novelist and educator such as Dr. Rhodes participating in this year’s Lyceum Series,” said Dr. Peggy Stevenson Ratliff, chair of the Lyceum Committee and professor of English at Claflin. “Her appearance is consistent with the purpose of the Lyceum Series, which is to present nationally-recognized lecturers, authors, visual and performing artists, educators, and events that stimulate and reinforce the cultural and intellectual environment of the campus community.  Her visit also aligns with celebrating the University’s 150th Anniversary.” 

Rhodes’ other books for children include: Towers Falling, Ninth Ward, Sugar, and Bayou Magic.  Towers Falling is set 15 years after the 9/11 terror attacks.  Rhodes tells a powerful story about young people who were not alive to witness this historic tragedy, but begin to realize how much it still effects their daily lives.  Voodoo Dreams, Magic City, Douglass’ Women, Season, Moon, and Hurricane are among her fictional works.  Rhodes’ nonfiction books include: Free Within Ourselves: Fiction Lessons for Black Authors, The African American Guide to Writing, and Publishing Nonfiction and Porch Stories: A Grandmother’s Guide to Happiness

A native of Pittsburgh, Pa., Rhodes is the founding artistic director and Virginia G. Piper Endowed Chair in Creative Writing at Arizona State University.  She earned a Bachelor of Arts in Drama Criticism, a Master of Arts in English, and a Doctor of Arts in English (Creative Writing) from Carnegie Mellon University.  

She has received numerous awards for her literary compositions. Rhodes received the American Book Award; National Endowment of the Arts Award in Fiction; Black Caucus of the American Library Award for Literary Excellence; PEN Oakland/Josephine Miles Award for Outstanding Writing; and the Coretta Scott King Honor Book.

According to Dr. Belinda Wheeler, associate professor of English at Claflin and a close friend of Rhodes, the author will speak to local youth during her visit to Claflin.  Wheeler has agreed to donate copies of Ghost Boys to middle and high school students who want to read the book before Rhodes arrives.

“I want to place copies of her books into the hands of young Orangeburg readers,” said Wheeler. “This is an excellent way to give students an opportunity to read Jewell’s work prior to her visit.”

For general information about Claflin’s Lyceum Series contact Dr. Peggy S. Ratliff at 803-535-5233 or email to pratliff@claflin.edu.  To apply for a copy of Ghost Boys local students (of all ages) are asked to contact Dr. Belinda Wheeler at call 803-535-5717 or email to bwheeler@claflin.edu.

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