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Boyz n the Void: a mixtape to my brother (Hardcover)

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Staff Reviews

Asim’s Boyz in the Void, a collection of epistolary essays structured around a punk playlist, recalls no book more than Ta-Nehisi Coates’ Between the World and Me. Speaking to his younger brother about Blackness, masculinity, and otherness, Asim connects his experience as a thirtysomething Black man with his Gen Z sibling’s life. Filtered through the lens of punk and straight edge culture - a cliquey and predominantly white scene - the book combines sharp observation and insight with dynamite music criticism.

— Josh


Writing to his brother, G'Ra Asim reflects on building his own identity while navigating Blackness, masculinity, and young adulthood--all through wry social commentary and music/pop culture critique

How does one approach Blackness, masculinity, otherness, and the perils of young adulthood? For G'Ra Asim, punk music offers an outlet to express himself freely. As his younger brother, Gyasi, grapples with finding his footing in the world, G'Ra gifts him with a survival guide for tackling the sometimes treacherous cultural terrain particular to being young, Black, brainy, and weird in the form of a mixtape.

Boyz n the Void: a mixtape to my brother blends music and cultural criticism and personal essay to explore race, gender, class, and sexuality as they pertain to punk rock and straight edge culture. Using totemic punk rock songs on a mixtape to anchor each chapter, the book documents an intergenerational conversation between a Millennial in his 30s and his Generation Z teenage brother. Author, punk musician, and straight edge kid, G'Ra Asim weaves together memoir and cultural commentary, diving into the depths of everything from theory to comic strips, to poetry to pizza commercials to mapping the predicament of the Black creative intellectual.

With each chapter dedicated to a particular song and placed within the context of a fraternal bond, Asim presents his brother with a roadmap to self-actualization in the form of a Doc Martened foot to the behind and a sweaty, circle-pit-side-armed hug.

About the Author

G'Ra Asim, a writer and musician, is an assistant professor of nonfiction writing at Ithaca College. He holds an MFA in nonfiction from Columbia University and a BA in writing, literature and publishing from Emerson College. He has served as writing director at the African American Policy Forum and as graduate teaching fellow in Columbia's Undergraduate Writing Program. His work has appeared in Slate, Salon, Guernica, The Baffler, and The New Republic. When not writing prose or teaching, he sings, plays bass and writes lyrics for NYC DIY pop punk band babygotbacktalk, who were named one of Afropunk's "Top 8 Punkest Bands on the Planet Right Now."

Praise For…

“Asim’s astute social commentary, poignant storytelling, wit, and solid music criticism will appeal to punk and non-punk readers alike.”
Kirkus Reviews, Starred Review

Boyz n the Void is provocative, opinionated, and fun.”
Shelf Awareness

“Like any great mixtape, Asim’s compilation is the most personalized of gifts. Layered, deeply revealing, it’s a rhythmic journey through the indices, subgenres, and touchstones that encapsulate the refinement of an increasingly rare gem—Black singularity. Written with love, erudition, and the utmost respect, Boyz n the Void is a genuine keepsake.”
—Paul Beatty, author of The Sellout, winner of the Man Booker Prize and the National Book Critics Circle Award

Boyz n the Void is the Black punk bildungsroman of your dreams: it’s as if Bad Brains had written the smartest book in the world, only better. Asim guides us to the borders of American Blackness and beyond in this debut that’s so mesmerizingly smart and so unsparingly honest it will literally rewrite the playlist in your heart.”
—Junot Díaz, author of The Brief and Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao, winner of the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction

Boyz n the Void is a critical ethnography of growing up Black and punk in the aughts. Asim strikes a balance between total immersion in the scene and the intimacy of a letter sent between brothers. Boyz n the Void manages to be ambitious, scholarly, and cool all at once—a testament to its necessity and authenticity. Boyz n the Void is essential reading for Black weirdos, punks of all ages, and those invested in impeccably rendered American history.”
—Cyrée Jarelle Johnson, author of Slingshot, winner of the 2020 Lambda Literary Award in Gay Poetry

“In this wise, funny, and heartfelt meditation on the vagaries of post-conventional identity, G’Ra Asim writes that to be a successful Black artist you ‘must not only untether yourself from essentialized notions of Blackness but create with such fluency as to move your audience to jettison the same constraints.’ Boyz n the Void is many things—an impassioned paean to high-stakes cultural invention, a brutally honest excavation of the twenty-first-century color line, and a work of brotherly love—but it also marks the emergence of an important Black artist.”
—Chris Lehmann, editor of The New Republic

“G’Ra Asim’s Boyz n the Void is full of dopamine hits and heartbreak. You don’t want to stop listening, even when it aches. It becomes part of you. These essays are rigorous and tender and funny all at once, charged with humor that doesn’t deflect from difficult honesty so much as it takes you deeper into the maze of truth. Asim is attentive to small acts of intimacy and solidarity and vulnerability—a punk kid parting the curtain of his mushroom haircut, or learning to love the sweat and leather of a mosh pit—even as he dissects and illuminates, with searing, razor-sharp brushstrokes, the daily brutalities and hidden curriculums of structural racism. I’d gladly read anything by ’Ra the Exhorter—for his brilliance, his wit, his heart, and his electric illuminations of those forces of love and rebellion that might be able to remake our broken world.”
—Leslie Jamison, New York Times best-selling author of The Empathy Exams

“There are just some voices that stop you cold; as resonances of some familiar brilliance but also of something so original, so compelling that you have no choice but to take notice. G’Ra Asim is one of those voices, and his book Boyz n the Void: a mixtape to my brother is the literary salve that we didn’t know that we all needed.”
—Mark Anthony Neal, author of Looking for Leroy: Illegible Black Masculinities

“G’Ra Asim takes up a familiar form and brings it to new heights. His critical engagement with coming-of-age reflection adds refreshing depth, humor, and social commentary to a genre made immediately richer by his presence. Boyz n the Void is a spellbinding odyssey, and a magnificent debut for an exciting young author and thinker.”
—Kimberlé Williams Crenshaw, cofounder and executive director of the African American Policy Forum
Product Details
ISBN: 9780807059487
ISBN-10: 080705948X
Publisher: Beacon Press
Publication Date: May 11th, 2021
Pages: 272
Language: English