On the left is a Black man dressed in black, seated, holding a microphone. Inset is a photo of a book with a cover that reads "Stewdio by Chuck D." On the right is a Black woman, also seated and holding a microphone, with the inset of a book cover that reads "Jacqueline Woodson" and underneath "Remember Us."
(From left) Chuck D '84, '13 (Hon.) and Jacqueline Woodson '85, '16 (Hon.), delivered keynotes at the U.S. Book Show.

Chuck D and Jacqueline Woodson Delight Attendees. So Does Surprise Guest Flavor Flav.

Chuck D ’84, ’13 (Hon.) and Jacqueline Woodson ’85, ’16 (Hon.), highly successful artists whose creative talents were nurtured at Adelphi University, excited audiences at the U.S. Book Show held May 22 to May 25 at New York University.

Woodson and Chuck D delivered keynotes at the event, which is produced by Publishers Weekly.

Since graduating from Adelphi in 1985, Woodson has become one of literature’s most celebrated authors. She received the National Book Award in 2014 for her New York Times-bestselling memoir, Brown Girl Dreaming. She’s also a two-time Coretta Scott King Award winner for her children’s literature.

Woodson on Writing With Empathy and Authenticity

Woodson’s forthcoming novel for middle school readers, Remember Us (Penguin Random House), is based on her childhood in the Bushwick section of Brooklyn, New York, in the 1970s and ’80s. She told the Book Show audience how important empathy and authenticity are in her storytelling.

“When I write, I’m very conscious of [my reader] seeing themselves in it,” she said. “Is there something about how I write a character that might break a person’s spirit? . . . I feel a responsibility to my younger self, and by extension that’s a responsibility to all young people. I’m conscious of the characters I’m putting on the page.”

Woodson has authored more than two dozen bestselling books in the children’s and adult genres. She’s a four-time National Book Award finalist, a four-time Newbery Medal winner and a two-time NAACP Image Award winner. This year, she was named a Guggenheim Foundation Fellow, and in 2020 she received a MacArthur Grant, sometimes known as the “genius grant.”

A Washington Post review of her acclaimed novel, Red at the Bone (Riverhead, 2019), stated, “Woodson explores class, race and death with unflinching honesty and emotional depth. [She] manages to remember what cannot be documented, to suggest what cannot be said.”

Chuck D Returns to His Roots—and Adds Some Flavor

Chuck D, frontman of the legendary rap group Public Enemy, attended the Book Show as the publisher of a new imprint, Enemy Books, and the author of a three-volume graphic novel, Stewdio: The Naphic Grovel ARTrilogy of Chuck D.

“I’ve been drawing for a long time, back to when I was a student at Adelphi,” said Chuck D, a 1984 graduate who honed his communication skills when WBAU was the student-run radio station. “During the pandemic, everything shut down, so I got back into drawing. It’s a book of my illustrations because today people listen with their eyes.”

The Book Show audience of booksellers, librarians, authors, publishers and other bibliophiles could hardly believe their eyes when Flavor Flav—court jester of Public Enemy and former star of the reality-dating show Flavor of Love—entered the room (without the oversized clock he often wore around his neck).

Flavor Flav, Chuck D’s Adelphi classmate and co-founder of Public Enemy, made a surprise appearance at Chuck D’s talk.

Art and Music as Food for Thought

Public Enemy’s mix of trenchant social commentary and pulsating hip-hop music on songs such as “Fight the Power,” “Don’t Believe the Hype” and “Welcome to the Terrordome” led to the group’s induction into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame in 2013. At the Book Show, the two stars threw good-natured jabs at each other.

“Flavor could play every instrument, but not well,” Chuck D quipped in his deep, resonant voice.

“Speak louder. You’re not projecting,” Flavor Flav shot back as the audience laughed.

Asked if Public Enemy could reunite for a tour as other musical groups have done, Chuck D suggested that Live Nation Entertainment and AEG, the companies that dominate concert promotion, could reach out to them as they have to The Rolling Stones.

“Flavor and I are like Mick Jagger and Keith Richards,” Chuck D said of the Stones duo, who will both turn 80 this year. “Flavor and I are in our 60s. The promoters know where to find us.”

In the meantime, Chuck D has a new creative outlet in book publishing. He used Sharpies markers, colored pencils and watercolors to produce the art for Stewdio that can help him reach a new audience for his commentary.

“Nowadays, you don’t have to go door-to-door to sell anything,” he said. “Because of social media, if you have a book out, your work washes up on their shore.”

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