On the Same Page 2022

The Jones Library is holding its 10th On the Same Page community reading program, featuring the collection How to Make a Slave and Other Essays by Jerald Walker.

A recording of this year's author event is now available for viewing through the end of May!

The entire Amherst community is invited to read the book and participate in the related programs offered by the Jones Library. A variety of programs are being offered to enrich the reading experience of this award-winning title and to encourage dialog about the themes the book presents, including a book discussion to delve into the book itself. 

About the Book

How does a Black professor at a mostly white liberal arts college in Massachusetts experience and confront racism at work and in the community? Our selection for the 2022 On the Same Page Amherst community reading program - How to Make a Slave and Other Essays - tells how author Jerald Walker addresses this challenge with strong emotions, humor, and constant reflection.

For the black community, Jerald Walker asserts in How to Make a Slave, '...anger is often a prelude to a joke, as there is broad understanding that the triumph over this destructive emotion lay in finding its punchline.'  It is on the knife's edge between fury and farce that the essays in this exquisite collection balance. Whether confronting the medical profession's racial biases, considering the complicated legacy of Michael Jackson, paying homage to his writing mentor James Alan McPherson, or attempting to break free of personal and societal stereotypes, Walker elegantly blends personal revelation and cultural critique. The result is a bracing and often humorous examination by one of America's most acclaimed essayists of what it is to grow, parent, write, and exist as a black American male. Walker refuses to lull his readers; instead his missives urge them to do better as they consider, through his eyes, how to be a good citizen, how to be a good father, how to live, and how to love.

Listen to NPR's Terry Gross interview Jerald Walk on Fresh Air

Reviews of How to Make a Slave and Other Essays

“The essays in this collection are restless, brilliant and short.…The brevity suits not just Walker’s style but his worldview, too.…Keeping things quick gives him the freedom to move; he can alight on a truth without pinning it into place.” ~ Jennifer Szalai, The New York Times

“[These] powerful essays offer an incisive glimpse into life as a Black man in America….Crafted with honesty and wry comedic flair, these essays are both engaging and enraging.” ~ Kirkus (starred review)

“No one—absolutely no one—I’ve read is writing better than Jerald Walker about race, being black, and the depths and complexities of our humanity.” ~ Charles Johnson, author of Middle Passage, winner of the National Book Award

Obtaining a Copy

Paperback copies of the book are available to borrow at the Jones Library reference desk and at both branches.  Borrow an e-book through Overdrive/Libby.  Purchase your own copy at Amherst Books in downtown Amherst.

Schedule of Events

  • The public is welcome at all events - it is not necessary to have read the book to attend the programs, although it is encouraged.
  • All events are free and open to the public.
  • Registration may be required to receive the Zoom link to attend certain programs.  

Thursday, March 10 at 7:00 p.m. - ONLINE via Zoom

Race Is Real, But It’s Not Genetic - Race, the idea that humans come in varieties with different traits, was literally invented and made real by constant use to justify forms of racism, not least slavery and colonization. Alan Goodman will explain why human variation is not racial and why inequalities in health and wealth are due to lived experiences. Biological race is a myth. Human variation is neither described nor explained by the idea of race. Social race is real. Racism is real.
Register via Zoom.  After registering, you will receive a confirmation email containing information about joining the webinar.

Alan Goodman is Professor of Biological Anthropology at Hampshire College. 
Read the article by Dr. Goodman which explores this topic.

Monday, March 28 at 7:00 p.m. - ONLINE via Zoom

Book Discussion of How to Make a Slave and Other Essays - Join us for an in-depth discussion of our selected title, led by Dr. Jimmy Worthy and hosted by Jones Library librarian Linda Wentworth.  Share your thoughts and questions, or just enjoy listening to the conversation. 
Please email programs@joneslibrary.org to registerThe meeting link will be sent to you after registration.

Jimmy Worthy is Assistant Professor of English at the University of Massachusetts-Amherst.

Author Event

Thursday, March 31 at 7:00 pm - ONLINE via Zoom

On the Same Page with Jerald Walker -
Join us for a virtual discussion with author Jerald Walker, whose How to Make a Slave and Other Essays has been called “brilliant” and “both engaging and enraging.”
Register via Zoom. After registering, you will receive a confirmation email containing information about joining the webinar.
On the Same Page Amherst
How to Make a Slave
Jerald Walker

About the Author

A graduate of the Iowa Writers' Workshop, Jerald Walker is the author of two previous books, has published in a variety of magazines, and has been widely anthologized, including five times in The Best American Essays. His latest book, How to Make a Slave and Other Essays, was a Finalist for the 2020 National Book Award in Nonfiction, and winner of the 2020 Massachusetts Book Award in Nonfiction. He has received fellowships from the James Michener Foundation and the National Endowment for the Arts.  Walker is Professor of Creative Writing in the Department of Writing, Literature, and Publishing at Emerson College.