I’ve been lucky enough and survived long enough to share pages, via such outlets as anthologies and magazines, with some fairly extraordinary company, including luminous folks like Amiri Baraka, Pearl Cleage, Sean “Puffy” Combs, the singer Maxwell, Eugene Redmond, Kalamu ya Salaam, Susan L. Taylor , John Edgar Wideman, Tiger Woods, and quite a few others I greatly admire and respect. But if someone had given me 100 chances to guess that an interview profile of me was destined to occupy pages in the same book as profiles of Hollywood icon Clint Eastwood and political powerhouse Ted Kennedy, I’m pretty sure I would have missed that particular target every single time. If they had then given me clues in the form of actual names, I likely would have smiled at the sweetness of their naiveté and gently hugged them for beings so kind to an ever-striving author like me.
In the end, however, the error would have been mine because Dream Reachers, the surprising new book by Betty Dravis and Chase Von, does indeed serve as literary host to this author and certified legends like Eastwood and Kennedy. What makes Dravis and Von’s book work so well is the wide spectrum of personalities and eras presented in their very entertaining book, with Dravis drawing on early-career encounters to showcase a number of bonafide stars and political heavyweights– while also employing along with Von more recent interviews with “legends in the making.” Among the latter are actress/singer Kiara Hunter, entertainment reporter Crystal Myrick, nujazz singer Nhojj, country music star Tanya Tucker, and several dozen more dream chasers who managed to transform hope and determination into measures of achievement and fulfillment. Hopefully, the greater part of my measure is still ahead of me and not behind.
The different voices, diverse perspectives, and varied nature of individuals’ journeys presented in Dream Reachers make the book as fun as it is inspiring. Here, in closing, is an excerpt from my chat with Chase Von:
Chase: How did your time spent in the military [U.S. Air Force] enhance your writing?
Aberjhani: Thank you for that question! My time in the military marked my beginnings as a professional writer. I was very fortunate in that I was able to serve as a military journalist/editor with the base public affairs office. And the thing about being a journalist with a weekly deadline in the military is that you learn how to write whether inspired by a particular muse or not. You know there’s a job to be done and an entire base population counting on you to get it done because they need the information you’re providing-so you do it, period.
Chase Von: Your list of awards is astounding! Your name is listed in a byline besides the great W.E.B. Du Bois himself! You have also won the Best Poet and Spoken Word Artist in the 2006 Connect Savannah Readers’ Poll. The Poet of The Month January 2007 at THE WRITING FORUM. You’re the recipient of the Irene Tromble McAlister Literary Prize! The “Critic’s Pick” for “Best Savannah Author” in the CREATIVE LOAFING Entertainment Magazine’s “Best of Savannah Year 2000” poll. And you have also been selected for inclusion in CONTEMPORARY AUTHORS (published by Gale), which since 1962 has been the most authoritative reference on World Authors! Did I miss any, and do these things just happen with you putting yourself out there? Or do you have to enter into contests and win to be recognized?
Aberjhani: I don’t enter literary contests because I tend not to win them [laughs]. The awards that have come my way-including the CHOICE Academic Title and Best History Book awards–have all been bestowed by people and organizations who decided that my work provided something valuable for the reading public and for that reason deserved greater recognition. But I have to tell you that I received my greatest award when I gave a presentation for the Poetry Society of Georgia. It’s the oldest literary organization in the state and many of its members at that time were senior poets who used to joke about needing ‘new blood’ to stay alive, so they were happy when I was an active younger member. Anyway, after my presentation, I got a standing ovation which by itself was deeply moving. But then this one poet (the great Patricia Robinson King) who at the time I think was almost 80, sitting in the front row, looked at me and said, “I don’t usually stand because these old legs of mine make it difficult, but I’m going to stand for you.” I shook my head and said, “Oh please don’t,” because she used a walker and I knew it was painful for her. She couldn’t clap her hands because she was holding onto her walker but that great poet insisted on standing and nodding to acknowledge her approval of my work. I cried over that for a year.
For more about Dream Reachers, please click here