book Archives - The Jose Vilson


How The Book Is Going So Far

by Jose Vilson on June 1, 2014

in Jose

People often ask me how I do everything I do, especially surrounding my book.

I can’t reveal it all, but even my typical Saturdays aren’t that typical.

Yesterday, I took a three-hour National Board exam, unprepared due to circumstances beyond my control. Then again, everyone told me this test should be no sweat because it’s everything that I’ve been doing since I first started teaching. Except that it wasn’t. I can’t say more because Pearson would have me redact this whole paragraph I signed a non-disclosure agreement, so there is that. However, I spent the better part of three hours looking at a timer and scribbling down as much as I could without my hand falling off.

I’ve been favoring my left hand since.

Shortly after staring at a computer for three hours, I started to explore some of the bookstores in Lower Manhattan because I’m a glutton for punishment. Barnes and Noble on 44th and 5th? No books. McNally Jackson in SoHo? No books either. I should have taken a hint from the weather because, while everyone else took shelter under umbrellas and coffee shops, I was running around looking to see if a few bookstores had my books. Even though I already had a thousand plus, I couldn’t be satisfied with only a thousand sold.

Clearly, if everyone couldn’t see my genius, what was wrong with them? Ugh!

These are the moments that keep me humble. It’s super-easy to doubt myself and see the shelves without my book as a sign of failure of my writing and not the huge machine behind other books. Then it hit me. Concurrent with this weekend was Left Forum, a huge conference for progressive organizers, laborers, and like-minded thinkers from all across North America. To that end, my publisher, Haymarket Books would be there, and even took a tall stack of books with my names on them.

I needed to go where my people would go.

I planned on staying an hour or two, but ended up staying three, having conversations about our current state of education, hanging with friends from different circles, and signing my books for onlookers and fans alike. That plus the daily tags on Facebook of someone’s copy of my book, and getting listed with the likes of Rebecca Walker and Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie at The Root, all is right with the world again. It’s as if my people are telling me this unconventional path I’ve taken towards getting published will continue to be so.

Maybe Barnes and Noble won’t carry the books in their stores. But the people will in their hands. Right where my book belongs.


For a while, you’ve been told of this magical manuscript in the works now for the last two years. If you’re still here after waiting that long, congratulations. As a gift for your perseverance and dedication, I present to you an excerpt of said manuscript, sponsored by

One time I kept the kids after school because they kept uttering the n-word. Rosa Parks had died the day before, and I got so furious to hear it spoken aloud that I had a tutorial on why I feel the way I do about it. I shut the door, and wrote the word on the blackboard. Silence. “Now, you listen to me. We didn’t fight for you to sit here where you can get an opportunity to do better for yourselves and your communities so you could use this language around each other.” It’s one of the standard diatribes we concerned folk have, and what amazed me was that, soon after, the whole school learned of this lesson. 7H3 spread it. They slapped people’s shoulders when they used the n-word around me. The amount of respect they had for me personally stirred me, even when many of them didn’t try as hard as they could academically. They reciprocated the dedication I had to them two-fold. I was tough but they understood why.

For more, read here and comment there!

Thanks again for your continued support.

Jose, who can’t believe his fortunes …

On Writing This Particular Book

by Jose Vilson on February 25, 2011

in Jose

Fuck That Shit

What About Our Dreams? (Had to use this again)

I‘ve learned a few things about writing this particular book. It’s definitely not like other books, but it is my book. I’m writing it because it’s about time I culminate the 1000+ blogs I’ve written in between my earlier private site, a few other sites, and this one, which accounts for about 741 of my meatiest, most elucidating work about and through me. It hasn’t always been pristine, educational, or profound, but it let me transparently fine-tune my thoughts about everything and anything with varying degrees of participation from all of you. Now, it’s time to take some of these thoughts, polish them, and bind them up into a product that encapsulates a wedge of my being, in a form that gives everyone a peek into the process and the project that is my growth. It’s not like writing a blog where I consciously limit how deep I go into any topic for the sake of readability and context. People can’t stare at desktop screens too long before getting the weird flashing lights effects in their eyes. Rather, I’m venturing into a space where I’m given a little more land to fertilize, but with that comes a new responsibility towards that space. It still needs the efficacy of a blog post but the length of a drawn-out soliloquy. And it needs to be relevant to the material I’ve already written before, because anyone who’s ever subscribed to this or would want to needs to have a train of thought to follow. Books do that for people, and often serve as the landmarks we refer to when people ask about the trip from one place to another and how we got there. If one book is hardly distinguishable from the other, then the point of writing it is nullified. I want this particular book to meet all those expectations at this time with this pace and without too much interruption. Whenever I finish this process, exhausted, sweating and bleeding on the manuscript’s imaginary binds, I send it to a cabal of my most well-informed colleagues, ask if the message is clear, send it to a publisher or two and see which one agrees with the rest of you reading this now.

Then the fun part comes. As with all of these rants, my book will be nothing like this, but this is what I’m thinking while writing it.

Jose, who has had fun while doing this …