Books by Alexs Pate

Alexs D. Pate is the author of seven books, including the New York Times Bestseller Amistad, commissioned by Steven Spielberg’s Dreamworks/SKG and based on the screenplay by David Franzoni. Other novels include Losing Absalom, Finding Makeba, The Multicultiboho Sideshow and West of Rehoboth.

Alexs’s first nonfiction book, In The Heart of the Beat: The Poetry of Rap was published by Scarecrow Press in 2010. Alexs’s poetry collection, Innocent, was published in 1998. Alexs is the editor of Blues Vision: African American Writing from Minnesota, published in 2015.

Learn more about Alexs’s books below.

Books by Alexs

Blues Vision: African American Writing from Minnesota

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A rich Minnesota literary tradition is brought into the spotlight in this groundbreaking collection of incisive prose and powerful poetry by forty-three black writers who educate, inspire, and reveal the unabashed truth. Historically significant figures tell their stories, demonstrating how much and how little conditions have changed: Gordon Parks hitchhikes to Bemidji, Taylor Gordon describes his first day as a chauffeur in St. Paul, and Nellie Stone Johnson insists on escaping the farm for high school in Minneapolis.

Showcasing the unique vision and reality of Minnesota’s African American community from the Harlem renaissance through the civil rights movement, from the black power movement to the era of hip-hop and the time of America’s first black president, this compelling anthology provides an explosion of artistic expression about what it means to be a Minnesotan.

“What Pate has accomplished here is nothing less than an aesthetic standard for rap as poetry, which he tests against various examples of the rap genre. This is a ground-breaking work, necessary for connoisseurs of both poetry and rap music.”  

–Sacramento News & Review on In the Heart of the Beat: The Poetry of Rap

In the Heart of the Beat: The Poetry of Rap

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According to African American and African studies scholar Pate, rap is not just the emergent African American literary form of the postmodern age, but is responsible for scores of young people improbably embracing all the traditional and nontraditional poetic conventions of the English language (through a mix of cultural osmosis, miming, and instinct). Though he isn’t quite able to justify a comparison between the phenomenon of rap and Gutenberg’s invention of moveable type, Pate presents a strong case for the artistic and cultural importance of rap, analyzing lyrics and artists from multiple angles. Sizing up classic literary works from stalwarts like Langston Hughes, Maya Angelou and others alongside stanzas from rap songs, Pate finds eerie similarities in tone, message and style. He also contrasts the work of contemporaries within the genre, such as the straightforward pop of Young MC against the politically strident work of Public Enemy, examining rap’s ability to offer a visceral, vital take on society-and to dive headfirst into society’s most extreme indulgences.

More than willing to admit the paucity of garbage mixed among the real art (as in any creative endeavor), Pate is also upfront about the role of profanity and misogyny in many compositions. Though he may court snoozing when he delves into more academic concerns like rhyme structure, this warts-and-all study of one of the preeminent art forms of today is vital and compelling, especially for dedicated listeners. — Publishers Weekly

Losing Absalom

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One final battle crowns a lifetime of struggle for the hard-working, African American family man at the center of this moving first novel. In honest and lyrical prose, Pate explores the American dream, the inner city, the hope and sorrow of parenthood and the fragility of life. As Absalom Goodman lies dying in a Philadelphia hospital with his wife Gwen and two grown children gathered around him, his mind retraces the journey of his life and surveys the results of his ceaseless labors. Gwen and both children reflect on their roles within this family and the fundamental strength of Absalom, which guided them.

Sonny, now part of predominantly white corporate America, returns home to confront a life he thought he had left behind. Rainy, an aspiring singer who lives in the family homestead with her boyfriend, lives in a different kind of denial. Gwen and Absalom hope to hold on, both for themselves and for these children who still so obviously need them. Pate’s restrained writing steers clear of the maudlin while gracefully illuminating both the contemporary and timeless aspects to his tale. Amid the realities of decay and dying can be glimpsed a brief, fragile vision of strength and hope. — Publishers Weekly 

Finding Makeba

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In a Philadelphia bookstore, African American writer Ben Crestfield asks a young woman for her name so that he can autograph a copy of his first novel for her. When she replies, “Makeba Crestfield,” he realizes she’s his only child, the daughter he hasn’t seen and he left her mother when Makeba was 10. Ben’s novel is the thinly disguised story of his marriage to 19-year-old Helen, who was pregnant with Makeba when he was a 22-year-old part-time English major studying on the G.I. Bill in the 1970s, and how the relationship unraveled over the next decade as he tried to be both an artist and a responsible family man, churning out copy at an ad agency to pay the bills. Makeba, in turn, hands Ben a letter and a journal in which she has recorded her reactions to his version of events.

The ensuing narrative interleaves Ben’s book’s chapters and Makeba’s journal entries into a dialogue between father and daughter. Pate draws Ben, the passive but possessive Helen and Makeba with keen psychological insight. Pate’s second novel (after Losing Absolom, named 1994 Best First Novel by the Black Caucus of the ALA) is a sensitive exploration of an African American male’s struggle to be a man. — Publishers Weekly

Amistad: A Novel Based on the Screenplay

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Based on the true story of the 1839 mutiny on board the Spanish slave ship, Amistad, here is the frightening sequence of events that led fifty-three young men and women – and one young nation – to seek freedom and justice for all people.

Amistad is the story of Cinque, the illegally enslaved son of a Mende chief who led an uprising full of fury and courage. It is also the story of John Quincy Adams, the former American president, who reluctantly heeded the call to justice and defended Cinque in a Supreme Court trial that would alter the nation’s history. And it is the story of men and women searching to find truth and to uphold the basic tenets of the American Constitution. Brilliantly narrated by award-winning novelist Alexs Pate, Amistad celebrates the human spirit’s profound determination to fight, hope, and to be free.

The Multicultiboho Sideshow

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Ichabod “Icky” Word, an ambitious young African-American writer and the protagonist of Pate’s (Losing Absalom) inventive tale of crime, art, politics and black rage, needs to be heard. To gain his brief moment in the limelight, Word lures Bill Bloom, a white lieutenant with the Minneapolis Police Department, to his apartment and immediately takes him captive.

Strapping the fat, battle-weary, middle-aged detective in a chair with duct tape, Word reveals the purpose of his bizarre hostage scheme, beginning a rambling, fragmented story about the powerful cultural and racial forces that have brought him to this pass.Complicating matters is the police barricade of the apartment, not to mention the garbage bag-wrapped presence of the corpse of Dewitt McMichaels, a man who was once an influential cultural maven with the power to make and break careers in the multicultural art world. Though the setup seems contrived at first, Pate effectively explores each man’s personal history and emotional state, shifting adroitly from voice to voice and suffusing the dialogue with humor and irony. Veteran police officer Bloom takes a truthful measure of his faltering marriage, dead-end job and lackluster life. Meanwhile, Word describes his dealings with the circle of art-world friends he calls his “multicultiboho tribe,” all of whom may or may not be implicated in McMichaels’s murder. With time running out and nervous police snipers on nearby rooftops, the mystery of the murder is slowly unraveled and Word and Bloom ultimately gain a realistic understanding of each other that civil rights laws could never mandate. — Publishers Weekly

West of Rehoboth

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Richly conceived, this novel by the author of the official tie-in to the Spielberg movie Amistad relates the story of 12-year-old Edward Massey, chubby self-appointed boy detective, and his summer adventures at Rehoboth Beach. The year is 1962, and Edward and his family have escaped the festering gang violence of steamy Philadelphia to spend the summer in deceptively cool Rehoboth, Delaware. The beach-town community, now the playground of the wealthy but originally settled by those seeking religious unity and escape from the moral decay of cities, is a world of contrasts, with its segregated beaches and restricted areas. The white inhabitants depend on the African-American residents to staff hotels, restaurants and homes, but do their best to ignore their presence. Edward’s Aunt Edna is a pillar of Rehoboth’s black community, the owner of a restaurant and candy store where the black townspeople gather.

For five years, Edward and his family have spent their summers with her, and for five years Edward has wondered about the man living in a shack on Aunt Edna’s property, a man he is told to call “Uncle Rufus.” This summer, primed by his reading of Agatha Christie tales, he is determined to solve the mystery of Uncle Rufus. His investigations take him into dangerous territory, and he comes to learn much about love, murder and redemption. — Publishers Weekly

Innocent: Poems

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A limited edition collection of selected poems that explore the themes of guilt and innocence, particularly as it pertains to black men. Designed and printed by Emily Strayer with handset Californian type on Aches Text Wove paper, the chapbook was bound into covers and endsheets made of cotton and raw flax by Mark Hark of Frogtown Papermaking Studio. Three hundred copies were printed and signed by the author in 1998