Those called "new writers" are rarely new to the game.
They've often been working hard for quite a while, just under the radar of
publication houses and book reviewers. Such was the case with Kenji Jasper,
until his debut novel, "Dark," placed him squarely on critical screens last
His second work, "Dakota Grand," flows in the same urban vein as "Dark."
Jasper's Grand is a New York writer chronicling the hip-hop world for
magazines while trying to write his own first novel. Like Jasper's first
book, this one is semi-autobiographical; he got his start writing in the
tradition of his hero Nelson George in publications like The Village
Voice, Vibe and The Source. Now a novelist, Jasper pens work for National
Public Radio and Savoy.
Dakota Grand, though, gets caught up in the game he worked so hard just to
document after writing a feature his all-time favorite rap star, Mirage,
didn't like. He gets beaten up by Mirage's boys and vows to "...settle my
score" without "...taking part in putting another black man behind bars."
The ensuing tale of bruised egos and masculine bravado gone awry begins to
read a bit like the screenplay for an extended gangsta fantasy video, but is
narrowly saved by Jasper's honesty in displaying Grand's struggle to define
Supporting characters could be folks you know or media-enforced
stereotypes: TD, the likeable hoodlum that's got your back; Carolina, the
Afro-Cuban beauty who sees through Grand's cover; Lamar, a fellow hip-hop
scribe always looking for the next honey or honey of a deal.
A Kirkus Reviews notice written about "Dark" said, "This 25-year-old
author shows a talent that could blossom in another, more challenging,
book." Jasper's "Dakota" may not be the more challenging text
foreshadowed, but it is a strong second offering from an author worth
Review written by Monette A. Bailey