Amari Yarbrough
Urban Book Source
November 2006
Amari YarbroughAmari Yarbrough, one of the founding members of the neo-lit movement, has skated his way through many icy situations. Growing up in a home with two parents addicted to crack, Mr. Yarbrough has experienced his share of the struggle. Finding an outlet for his frustrations at the age of 9, Amari began his career as an ice-skater. Years later Amari has reincarnated himself as a writer. Determined to stray away from "street" lit label, Amari has promised to give his fans a one-of-a-kind read, with a deliverance like no other.

UBS: Can you explain to readers what exactly is Neo-Lit?
Neo-Lit (aka neo-literature) is defined as subtle hints of traditional style writing fused with a gripping modern day story set in urban reality. It’s the perfect combination for lovers of both “street lit” and old fashioned, throwback literature. It combines poetry and prose together and becomes a style that is at once innovative, classic, and unique.

UBS: How do you think Neo-lit will fare against the booming Street-lit genre? Do you think there is room for both?
I see Neo-lit as that next phase in African-American writing. Neo-lit takes the current “street-lit” genre to an entirely different level by giving you a new layer of the African-American aesthetic. Neo-lit is not only a new genre but also a movement. It makes the statement that we as African-American writers are much deeper than the publishing world has given us credit. Yes, we can write a story that is based in an urban environment, but we can also take you to an entirely different place in that very same environment by using creative writing, poetic license, and vivid imagery that makes a familiar experience completely new and engaging.

UBS: What is Enigma’s Child about? What was the inspiration for writing it?
Enigma’s Child is a first of its kind coming-of-age story that chronicles the life of young Jair Owens. Forced to grow up overnight, Jair takes on the burden of sealing the rift that has been placed in a once happy home. At the age of ten, Jair’s concerns range from what his dad will get him for Christmas to what Nintendo game he’ll play when he comes home from school. But his innocence is snatched from him early as he suffers through the loss of a beloved family member, battles with his reclusive older brother and comes to grips with his parent’s secrets that tear the family apart. Throughout all this, Jair somehow finds solace in a sport where African-Americans, especially males, are non-existent. The journey continues as Jair is now determined to both bring his family back together and succeed in the unconventional sport of figure skating. It’s a story of self-determination, self-doubt, and subsequently triumph over adversity.

Enigma’s Child is loosely based on events from my own life. It was originally intended to be a self-help book that told of my parent’s experiences and how they were able to beat their own addiction. It eventually grew into a fiction story when I was advised by my mom to tell the story but tell if from my own point of view.

UBS: What makes your book different from what is already available to readers?
The story is definitely a first of its kind. Far too often, it is told through books and media that the only way young black males escape the perils of the inner city is through football, basketball, getting signed to a major hip-hop label. The experiences of Jair Owens, and being a young black skater makes the story distinctive as well as the style that it is written. A lot of stories that speak to the urban experience are often written from a third person omniscient. But Enigma’s Child is written from a first person narrative through the eyes of a naïve young boy who although lives in the heart of Baltimore, is unaware of all the brutality and turmoil that surrounds him. It’s the perfect combination of poetry and prose.

UBS: We know you were once a professional figure skater, why the career change?
I was first a competitive skater, then turned professional when I joined the cast of the first all black ice show, Ebony On Ice, which premiered in Chicago in the spring of 2002. The show was later renamed Soul Spectacular on Ice and we went on to perform in Orlando, FL and Washington, DC in 2003. Once the tour ended, I continued to coach but no longer committed to an intense training schedule. So, I am still a skater, I just haven’t really trained in three years. As for writing, I’ve been writing since I was in elementary school and majored in English Writing/Fiction at the University of Pittsburgh, so I haven’t made a career change. Rather, more energy is now focused on my writing than my skating.

UBS: What can we expect from you and Throwback Publishing in the near future?
The mission statement of Throwback Publishing is “bridging the gap between literature and the community.” Throwback’s logo is the sankofa which comes from the Sankofa tribe of West African and means “learn from the past.” Inspired by the days of the Harlem Renaissance, Throwback brings the writing of art in an innovative package that will be enjoyed by many. Myself, as well as the works to follow under Throwback, will continue to bring quality literature to the book buying public.

UBS: Where do you see the urban/street fiction trend 5-10 years from now?
If you are describing it as a trend, then, like most trends, it will eventually fade. That’s what a trend is, a period or time where something is very popular until the next trend comes along and replaces it. If you are describing it as a genre, then, as long as there is an audience for it, it will continue to exist as long as there is an audience for it.

For more information on Amari Yarbrough, visit:

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