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January 12: Walter Mosley

January 12, 2015

walter-mosleyNovelist and essayist Walter Mosley, the son of an African-American father and Jewish mother, was born in Los Angeles on this date in 1952. His Jewish relatives “were all socialists, communists from Eastern Europe,” he told Moment magazine in 2010. “They didn’t come here to go to shul, they came here to build that ideal life that people were thinking about in the late part of the 19th century... they understood black life perfectly. They had lived in ghettoes and shtetls. They identified with people being hung and burned and spurned for being a different race.” Mosley did not become a serious writer until the late 1980s, when he was inspired by Alice Walker’s The Color Purple. His mystery series about the L.A. private eye Easy Rawlins began to appear in the early 1990s, and President Bill Clinton soon proclaimed Mosley as his favorite novelist. Mosley has also published science fiction, and in 2003, on the second anniversary of 9-11, he published What Next: A Memoir Toward World Peace, which argued that black Americans are our most credible ambassadors to the world: “We know what the rest of the world feels... because we have been lied to about freedom and carry a similar rage in our hearts.” His 2005 book, Life Out of Context, called for the creation of an African-American political party to undermine the two-party system and the Democrats’ taking the black vote for granted.

“Both sides of my family knew by heart the road we’d all traveled. From the Holocaust to Santa Monica; from the slave pens to Emancipation; from ghettos and hangmen; from racial stereotypes and public burnings; from humor derived through pain and homelessness over and over again — we knew each other. We understood the signs and scars and signals and the segregation, racism and hatred piled upon each other’s souls.” —Walter Mosley