Kalamu ya Salaam's information blog

In the 21st century most of us believe in equalitarian personal relationships. However there are not many well-known examples of successful couples in which both partners were active writers and almost none of two writers having new releases at the same time. Jarvis and Kelly DeBerry are exceptions that prove the rule.

One interesting side-note is their daughter Naomi who is reported to exclaim: “My mama from Cleveland, my daddy from Mississippi, but me, I’m from New Orleans.”

Place does not necessarily determine one’s profession or one’s future. Indeed, when it comes to literature, New Orleans is internationally recognized as a matrix for music, food, and street culture–but not for literature. It is recognized that many writers were attracted to spend some time in the city that existed before the United States formally became a country. I mean we are and at the same time we are not average Americans with our multi-lingual background (French, English, and to a much smaller but nevertheless significant extent, Spanish).

Jarvis DeBerry moved to New Orleans intent on being a writer, specifically a journalist. When Katrina hit and most natives evacuated, Jarvis stayed on and was one of the columnists who won a Pulitzer Prize for their insightful reportage. Much like the fabled French historian and political scientist, Alexis de Tocqueville, who early on examined America, Jarvis wrote about the emotional as well as the material and social reality of his adopted home. He viewed aspects of New Orleans in ways many natives often overlook or take for granted.

Kelly Harris-DeBerry also moved to New Orleans and has become a literary curator in addition to her previously established bona fides as a writer and Cave Canem fellow. Indeed, Jarvis and Kelly first met at a Cave Canem conclave. In addition to being a creative writer, she is also an active promoter of literature in the crescent city. Kelly is an organizer for the national organization Poets & Writers.

Both of them have new books. Jarvis–I Feel To Believe a collection of columns. Kelly–Freedom Knows My Name a debut book of poetry. A forthcoming online discussion features Jarvis and Kelly discussing their writings and their professional life in New Orleans.




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