Category Archives: Books

Jon Gruden and Why Racists Always Think They’re Not

180807-F-LI975-0231Why do the most racist people always think they’re the least racist people?

Jon Gruden stepped down from his job as coach of the Las Vegas Raiders Football team after reports that he used vulgar, sexist and racist language in his emails, including using racist terms to describe Black people, and saying that a Black NFL official had “lips the size of michellin [sic] tires.”

Before he was forced out, Gruden told reporters “I know I don’t have an ounce of racism in me.”

In a story about his resignation, the New York Times quoted Gruden as saying “I never had a blade of racism in me.”

The Washington Post quoted Gruden as saying “All I can say is I’m not a racist.”

Donald Trump is always talking about how he’s not at all a racist even though, by the evidence, he completely is.

“I am the least racist person in this room,” Trump said at an October 2020 presidential debate, with a straight face, to moderator Kristen Welker, a Black woman. And Trump told reporters in 2019: “I’m the least racist person you’ll find anywhere in the world.”

Everybody has flaws–I certainly do. People who think they’re flawless are the ones who are most susceptible to becoming bigots–because they’re the ones who have stopped critically examining their words, actions and feelings.

Socrates once famously said “The unexamined life is not worth living.” People with unexamined lives can also be pretty racist. Not being a racist isn’t something you just are, it’s something you have to do, and keep doing. It has to be a verb, not a noun.

The musical “Avenue Q” had it right with its song “Everybody’s a Little Bit Racist,” with its immortal lines:

Everyone’s a little bit racist

Sometimes.

Doesn’t mean we go

Around committing hate crimes.

Look around and you will find

No one’s really color blind.

Maybe it’s a fact

We all should face

Everyone makes judgments

Based on race.

Check out my new novel “Zero O’Clock.”

BTS Appears at the United Nations as ‘Zero O’Clock’ Hits Pix 11

BTSUN2I had an interesting split-screen morning today—just as I was discussing my new BTS-inspired novel “Zero O’Clock” on Pix 11 News, the South Korean group was appearing in front of the United Nations in New York City.

On Pix 11, I talked to hosts Dan Mannarino and Hazel Sanchez about how books can help kids process their feelings about the pandemic, and how the music and message of BTS helped inspired the title of my novel “Zero O’Clock” as well as some of the book’s themes.

Meanwhile, at the United Nations, all seven members of BTS addressed the 76th United Nations General Assembly, before breaking into a performance of their hit “Permission to Dance” which spilled out into the sunlight outside the U.N. building.

BTS had a lot of interesting and important things to say, including confirming to their fans and the world that all seven band members have been vaccinated. That’s a great message to send to all the people out there who are unvaccinated by choice. UN News tweeted out these excerpts from BTS’s speech:

You can check out my book “Zero O’Clock” on Amazon.

Watch BTS’s UN performance here:

BTS Visits NYC to Perform For the United Nations

BTSUNBTS is back in America.

The South Korean band is in New York City to visit the United Nations as presidential special envoys for South Korea.

NBC News reports that the group will be with South Korean President Moon Jae-in attending the 76th Session of the UN General Assembly in New York, which runs through September 27th. RM, the leader of BTS, famously delivered a speech at the UN in 2018, so this isn’t entirely new territory for the band.

While in New York, BTS is set to appear at SDG Moment 2021, a yearly meeting dedicated to the UN’s sustainable development goals. According to the Twitter account for UN News, the event will start on Monday, September 20, at 8 a.m. ET, and BTS will be performing. “Don’t miss their message to the world, and a very special musical performance at the UN headquarters in NY,” the account tweeted.

A headline on the UN News website asks “Will BTS break the internet? Again?” The article goes on to say “The I.T. team at the UN will doubtless be on tenterhooks as 20 September approaches, mindful of the huge internet traffic BTS attracted during their previous visit to the General Assembly in 2018, and when their video message was released at last year’s virtual GA – both of which left the system struggling to cope.”

Since 2017, BTS has worked with the UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF) on the “Love Myself” campaign to stop bullying and promote self-esteem.

BTS’s visit is yet another sign of how the band has become a symbol of South Korean culture around the world. Much like how Bob Marley and reggae came to represent Jamaica (and his music was used in Jamaican tourism campaigns), the seven members of BTS have become cultural ambassadors for their home country.

BTS recently released a series of videos called “SEOUL X BTS: EoGiYeongCha Seoul” to help promote tourism to South Korea’s capital city. The phrase “EoGiYeongCha” is a kind of traditional chant meant to give people energy and encouragement.

Meanwhile, BTS’s global footprint continues to grow. The group is coming out with a collaborative song with Coldplay, titled “My Universe,” on September 24. BTS recently released their hit song “Butter” in a remixed version with Megan Thee Stallion.

You can check out my new novel “Zero O’Clock,” about a BTS superfan who uses the band’s music to help get through the pandemic, on Amazon.

 

‘Zero O’Clock’ Featured on NPR’s ‘Here and Now’

ZeroChartMy new young adult novel “Zero O’Clock” was the subject of a feature story on NPR’s show “Here and Now.” They even played two BTS songs–“00:00 (Zero O’Clock)” and “Life Goes On”–to open and close the segment!

The segment was hosted by Tonya Mosley, who later said on Twitter “Zero O’Clock is going to go down as one of the texts we will use in the future to make sense of this moment we’re in. Thank you @cjfarley for this timely book, and conversation.”

It’s great to see my book get this kind of coverage! There’s a real shortage of young adult novels that feature people of color that are written by authors of color, so “Zero O’Clock,” which features a Jamaican-American hero (I was born in Kingston, Jamaica), fills a real need in kids lit.

There are also many teens and parents out there who are looking for books to help them process the crazy events of the last year or so. That’s what my novel is all about.

After the NPR piece, my book shot up to No. 1 on the Amazon Best Sellers List for “Teen & Young Adult Literary Fiction.”

You can listen to the “Zero O’Clock” segment of “Here and Now” here and in the player below.

The Root Covers ‘Zero O’Clock’ as a ‘Page Turner’

ZeroOclockCoverThe website The Root just covered my new novel “Zero O’Clock” as a “Page Turner.”

The site gives a nice writeup to my book, summarizing the plot and the role of the protagonist, 16-year-old Geth Montego: “Geth’s small town becomes a hotspot for a rapidly spreading sickness and as things progress, she’s thrown into the center of Black Lives Matter protests where she’s forced to confront her beliefs but has to ask herself what she truly believes in.”

“Zero O’Clock” arrived in stores on Sept. 7, and it’s starting to get coverage lots of places. Stay tuned for more!

You can read the article about “Zero O’Clock” on the Root here.

You can pickup a copy of “Zero O’Clock” here.

Aretha Franklin, The New York Times and My New Novel Zero O’Clock

Aretha Franklin and C.J. Farley in New York City in 2014.
Aretha Franklin and C.J. Farley in New York City in 2014.

I have a new YA novel coming out on September 7, 2021 called “Zero O’Clock” and to help mark the occasion, I wrote an essay for the New York Times Sunday Review about the interviews I’ve had over the years with the Queen of Soul, Aretha Franklin.

I interviewed Franklin a number of times, for Time Magazine and the Wall Street Journal.  One of my interviews with her launched that “beautiful gowns” meme–and I talk about all the drama behind that in my New York Times essay.

Aretha also had an influence on my new book. There’s lots of musical references in the novel, to the Strokes, to Lauryn Hill, and others, especially the South Korean K-Pop band BTS. In one scene in the book, a character creates a  Black Wall of Fame with photos of Black icons like Thurgood Marshall, Bob Marley, Jean-Michel Basquiat–and Aretha.

You can check out my New York Time essay here.

You can buy a copy of my new YA novel “Zero O’Clock” on Amazon.

Zero O’Clock by CJ Farley: The Book Trailer

The new trailer for my upcoming YA novel “Zero O’Clock” just dropped!

“Zero O’Clock” is the story of Geth Montego, a 16 year-old Jamaican-American girl living in New Rochelle, N.Y. She’s a lot of things–she’s a runner, she’s a BTS fan, and she’s kind of a loner except for her friends Tovah and Diego. Then Covid-19 hits her town, and she gets swept up in the Black Lives Matter protests. Suddenly, she has to decide who and what she’s really about.

“Zero O’Clock” is available for pre-order on Amazon! You can watch the trailer here.

Golden Globes, Diversity and My Novel Zero O’Clock

I went on the MSNBC show “American Voices with Alicia Menendez” to talk about the diversity crisis at the Golden Globes awards show.

Award show ratings have been falling, but they’re still an important part of marketing and promoting a movie. Winning a Golden Globe can boost a movie’s box office by millions of dollars. So when shows like the Golden Globes fail to promote diversity among their member voters, or in the awards they hand out, it hits people in the pocketbook.

Interestingly, one of the award shows that’s on the upswing in terms of ratings is the NAACP Image Awards–a show that’s all about promoting diversity. My novel “Around Harvard Square” won an NAACP Image Award and it really helped raise awareness about the book.

Speaking of books, on “American Voices,” host Alicia Menendez put in a word for my upcoming YA novel “Zero O’Clock,” due out September 7, 2021 and available for preorder now.

You can watch my MSNBC segment below.

Zero O’Clock: The New Novel by CJ Farley Is Coming Soon

ZeroOclockCoverMy new book “Zero O’Clock (Akashic) is coming out September 7, 2021! It’s YA novel about Geth Montego, a Jamaican-American teen living in New Rochelle, N.Y., whose world is turned upside down by the Covid-19 pandemic and the Black Lives Matter movement in 2020.

There’s also a lot in the book about the K-pop group BTS–Geth is one of the band’s biggest fans, and that’s saying a lot.

Here’s some of the pre-publication praise that “Zero O’Clock” has gotten so far:

“An insightful, eye-opening, and inventive story. C.J. Farley has penned a novel that sheds an important light on real issues facing young people today.”
Angie Thomas, author of The Hate U Give

Zero O’Clock is a beautiful and timely YA novel that is both heartbreaking and whip smart, a glimpse into the world of virtual friendship, classrooms, and pop stardom.”
Jeanne McWilliams Blasberg, author of The Nine

“Thoughtful, provocative, and pounding with the fast-paced beat of a sharp-witted adolescent mind, Zero O’Clock is the story of a Jamaican-American teen girl at the early epicenter of the COVID-19 pandemic in New Rochelle, New York. C.J. Farley has created an irresistible heroine in Geth Montego. Simmering with justifiable anger at everything from the cancellation of her senior prom to racial injustices and police brutality, Geth manages to overcome grief, anxiety, and confusion to discover a new sense of herself and her ability to create change.”
Karen Dukess, author of The Last Book Party

Zero O’Clock seems to have a direct line into the mindset of a modern teenager. I enjoyed it immensely!”
Alex Wheatle, author of Cane Warriors

‘Game of Thrones’ Is Ending But It’s Not the End of George R.R. Martin’s World

I interviewed Sophie Turner in London in 2016.
I interviewed Sophie Turner in London in 2016.

“Game of Thrones” is ending on Sunday, but the world that George R.R. Martin created is far from finished.

I wrote a piece about this on Quartz.

I’ve been following the show since before it began, interviewing Martin himself several times as well as cast members like Kit Harington and Sophie Turner. I have some thoughts about the turn that Emilia Clarke’s Daenerys Targaryen character took in the penultimate episode, but I’m going to wait until the whole show ends before I weigh in.

You can check out my new book “Around Harvard Square” on Amazon.

 

I once interviewed Emilia Clarke at a "Game of Thrones" premiere.
I once interviewed Emilia Clarke at a “Game of Thrones” premiere.