Master storyteller, Mwalim weaves a vibrant and epic Hip-Hop Jazz folktale about the spirits that dwell within the jazz clubs, art galleries, performance spaces, and warehouse lofts transformed into underground dance clubs around New York City.
Our tale begins in 1969, when Black squirrels began to appear in the Bronx. Obatunde Bey -a jazz musician and painter- leaves his desk job at the New York City Parks Department to open an arts academy in his Northeast Bronx neighborhood, “The Valley.” Little did he know that his art house would quietly become the launch-pad of an underground arts movement.
“The Bronx Boheme” made its debut at the Nuyorican Poet’s Cafe in New York City in 2003 as a long-form storytelling piece. Land of the Black Squirrels is book one of the BRONX BOHEME series.
About the Author
Mwalim earned his BA in Music and MS in Film from Boston University, and his MFA in Writing from Goddard College. He received his formal training in theater arts and arts education from New African Company in Boston.
Mwalim is a two-time recipient of the Yen Fellowship, several New England Urban Music Awards for jazz, the Healey Grant, the Osborne Fellowship, and a three-time recipient of the Ira Aldridge Theatre Fellowship. He is a tenured Associate Professor of English & Communications and Black Studies at the University of Massachusetts Dartmouth where he teaches playwriting, fiction writing, oral traditions, spoken-word, Black aesthetics, Black American cinema, and digital filmmaking. Land of the Black Squirrels is his first novel.
Land of the Black Squirrels is presumably a fictional tale, but I often wondered how much of it was inspired by the author’s own story. Readers learn about the everyday lives of each character with such detail that one becomes a fly on the wall, peering into different worlds. The novel begins in the 1960s, with a beautiful narration of life in the Bronx. As someone who’s only traveled to New York City once, it was intriguing to read about a city bursting with culture, the styles of the decade, and what a typical night out in the town potentially looked like