A major literary event—the eagerly anticipated publication of a long-lost novel from legendary writer and three-time Pulitzer Prize nominee John Oliver Killens, hailed as the founding father of the Black Arts Movement and mentor to celebrated writers, including Maya Angelou, Nikki Giovanni, Arthur Flowers, and Terry McMillan.
Wanderlust has taken Jimmy Jay Leander Johnson on numerous adventures, from Mississippi to Washington D.C., Vietnam, London and eventually to Africa, to the fictitious Independent People’s Democratic Republic of Guanaya, where the young musician hopes to “find himself.”
But this small sliver of a country in West Africa, recently freed from British colonial rule, is thrown into turmoil with the discovery of cobanium—a radioactive mineral 500 times more powerful than uranium, making it irresistible for greedy speculators, grifters, and charlatans. Overnight, outsiders descend upon the sleepy capital city looking for “a piece of the action.”
When a plot to assassinate Guanaya’s leader is discovered, Jimmy Jay—a dead ringer for the Prime Minister—is enlisted in a counter scheme to foil the would-be coup. He will travel to America with half of Guanaya’s cabinet ministers to meet with the President of the United States and address the UN General Assembly, while the rest of the cabinet will remain in Guanaya with the real Prime Minister.
What could go wrong?
Set in the 1980s, this smart, funny, dazzlingly brilliant novel is a literary delight—and the final gift from an American literary legend.
About the Author
A novelist, teacher, mentor, screenwriter, essayist, and activist, John Oliver Killens (1916–1987) is one of the most important figures in African American literary culture, considered one of the founding fathers of the Black Arts Movement. Three of his novels, Youngblood; And Then We Heard the Thunder; and The Cotillion, or One Good Bull Is Half the Herd, were nominated for the Pulitzer Prize. His students included Tina McElroy Ansa, Bebe Moore Campbell, Arthur Flowers, Nikki Giovanni, Elizabeth Nunez, Terry McMillan, and scores of others. In conjunction with his teaching appointments—the New School for Social Research, Fisk University, Columbia University, Howard University, Bronx Community College, and Medgar Evers College—Killens created and directed a series of writers conferences between 1965 and 1986 that served as milestones in African American literary history.
"Killens has read his Shakespeare. With the surprises in its plot and its quadrilles of mistaken identities, ‘The Minister Primarily’ is right up there with ‘The Tempest’ and ‘The Comedy of Errors.’ The choreography of his set pieces has an effulgent warmth that is as passionately expressed as it is disarming, creeping up on the reader with such skill you hardly realize you’re being stalked by a master."
— The New York Times Book Review
"Killens casts a broad net, skewering everything from the heady early days of African independence to the pan-Africanism of the period among Black Americans, and, most sharply, race relations in the United States. This is a brilliantly scathing, outrageous satire as important today as when it was written."
— Library Journal (starred review)
“The Minister Primarily is not only a brilliantly imagined work of fiction, it is also a side-splittingly funny tale. In this newly discovered last novel, Killens’ puts on his literary fabulist hat and hands us a rich, unforgettable tale packed with ribald, humorous scenes, and wacky characters. Read this book, you will never forget it!”
— —Quincy Troupe, author of