Keenan Norris’ ‘The Confession of Copeland Cane’ Wins 2022 Northern California Book Award for Fiction
The latest novel by Keenan Norris, an assistant professor of creative writing at San Jose State University, “The Confession of Copeland Cane,” won the 2022 Northern California Book Award for Fiction, an honor bestowed by the association Northern California Book Reviewers.
“The Confession of Copeland Cane” follows the journey of a black teenager navigating the Insurgency Warning Bureau who surveils and harasses his East Oakland neighborhood in the name of counterterrorism. Set between 2020 and 2030, the novel explores environmental injustice and structural disadvantage and was inspired, in part, by a conversation Norris had with the head of the Olympic Human Rights Project, John Carlos, ’05 Honorary Doctorate.
“The book was inspired by police killings of unarmed black people in different parts of the country, and spurred on by stories I’ve heard from John Carlos,” said Norris, who saw Carlos speak at California State University, East Bay after the publication of his autobiography. published.
“His story inspired the creative line I took. I was interested in a character whose trajectory followed some of the established dramatic tensions of past protests and social activism, but was set in the near future, where many of these issues have escalated exponentially.
“That Keenan Norris’ superb dystopian novel has been shortlisted for the Northern California Book Award is a wonderful confirmation of Keenan’s singular talent. said Alan Soldofsky, director of SJSU’s creative writing program. “‘The Confession of Copeland Cane’ is destined to become a classic of California fiction.”
Norris’ interest in Carlos’ story goes beyond fiction. During the 1960s, his father, Calvin Norris, ran track and field at Fresno State University and competed against Carlos’ contemporary, Tommie Smith, ’69 Social Science, ’05 Honorary Doctorate.
An accomplished novelist, essayist and scholar, Norris’ debut novel ‘Brother and the Dancer’ won the 2012 James D. Houston Award and his essay ‘One Coyote’ received a 2021 Folio: Eddie Award for Best General/Interest Paper special and was a finalist for a National Arts & Entertainment Journalism Award. In addition to teaching creative writing, he is the coordinator of San José State’s State Steinbeck Fellowship Program and is a guest writer in California for the Oxford Center for African American Studies.
Norris explores African-American migration across the United States in his upcoming book, “Chi Boy: Native Sons and Chicago Reckonings.” A collection of essays, “Chi Boy” follows writer Richard Wright’s move to Chicago after World War I, the movements of Black Chicago Renaissance journalist and writer Frank Marshall Davis across the country, and the journey of the greats. -parents and father of Norris out of the depths. South in the 1950s and later in California, where his father participated in the civil rights movement.
Much of NorrHer work explores the importance of place — geography as well as history.
“I see the places I’ve written about as microcosms of America,” he added. “Whether I’m writing about communities in California like East Oakland or the Inland Empire, or Chicago, all of these places are really unique and very culturally and economically developed, and they have their own stories. They deserve their special exploration beyond stereotyped notions. It is important to look beyond and not be bound as a creative by the popular imagination of a place.