A South L.A. Novelist on Why He Teaches Kids It’s OK to Be Weird

Jervey Tervalon’s Inner City Education Made Him a Passionate Reader and Respected Writer

Tervalon LEAD

As a teenager in South Los Angeles, I worked for Anti-Self Destruction, a government-funded neighborhood advocacy nonprofit. There I met Ollie, a handsome, slender supervisor who rocked lime green jumpsuits and sported a neat beard. One day I needed to talk to Ollie—he had been a Black Panther—about being more serious, more down for black folks, and being committed to the cause. He looked at me with perfect seriousness and said, “Just keep being your weird-ass self.”

I took his words to heart, and have never let them go.

I have …

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