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Black Boy Smile lays bare Watkins’s relationship with his father and his brotherhood with the boys around him. He shares candid recollections of early assaults on his body and mind and reveals how he coped using stoic silence disguised as manhood. His harrowing pursuit of redemption, written in his signature street style, pinpoints how generational hardship, left raw and unnurtured, breeds toxic masculinity. Watkins discovers a love for books, is admitted to two graduate programs, meets with his future wife, an attorney—and finds true freedom in fatherhood.
D. Watkins is the New York Times bestselling and award-winning author of The Beast Side, The Cook Up, Where Tomorrows Aren’t Promised and We Speak for Ourselves, which was a One Book, One Baltimore selection. He is Editor at Large for Salon. He is featured in the HBO documentary “The Slow Hustle” and is a writer on “We Own the City,” an HBO miniseries from David Simon. His work has been published in the New York Times, New York Times Magazine, The Guardian, Rolling Stone, and other publications. He is a college lecturer at the University of Baltimore and holds a Master's in Education from Johns Hopkins University and an MFA in Creative Writing from the University of Baltimore. Watkins’ awards include the BMe Genius Grant for dynamic Black leaders, the City Lit Dambach Award for Service to theLiterary Arts, the Maryland Library Association’s William Wilson Maryland Author Award, and the Ford’s Men of Courage award for Black male storytellers. He was also a finalist for a 2016 Hurston Wright Legacy Award and The Cook Up was a 2017 Books for a Better Life finalist. He is lives in Baltimore, MD with his wife and daughter.
Watkins will be in conversation with White House Correspondent April Ryan, who has a unique vantage point as the only black female reporter covering urban issues from the White House – a position she has held for 25 years, since the Clinton era. Her position as a White House Correspondent has afforded her unusual insight into the racial sensitivities, issues, and attendant political struggles of our nation’s past presidents. April can be seen almost daily on CNN as a political analyst. She is also the Washington D.C Bureau Chief on TheGrio. She has been featured in Essence, Vogue, Cosmopolitan and Elle magazines – to name a few. April Ryan has served on the board of the prestigious White House Correspondents Association. She is one of only three African Americans in the Association’s over 100-year history to serve on its board. She is also an esteemed member of the National Press Club. In 2015, Ms. Ryan was nominated for an NAACP Image Award for her first book. 2016 National Council of Negro Women, Mary McCloud Bethune Trailblazer. In 2019 April Ryan became an honorary member of Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Incorporated and was recognized as the 2019 Freedom of the Press Award Winner by the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press. April was nominated in 2021 with the NAACP Image Award for Social Justice Impact. April is a Baltimore native and Morgan State University graduate, and she gives back to this community by serving as a mentor to aspiring journalists and assisting with developing “up and coming” broadcasters. April considers her greatest life’s work raising her two daughters, Ryan and Grace – who are phenomenal young women. April Ryan is the author of the award-winning book, The Presidency in Black and White, and At Mama's Knee: Mothers and Race in Black and White, where she looks at race relations through the lessons and wisdom that mothers have given their children. Her latest book is Under Fire: Reporting from the Front Lines of the Trump White House.