Portrait Of An Artist As A Black Man
Author and poet Fernando Rover Jr. recently won the 2019 Best Indie Book Award for his debut book of poetry, Labyrinth.
The annual Best Indie Book Awards™ (or BIBA™) is an international literary award contest recognizing self-published authors in major genres. Entries are limited to independently (indie) published books, including those from small presses, e-book publishers, and self-published authors. Entries will be judged based on multiple writing skills, which include story-telling ability, author’s ability to engage the reader, transitions, pacing, movement of the story, author’s skill with voice, character, dialogue, and narrative. Winners receive a physical trophy and increased credibility and visibility.
The 25-year-old San Antonio native released Labyrinth in late June 2019 through Amazon. For Rover, it was a labor of love for three years upon his return home from a study abroad trip to Scotland. “I spent two weeks studying abroad in Scotland after graduation and upon my return home, I was reinvigorated creatively. I had so many ideas and concepts that I needed to put them somewhere.”
Rover attended Texas Lutheran University, graduating with a dual Bachelor’s degree in English and history in 2016. “During my time at TLU, I studied about the African American experience,” he says, “I read James Baldwin, Zora Neale Hurston, and Charles Chestnut. I also read about environmental racism and intersectionality and I wanted to spread this knowledge around to those who weren’t aware.” After graduation, Rover started writing for the online publication Odyssey. It was also during this time he started exploring poetry and began writing Labyrinth.
“I chose poetry because poetry has a way of expressing emotion and imagery but through words. I started performing at open mics around San Antonio and was inspired by so many of the poets out there. Honestly, these ideas were coming to me in a poetic state of mind. I was inspired particularly by Ntozake Shange’s work For Colored Girls Who Have Considered Suicide When The Rainbow Is Enuf. I was inspired by the stories she told through the poems and I thought, “this is missing for Black men,” we don’t have a body of work that speaks to our experiences.”
Labyrinth is described as a collection of poetry that illustrates Black masculinity through lenses of identity, vulnerability, heritage, and resilience. Intertwined with the poems are photographs taken by Rover during his trip to Scotland. “I went on a pilgrimage to Iona as part of this trip. I spent a lot of time alone for the first time- I walked around, I sat by the beach, I wrote in a journal, I just was quiet, and, in that space, it left me vulnerable. I was alone with just my thoughts and it scared me because it forced me to rely on myself for the first time. That’s why I put the photographs from my trip in there. I want to recreate the same energy for my readers that I was in.”
(Photo: Fernando Rover Jr.)
Labyrinth covers topics such as grief, racial profiling, paternal lineage, mental health, self-acceptance, and intersectionality of race, gender, and sexuality. “We as Black men have never been taught to express ourselves. We are always speaking in codes. I wanted to talk about real issues that we as Black men go through- father/son relationships, thoughts on suicide, the trauma of dealing with being profiled; all of this has happened to us. We need a space where we can talk about this openly and that’s what I wanted to create with Labyrinth.”
Rover continues to promote Labyrinth through readings and book signings. In addition, Rover has also gained a following here as a contributing writer for the San Antonio Observer. Be sure to continue to follow him on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram (@fernandoroverjr) for his upcoming works, performances, and book signings. Also, be sure to purchase the award-winning book of poetry available on Amazon.
Rover’s column appears weekly, here, in the SA Observer. This week Rover 'share' is not to be missed as he addresses controversial topics that are not to be shied away from. See more from Rover this week HERE titled, “'We Are The Root Of His Power'- The Second Coming: "Surviving R. Kelly Part II" and Racial Misogyny.
The SA Observer, Eastside Community and the whole city of San Antonio congratulates Fernando Rover Jr., for his selfless contributions over the years on many platforms for readers to understand controversial topics in gentle ways. Rover’s writing will continue to document the history of Black America for generations to come.