FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. — The Center for Ethics in Journalism will sponsor an evening with author and journalist Jesse J. Holland Oct. 13 at 7:30 p.m. in Giffels Auditorium in Old Main on the University of Arkansas campus.
Holland has written several books, ranging from historical non-fiction — The Invisibles: The Untold Story of African American Slaves In the White House; and Black Men Built the Capitol: Discovering African American History In and Around Washington, D.C. — to young adult fiction with Star Wars: The Force Awakens – Finn’s Story.
Holland is the race and ethnicity reporter for The Associated Press and was named the 2016 Visiting Distinguished Professor of Journalism Ethics at the University of Arkansas.
Holland will discuss where writing about race intersects in non-fiction and fiction.
There are differences and similarities between fiction and non-fiction, Holland said.
“With non-fiction you have to deal with reality as it is, and people don’t always learn the lessons they need to,” Holland said. “But fiction can be used to teach someone about culture or different ways of thinking.”
Holland said that reality doesn’t always have a happy ending.
“You have to deal with reality as it is,” Holland said of writing non-fiction.
The lecture will include examples from popular culture like Luke Cage, Marvel’s first African American superhero, and Star Wars as well as recent news events like the protests in Charlotte, North Carolina and Ferguson, Missouri.
“We think that this is an important lecture that will appeal to a wide audience,” said Ray McCaffrey, director of the Center for Ethics in Journalism.
Holland said the way minority characters are represented in both fiction and non-fiction can be very similar.
“With Ferguson you had the original narrative of the ‘black thug,’” Holland said, “but once reporting started a larger story began to open up.
“The same is true for Star Wars. Initially, people were angry about a black storm trooper, but once the movie was released a larger story was revealed,” Holland said.
Diversity makes a more interesting world, Holland said.
“Diversity in both helps us understand we need to see the whole story, and it makes us more accepting of our world,” Holland said.
Holland graduated from the University of Mississippi with a Liberal Arts degree in journalism and English. He was the second African American editor of The Daily Mississippian newspaper at the university, where he also produced a comic strip for the paper – Hippie and the Black Guy.
He was among the youngest people named as one of the University of Mississippi’s Top 50 Journalism Graduates. He received his Master of Fine Arts in Creative Nonfiction from Goucher College, where he sits on the Alumnae and Alumni of Goucher College board of directors and the Goucher College Board of Trustees.
The lecture, Race in Reality and Fantasy: From Ferguson to Star Wars will include a question and answer portion and book signing.
More information about the event can be found on the Center for Ethics in Journalism website located at journalismethics.uark.edu