A Life of Books: Gabriel Patterson, author of Reminding Me of Mo

Gabriel Patterson is and musician and storyteller from Denver. His career has always been about representing his home city and the people he knows and loves. His debut memoir is no different. Reminding Me of Mo is an ode to his friend Geranimo Maestas, who was murdered for his Denver Broncos jacket in 1993.

Debutiful asked the author to answer our recurring “A Life of Books” questionnaire so readers can get to know him better.

Is there a book or series that, when you think back, helped define your childhood?

My mom would take me to the Woodbury Library on the Northside of Denver. I gravitated to biographies because I was curious about where people were from and what made them tick. I read that a young Larry Bird would shoot 500 free-throws a day, and it made an impact on me. I realized at a young age that along with the love, there also must be a dedication to your craft.

Would you want any children in your life (yours or relatives’) to read those too? Or what’s your philosophy on what children read?

I think a wide array is key because you never know what children will pick up on. My youngest daughter, Maya, loved the wit and persistence of the Pigeon in Mo Willems’ acclaimed series, but she also developed an affinity for Roberto Clemente, which was interesting because she didn’t particularly care for baseball. It was Clemente’s story outside the diamond, mostly his humanitarian work, that resonated with her.

Moving to your school years: what book did you read in high school and hated (or skipped reading at all) that you learned you loved later in life?

Not a particular book, but during my junior year of high school I ditched my entire Chicano Studies class. I was ignorant. I think back to how privileged I was to have a Chicano Studies class in my school, but I squandered the opportunity. Still, I believe you learn things in due season, so when Cathy (Maestas) told me about the Crusade for Justice, and how it pertained to the No Mo Violence Movement, I knew it was time to dig in. That said, Message to Aztlán by Corky Gonzales was extremely impactful.

What about the opposite way? One you loved in your teens, but realized you didn’t love it so much later on?

Honestly, the only things I read in high school were The Source Magazine and Rap Pages. Through these articles, I remember being introduced to surrealism courtesy of The Pharcyde, the macabre due to Redman, and nutrition because of Jeru the Damaja. Nowadays, I’m more focused on being the culture rather than reading the culture, though I still enjoy reading everyone’s thoughts and ideas about Hip Hop.

Are there any books that you read while writing your debut that helped shape the direction you took your own book?

Absolutely, both A Brief History of Seven Killings by Marlon James and Dealing In Dreams by Lilliam Rivera did not shy away from the horrific realities of violence. As difficult as it was to write violent scenes, sometimes it’s a must for the story’s sake. Mumbo Jumbo by Ishmael Reed was a revelation in satire, and the interconnectedness of Tommy Orange’s characters in There, There was influential. 

What is a book you’ve read that you thought, Damn, I wish that was mine?

The Dead Emcee Scrolls by Saul Williams. I don’t think any book had me on the edge of my seat like this one did. From the title to the cover to the text, it is one of our generation’s greatest poets affirming in his own words that nothing touches Hip Hop.

What have you been reading / do you plan to read during your debut book tour?

I just finished two extraordinary books, Dilla Time by Dan Charnas and My Brother’s Name Is Kenny by Kenny Parker & Rose Daniels. My wife, Stephanie, got me a beautiful copy of Rudolfo Anaya’s Bless Me, Ultima, which is in the queue, as is God Save The Queens by Kathy Iandoli and Woman of Light by Kali Fajardo-Anstine.

And, finally, I have to ask… I’m sorry. What’s next? But wait! Only use three words.

The Beatnuts book!

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