D. Watkins to give away 500 copies of essay collection, appear at UB, Sun

The Baltimore pundit and scribe D. Watkins is definitely doing his part to make sure that Baltimore remains “the city that reads.”

On April 23, he’ll be at Red Emma’s Bookstore Coffeehouse, 30 W. North Ave., to give away free copies of his new essay collection to the first 500 folks who walk through the door. “Baltimore’s Son,” which Watkins put together in collaboration with the bookstore, consists of a half-dozen of Watkins’ outspoken essays that originally were published in The Baltimore Sun.

In May, he’ll appear at the University of Baltimore and at The Baltimore Sun in support of his latest release, “The Cook Up: A Crack Cocaine Memoir.”

Watkins is a columnist for Salon — and lifelong East Baltimore resident — whose work has been published in The New York Times, The Guardian and Rolling Stone. His first book of essays, “The Beast Side: Living (and Dying) While Black in America,” came out in September.

The essays in “Baltimore’s Son”* deal with such topics as what Baltimore can do to prevent the next uprising, what changes Watkins would make if he were elected mayor, and how no one person can speak for the nation’s African-American population.

“A lot of people I know don’t have Internet access so they haven’t read my work,” he says. “I had the idea of putting together six articles that were all relevant to Baltimore and giving them away.”

Watkins’ next release, “The Cook Up: A Crack Cocaine Memoir,” is a memoir that will trace his trajectory from the smartest kid on his block to a drug kingpin to author and professor. It’s being published May 3 by Grand Central Publishing.

A launch party for “The Cook Up” will be held from 7 p.m. to 9 p.m. May 3 at the University of Baltimore, where Watkins teaches creative writing.

Watkins will appear at 7 p.m. May 17 to discuss and sign the book at The Baltimore Sun, 501 N. Calvert St., as part of The Baltimore Sun Book Club  Tickets are $25 (plus service charge) and available through www.sunbookclubwatkins.eventbrite.com.

Watkins recently released the cover art for “The Cook Up.” The design was created by Post Typography, a Baltimore design studio. The cover “writes” the title in rocks of crack cocaine that are scattered across a black tabletop holding other drug paraphernalia.

“That’s exactly how the tables would look,” Watkins said. “I thought this design was just brilliant.”

* This article has been updated. A previous version incorrectly stated the title of Watkins’ essay collection.