When They Tell You To Be Good: Prince Shakur in Conversation with Jamal Joseph

Join PEN America’s Prison and Justice Writing team, Tin House, and P&T Knitwear in celebration of Prince Shakur’s debut memoir, When They Tell You To Be Good—the first acquisition by Tin House Editor-at-Large Hanif Abdurraqib. A political coming of age story, Shakur’s memoir tells the journey of how a closeted queer child in a Jamaican family became a radicalized adult traveler, writer, and anarchist in Obama and Trump’s America. He travels from France to the Philippines, South Korea, and elsewhere to discover the depths of the Black experience, and engages in deep political questions while participating in movements like Black Lives Matter and Standing Rock. When They Tell You To Be Good is a beautiful telling of Shakur’s reckoning with his identity, his family’s immigration, a parent’s incarceration, and the intergenerational impacts of patriarchal and colonial violence.

After a brief reading, Shakur will be joined in conversation with Jamal Joseph, author of Panther Baby: A Life of Rebellion and Reinvention (Algonquin Books, 2011). A Q&A and book signing will follow.

All guests must provide proof of receiving the Covid-19 vaccination to attend. Masks are required.

An exclusive podcast interview with Prince Shakur and accompanying book review will be included in PEN America’s Works of Justice newsletter on October 20. Register for the newsletter here to receive the update.



Prince Shakur is a Jamaican-American author, journalist, podcast host, and video maker. His writings on queer culture, film, and the inner lives of black icons have appeared in such places as Teen Vogue, Afropunk, Catapult, and Vice, among others. His media work has been recognized by GLAAD and Society for Features Journalism. His debut memoir, When They Tell You To Be Good, has been described as “…a searing account of self-discovery in the face of structural oppression” by Publishers Weekly and has been named one of TIME Magazine’s “Most Anticipated Book of Fall 2022.” Shakur has attended residencies at Sangam House, Studios of Key West, Norton Island, Atlantic Center for the Arts, and La Madison Baldwin.

Jamal Joseph is an orphan, activist, subversive, urban guerrilla, FBI’s most wanted fugitive, drug addict, drug counselor, convict, writer, poet, filmmaker, father, professor, youth advocate, and Oscar nominee. He lives with his wife and family in New York City.