808s & Otherworlds
a collection of essays and poetry by
Sean Avery Medlin
"September’s Most Anticipated LGBTQIA+ Literature" —Lambda Literary
"Most-Anticipated New LGBTQIA+ Books of 2021" —Paperback Paris
"PageTurners" —The Root
808s & Otherworlds: Memories, Remixes, & Mythologies announces a bold and incendiary new voice in Sean Avery Medlin. Against the backdrop of the Phoenix suburbs where they were raised, Medlin interrogates the effects of media misrepresentation on the performance of Black masculinity. Through storytelling rhymes and vulnerable narratives in conversation with both contemporary Hip-Hop culture and systemic anti-Blackness, 808s & Otherworlds pieces together a speculative reality where Blackfolk are simultaneously superhuman and dehumanized.
From the gut-wrenchingly real stories of young lovers unmythed by segregation or former classmates appropriating Black culture, to the fantastic settings of Hip-Hop songs and comic characters, Medlin weaves a tapestry of worlds and otherworlds while composing a love letter to family and self, told to an undeniably energetic beat.
Select print interviews:
TriQuarterly interview with author Sean Avery Medlin by Joshua Bohnsack (10/20/2021)
Michigan Quarterly Review interview with Sean Avery Medlin (9/13/2021) by Sam Small
Scroll to bottom for Goodreads Reviews.
"Using hip-hop songs and album titles as a primer, Sean Avery Medlin (who uses they/them pronouns) dives into a collection of short stories, poetry and insights in Black life, Black history and Black masculinity through their lens. Whether they are writing about their suburban upbringing in Phoenix, their favorite performers, love or the omissions of Black contributions to America, what Medlin leaves is a work whose words will reverberate long after you put the book down. Their words can be as uplifting as they are poignant, as reflective as they are inspiring. This is shorter, intense fare that should find its way into your backpack."
—Edward Banchs, Pittsburgh Post Gazette
"808s and Otherworlds gives a voice to queer Black rap enthusiasts. Poet, essayist and artist Sean Avery Medlin puts verses from their 2018 album Skinnyblk in six 'records' about cultural appropriation, interracial relationships, and their contemplation of Black masculinity. Harkening back to their childhood origins of Phoenix, Arizona, where Black children were few and far between, Medlin transcends space and time by putting their lived experiences to a Hip-Hop beat. Medlin’s conversation with Hip-Hop culture is vast, respecting the unflinching spirit of Southern trap music and even critiquing Kanye West’s infamous 'slavery sounds like a choice' remark."
—Jaelani Turner-Williams, Teen Vogue
"Black Music Month: 15 Books About the Impact of Black Music on Pop Culture"
"I’m a sucker for a book of essays on culture, but finding fresh takes is rough. So don’t sleep on the unpredictable 808s & Otherworlds… an elegant mash of memoir, poetry, tales of appropriation, thoughts on Black masculinity, Hulk, Kanye."
—Christopher Borrelli, Chicago Tribune
"The Great 2021 Fall Book Preview: Our 60 best reads for right now"
"808s & Otherworlds: Memories, Remixes, & Mythologies purrs with variety and energy, with riffs on Black masculinity, anime, gaming, rap, gender identity, and dislocation in Phoenix’s western suburbs. The drum machine in the title (the Roland TR-808) is a perfect tease to the rhythm of Medlin’s words rendered in prose."
—Michelle Beaver, The Los Angeles Review of Books
Read the full interview: "Every Rap Is a Poem: A Conversation with Sean Avery Medlin" | 12/22/2021
"We all have worlds, real or fictional, that we use to express and cope with our external and inner worlds that we exist in. Medlin gives the reader a safe space to understand and advocate for them and ponder on our own... Each record holds an indestructible story and rhythm that makes you want to reread each page."
—Emily Fullenwider, Porter House Review
(Read the full review of 808s & Otherworlds)
"Sean Avery Medlin deals with the edicts of the misrepresentation and performance of Black masculinity in media. Their stories are told through rhymes and narratives and explore vulnerable topics such as systemic anti-Blackness through the lens of contemporary Hip Hop culture."
—Bella Morais, The Root
"808s and Otherworlds is a multi-faceted reflection on Black masculinity as it exists to both writer Sean Avery Medlin and a national media determined to misrepresent it. Set against the backdrop of their native Phoenix, this collection uses different forms (from stories to songs to comedy) to probe the nature of community, place and identity in terms of race and gender. With hip hop at its core, Medlin’s writing reflects on the real and the unreal to tell a story of Blackness in America."
—Jessica White, DAZED
"Sex, body horror, and star-crossed love: The queer books to read in 2022"
"Whether he’s writing about musicians or anime characters, there is a tenderness with the way Sean Avery Medlin approaches the subjects of his writing. I had the opportunity to speak with Medlin about their new book of poetry and prose, 808s & Otherworlds: Memories, Remixes, & Mythologies available now from Two Dollar Radio, as well topics such as fandom, writing through characters, comics and mythologies."
—Joshua Bohnsack, TriQuarterly
(Read the full interview with author Sean Avery Medlin)
"Medlin (he/they) isn’t a fan of borders, though they’ve felt their life defined by them. 808s reflects an eclectic, ravenous consciousness aware of, but not beholden to, restrictions. Along with a wide range of cultural referents—Amaud Jamal Johnson aptly calls Medlin the '[l]ovechild of Sun Ra and Sailor Moon'—the poems encompass an exhilarating range of formal engagement... Medlin can cut a phrase into a prism so it splits the everyday into a spray of light."
—Conor Bracken, Cleveland Review of Books
(Read the full review of 808s & Otherworlds)
"Rappers ascend into capitalist gods and crash back to Earth as burnt-out stars and the Arizona suburbs rise up like a Mesoamerican Valley of the Kings in Sean Avery Medlin’s trap opera poetry collection, where he conducts the becoming/making of his Black and gender-fluid identities, assembling and disassembling inherited mythologies of Black masculinity from a history of the U.S. slave trade, the performance of hood narratives in rap, and observing his own immediate family. Their poems take on a range of pop culture from Kanye West’s betrayal as a Trump supporter to a lecture on the Middle Passage delivered by X-Men’s Storm and keep you riveted from start to finish."
—Angela María Spring, Electric Literature
"10 Poetry Collections From 2021 That You Might Have Missed"
"Sean Avery Medlin's 808s & Otherworlds is an exciting glimpse at the future of poetry. Medlin's poems sing and remix layer after layer of cultural references."
—Temika Cage, Support Black Authors
"September 2021 New Releases"
Host Jason Jefferies of Quail Ridge Books is joined by Sean Avery Medlin, author of 808s & Otherworlds. Topics of conversation include Hades, the 808 drum machine, Erykah Badu, Arizona, the Trickster, BET, Kanye West and Donald Trump, and much more.
—Listen to the full interview: Bookin' Podcast episode 157: Sean Avery Medlin | 11/8/2021
View a video from Changing Hands Bookstore of Michelle Malonzo's Top 4 Holiday Picks, including 808s & Otherworlds by Sean Avery Medlin (starting at 2:28) | 11/26/2021
"[808s & Otherworlds] is a mind-bending collection of poetry and prose that explores Black culture, Black joy, and what it means to be Black in Arizona. Well it's prose poetry that is lyrical. I mean you could sing or rap to the verse. It's remarkable. I mean it truly is a remarkable collection and it just brings so much joy that they're local. This is probably the most unique book in our entire remarkable reads collection and I can't wait for you to read it."
"So, the book is also a vision, and maybe a prophecy for a community who has barely been encouraged to dream aloud, or so vividly. Its heart draws lifeblood from the past, but its wings fly towards a better Afrofuture. Poets will lead the way on this Odyssey of self-creation, as they always have. Above all, 808s and Otherwords is a hybrid: poetry and prose and hip-hop, myth and memoir, semi-autobiograpy... Let this book be found and read by a young Blackboy in the middle of a white nowhere trying to fashion a new identity for themselves. May a thousand flowers bloom. May they play it loud and dance."
—Rufus F., Ordinary Times
(Read the full review of 808s & Otherworlds)
"Medlin is a master of world building... From the tiny details of their childhood in Arizona to the systemic troubles of being Black in America, Medlin bucks conventions in ways that allow the reader to think deeply... 808s & Otherworlds sees an artist taking their lived experiences and parsing it into delightfully delicate prose. This book is one of those rare works of art that bridges the deeply personal for anyone fortunate enough to gaze upon it."
—Oliver Crook, Atwood Magazine
(Read the full review of 808s & Otherworlds)
"[Comic] character pieces are a skipped stone on the greater pond which is 808s & Otherworlds. Race in America, hip-hop culture, and queer identity are what anchors the majority of Medlin’s work. Sean Avery Medlin opens our eyes to a world most of us do not see or walk blindly through. Medlin widens our perspective to the bigger picture of pop culture switching its tune and embracing the politics of the military-industrial complex."
—Dominic Loise, F(r)iction
(Read the full review of 808s & Otherworlds)
"Very much themed on masculinity and specifically Black masculinity and the cultural forces that shape what that means in America."
—RJ Edwards in the Book Club for Masochists: a Readers’ Advisory Podcast
Episode 137 "Music" (minutes 31:35–35:04) | Nov 2, 2021
808s & Otherworlds included in "September’s Most Anticipated LGBTQIA+ Literature."
—Sydney Heidenberg, Lambda Literary
(View the full list on Lambda Literary)
808s & Otherworlds named a "Most-Anticipated New LGBTQIA+ Books of 2021."
—Paris Close, Paperback Paris
(View the full list on Paperback Paris)
"808s & Otherworlds is a beautiful, shapeshifting collection. Medlin considers hip-hop, the suburbs, Blackness, masculinity, celebrity, superheroes, and America as both trap and origin story, exploring and exploding the categories that seek to define and limit us. Equal parts argument, meditation, and declaration, this book is a triumph and introduces a singular new voice."
—Danielle Evans, author of The Office of Historical Corrections, and Before You Suffocate Your Own Fool Self
"I loved everything about this collection of poems, remixes and meditations. It was raw, honest and contemplative. There were parts that kicked me in the chest and made me pay attention. There were so many times I stopped to reread certain parts because the thoughts were so deep. The format of the book gave it a nice flow."
—Sharon Velez Diodonet, @bookdragon217
"It’s subtitled Memories, Remixes and Mythologies, which is a great way to describe the combination of personal vignettes, lyrics, cultural critiques and manifesto that make up each of its parts... I loved to see poems in conversation with other faves like Morgan Parker and Jasmine Mans—Medlin situating themself in a choir of poets whose work is as brilliant aloud as it is on the page. Poets, hip hop fans, don’t pass this one up."
—Jamie M, @mixedreader
"Sean Avery Medlin's Poetry Makes Room for Gaming and Superheroes" (9/21/2021)
The Phoenix New Times's Robrt L. Pela spoke with Medlin about the writing of their debut collection of poetry and essays, 808s & Otherworlds, heroes, academia, and more.
"This amorphous and profound collection of poetry is pure brilliance. Medlin masterfully pulls you into worlds unknown and known. Set with the backdrop of the Phoenix suburbs, Medlin examines systematic racism, celebrity, and what the future can be. Ultimately, this collection is a love letter and a call for hope while acknowledging the struggles that must be overcome to reach a better world. There are some books that you simply should not ignore and at this moment you are looking at one."
—Quinn, Changing Hands Bookstore
"In this small book, Medlin’s words pack a punch. If you’re already familiar with him, you will enjoy catching up to his latest thoughts. If you (like me) are new to his world (Hip Hop) but want to hear what he has to say about issues surrounding BLM and Black culture, just dive into his prose—short bits and poetry meant to evoke an understanding by immersing us in his memories, experiences and observations. I think you’ll get a new view of the world from these pages."
—Linda Bond, Auntie’s Bookstore (Spokane, WA)
"The 808, as a sound-making machine, creates what some might say is the part of the beat that you can most feel in your chest, in your limbs, the part that leaves you trembling well after the sound departs. It makes sense, then, that what we have here, is a book that does the same. A book that rattles in the mind long after the final word. A book that has a generous dexterity and playfulness in form, but sacrifices nothing in language, in image, in metaphor. Play this one loud and let it shake whatever dormant corners you've got."
—Hanif Abdurraqib, author of A Little Devil in America, Go Ahead in the Rain, and They Can't Kill Us Until They Kill Us
"Sean Avery Medlin’s 808s & Otherworlds is an exciting glimpse at the future of poetry. Medlin’s poems sing and remix layer after layer of cultural references. Their poems are stunning. As a fellow suburbanite, I loved glimpsing Medlin’s dystopic suburban Arizona."
—José Olivarez, author of Citizen Illegal
“Like the light of an event horizon, this work races toward and struggles against the gravity of Blackness. Lovechild of Sun Ra and Sailor Moon, Sean Avery Medlin sings into the narrow space between hope and rage, bridging political and pop culture galaxies. If our suburbs have become burnt-out satellites circling a world long lost to racism, this book is our S.O.S., transmitting radio waves for searchers and survivors. What an expansive and timely poetic voice!”
—Amaud Jamaul Johnson, author of Imperial Liquor, Red Summer, and Darktown Follies
"A debut of multiverse treasures, 808 & Otherworlds explores the seams between American violence, celebrity, music, desert suburbia, and selfhood—and does so with tender, piercing exuberance. Medlin’s hybrid poems dig up the body’s public incivilities and private joys. They envision the fertile ground that springs beyond empire.”
—Karen Rigby, author of Chinoiserie
"808s and Otherworlds, Sean Avery Medlin's debut publication, is an unconventional suburban coming-of-age tale told through an enchanting mixture of written styles. Medlin allows his imagination to run wild in the work and takes the reader along for the journey, honoring and presenting in words the dreams of his youth as a Blackboy growing up in suburban Arizona. Medlin is emblematic of the struggle faced by Black Americans, particularly Black men, to reconcile their interests and personal relationship to their identities with outward perceptions and stereotypes. A hip hop, comics, and anime fanatic, Medlin allows his passions to shine through in the work—multiple pieces signify on Silver Surfer, Hulk, Naruto, and Kanye West respectively. The poems are emotionally vulnerable and honest while maintaining a whimsical rhythm and rhyme pattern throughout... 808s and Otherworlds is a thoroughly original and evocative work from a fresh new literary voice."
—Meghana Kandlur, Seminary Co-op Bookstore (Chicago, IL)
Sean Avery Medlin (he/they) is a gamer and Hip-Hop nerd, whose only wish in this world is to watch an unproblematic Black sci-fi T.V. show. Till then, Medlin teaches creative writing and guides cultural work for organizations across the U.S., while also creating rap, poetry, prose, and performance. Their music, literature, and theater all question the limits of Black masculinity, media (mis)representation, and personal narrative.
Medlin has shared stages with Saul Williams, J. Ivy, and Lemon Andersen. Their work’s been featured in Afropunk, Blavity, the 2018–2019 Chicago Hip-Hop Theater Festival, and the 2020 Tucson Poetry Festival. Their Hip-Hop play and album, skinnyblk, along with all their previous work, is available online at superseanavery.com. 808s & Otherworlds: Memories, Remixes, & Mythologies is Medlin’s debut collection.
Visit the Sean Avery Medlin author page for additional details, videos, and interviews.
BOOK CLUB & READER GUIDE: Questions and Topics for Discussion
1. The author chose to subtitle this collection: “Memories, Remixes, & Mythologies”? What do you think is fitting about those three specific descriptors?
2. This collection moves freely from poetry to prose essays and back again: what effect did this have on you as a reader? Why do you think the author chose this format for their work?
3. “Paradox,” on page 54, opens with a reference to the James Baldwin quote, “To be a Negro in this country and to be relatively conscious is to be in a state of rage almost, almost all of the time…” How does this collection reckon with America’s brutal enslavement, ongoing suppression, exploitation, and theft from/of its Black citizens?
4. How does the author balance those same feelings of rage that Baldwin described, with feelings of joy and hope?
5. Mis-representation of Black diversity, Black culture, and Black masculinity, in all media formats, are evaluated throughout the poems and essays. What are some examples of this?
6. Arizona is a recurring backdrop throughout the collection. What are some of the author’s views of the state? How does the author weave in historical facts about the area’s Indigenous peoples as well as its history with Black residents of the state?
7. Avondale, the Phoenix suburb where the author was raised, is also a frequent subject and setting in the collection. What effect did it have on the author being a young Black person living in an overwhelmingly nonBlack area? How did the author feel about themself? How do they remember being treated by their school peers?
8. In several places, the author talks about their complicated attraction to and relationship with white beauty standards. What do you think were the driving forces behind this attraction? How does the author grapple with this relationship/attraction throughout the collection, and how does the author’s opinion of beauty change over time?
9. How influential were certain Hip-Hop artists and their music during the author’s coming-of-age years? Who were some of them? In what ways did specific lyrics and artists inform the author’s understanding of their own identity at a young age?
10. As the author grew older and became more aware of the complexities of gender and sexuality, how did their relationship with the Hip-Hop music they loved evolve?
11. Consider the pitfalls that the author discovers of holding up celebrities as idols. Think about your own experiences with this situation and discuss how your adoration of famous individuals has changed over time, or not, and why.
12. The author frequently writes about members of their family: Speak about the influence each has had in shaping the author’s life. As a group, discuss the power of family influence, compared to that of media influence; how do you think the two forces are balanced in children and young adults?
13. Superheroes, anime characters, and pop culture references such as Star Wars are used throughout the collection as a lens through which to investigate and interrogate major societal issues such as racism, gender, government policies: talk about what some of these instances are, and how considering them this way affected you.
14. The contrapuntal poems in the collection—each comprised of two distinct and different poems that are meant to be in conversation with each other—can be read in different ways. Consider revisiting pages 22 (“THUGLIFE Contrapuntal”) and 79 (“On Sight Contrapuntal”) to try reading their poems separately and then together as a unified text, left to right. What effects do the different ways of reading the contrapuntals have on you?
Find the 808s & Otherworlds audiobook edition, read by the author, wherever you source your audiobooks!
AUDIOBOOK ISBN: 9781953387189
RELEASE DATE: Sept–Oct 2021
Enjoy a sneak peek of select pages from 808s & Otherworlds!
View 808s & Otherworlds sneak peek on Issuu.com
FORMAT: Paperback (1st printing with gatefold)
LIST PRICE: $15.99
PRINT ISBN: 9781953387066
DIGITAL EBOOK ISBN: 9781953387073
AUDIOBOOK ISBN: 9781953387189
RELEASE DATE: 09/14/2021
SIZE: 5.5" x 7.5"
Printed in Canada by Marquis, with the following environmental statement:
*Printed on Rolland Enviro. This paper contains 100% post-consumer fiber, is manufactured using renewable energy - Biogas and processed chlorine free.
*FSC certified paper (inside and cover).