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Author Nabil Ayers talks about his new book 'My Life in the Sunshine'

Nabil Ayers
AMR ALFIKY/Gabriela Bhaskar
The New York Times
Nabil Ayers headshot.

The song, Everybody Loves the Sunshine, is by the famous Black jazz musician Roy Ayers. In 1971, a white, Jewish, former ballerina chose to have a child with him, fully knowing and agreeing that Ayers wouldn’t be part of or participate in raising him.

That child is Nabil Ayers, and his new book My Life in the Sunshine explores his life being raised by his mother and his journey to make his own identity despite his father’s absence - even though Roy’s influence was ever-present throughout his life, especially in his career in music.

Nabil Ayers will be at Boswell Book Company Tuesday for a book event and he shares more ahead of that.

"My wife, who was really supportive and used to be in the publishing world said, 'you need to write about your father and your race, that's the more important stuff [and] that's going to be harder.' I knew she was right, it was kind of this dark feeling but a good powerful, dark feeling, which told me she was right," Ayers explains.

Ayers worked with his mother to visit important sites in his father's life, all while his mother recounted details from memory. He notes that his uncle, who is also a big part of the book, helped him connect with his father's life as well.

Ayers says he gained a new understanding of his mother while interviewing her and he respects and appreciates that his childhood wasn't very traditional.

He says he loves the title of the book, which is a reference to his father's song Everybody Loves the Sunshine.

Ayers explains that the title is a double meaning: the title being his father's song, but it's also about Ayers great life and the positivity his father has given him.

My Life in the Sunshine Jacket
Nabil Ayers
My Life in the Sunshine

"I really ended up choosing that title, not just because of the obvious connection to the song, but really, in the end, the way I feel about everything in my life. Of course, there have been ups and downs, but it's extremely positive. I'm really happy with what I got from him. So much positivity, so many good things," he says.

The book also explores Ayers' feelings of displacement and a lack of a definitive identity to the outside world regarding his race, and Ayers acknowledges that he's never had a strong racial identity.

"I'm a biracial person, I don't consider myself Black completely, I definitely don't consider myself white. I have a Middle Eastern name that is even more confusing, and really makes people ask lots of questions and give me lots of looks. I don't think I'll ever have a really great answer or final decision on it," he says.

After his book release, Ayers thought his job would be done as far as telling his story, but he says he was naive because it's been the exact opposite.

"So many new people are reaching out to me, and that's the sunshine. It's all positive. It's all great people who just want to talk and have stories and connect and I love it! I didn't realize how much that would be a part of what's still happening," says Ayers.

Audrey is a WUWM host and producer for Lake Effect.
Kobe Brown was WUWM's fifth Eric Von fellow.
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