Interview with Dan Rasmussen

Revolt June 13, 2011 04:47

topic: REVOLT medium: interview

Daniel Rasmussen is the New York Times best-selling author of American Uprising: The Untold Story of America’s Largest Slave Revolt, which the Financial Times wrote had “a breadth and sweep reminiscent of The Black Jacobins.” Rasmussen has been described as a “crisp, confident writer” (Wall Street Journal), a “superb stylist” (Kansas City Star), and as “extraordinarily precocious” (Cleveland Plain Dealer). A 2009 graduate of Harvard University, Rasmussen won several prizes for his senior thesis on the 1811 Revolt, including the Thomas Temple Hoopes Prize, Harvard’s top undergraduate academic honor. He grew up in Washington, DC and currently lives in Boston, MA.

PenTales: What are the ingredients of good writing?

Rasmussen: Passion, clarity, and concision.

PenTales: In one sentence, what do you hope people will take away from American Uprising?

Rasmussen: Antebellum slaves were not mere victims of an oppressive system. Rather, they were heroes who fought and died for freedom and equality.

PenTales: Who is the bravest person you know and why?

Rasmussen: Gwendolyn Midlo Hall. She waged a long fight to improve civil rights in this country through writing and teaching the true history of slavery, and she endured years of government oppression both for her work and for choosing to marry a prominent black radical.

PenTales: Tell us about a favorite character in a story, and why you relate to this character.

Rasmussen: I empathize with Stephen Dedalus’s burning desire to create something new, to have an impact on the world. Yet, I hope I have not fallen into the trap of his stifling intellectualism – or his failure to appreciate the wonders of the tangible world.

PenTales: Tell us a 100-word story about yourself to help us get to know you better.

Rasmussen: My father early on developed a clever scheme for me and my siblings. My sister would play ice hockey, my older brother and I would figure skate. By entering small niches, we could excel and hopefully stand out among a sea of more standard overachievers. Yet while my older brother and sister trained relentlessly, I used to sneak away into obscure parts of the ice rink and read the Redwall books. My figure skating career ended with a fizzle – as my literary interests and less-than-svelte figure proved insufficient to help me land the daunting and necessary triple salchow.

PenTales: Continue this story (five sentences or less): “He woke up in a sweat. He couldn’t believe that he had once again dreamt about…”

Rasmussen: …the impact that new health-care rules would have on his medical device company. The looming cuts, the dwindling profits, the collapsing share price, and, of course, the frustration of knowing there was nothing he could do to to prevent it. If there was one thing he feared more than downward social mobility, it was Obamacare.

PenTales: What was your first thought this morning?

Rasmussen: Breakfast. And then how much the blizzard blowing here in Boston made me want to curl up in front of the fire with a good book.

PenTales: What question should we ask the next person (writer, storyteller, or artist) we interview?

Rasmussen: If Milhouse jumped off a cliff, would you?

Comments are closed