Jake Lamar does not claim to be clairvoyant. However, with his first novel, “The Last Integrationist,” Lamar has created a work that is not only humorous and richly written but may also prove to be a literary forecast for the United States. “The Last Integrationist” is set, as Lamar puts it, in a “virtual America. It’s sort of an America that you recognize. It’s not quite what America is today, but what it could be. I wanted it to feel like it was just around the corner.”
Lamar dubs his novel “a story about a black politician that gets in a lot of trouble.” But it’s much more than that. Although the book was conceived in the US, half of it was written in the past three years, during which Lamar lived in Paris, thereby profiting from a different perspective of America’s biggest problems. Racism, interracial relationships, ethnocentrism and politics are all addressed, with a healthy dose of wit, through the experiences of the book’s main characters.
Race relations is something the writer has reflected upon deeply. Although Lamar loves his native New York, he finds Paris to be “just the perfect city.” For the moment, he prefers to live here because he doesn’t feel “the pervasive hostility in France as in America.” He added, “I think, inevitably, there will be more of a mingling of races. But I don’t think it’s going to happen anytime soon because people are so divided and angry at each other.”
The comparison to expatriate black predecessors is unavoidable and Lamar acknowledges that both James Baldwin and Richard Wright influenced his decision to come to Paris. He credits Baldwin’s “Go Tell It On the Mountain” as “one of those books that just blew my mind.” At the age of twelve, Lamar knew that he wanted to go to Paris before he wanted to become a writer. Twenty years later, he arrived.