Jonathan Lewis Nasaw (left) names the protagonist Willie in his newly published first novel Easy Walking—an account of a young man’s recovery from a terrible car accident. But Willie is really Jonathan. The accident, which left Nasaw temporarily paralyzed from the waist down, occurred in 1967 while he was a college student in New York. The jaunty humor and ironic self-awareness in the aftermath of catastrophe, so freely expressed in Easy Walking, undoubtedly were factors in Nasaw’s recovery. Now 27, he gets around with only a cane. An even more significant medication turns out to have been the author’s conversion to the meditative discipline called Arica in the summer of ’73. After finally finishing college, Nasaw and his wife went to Pennsylvania, first to help start a free school, then a health food restaurant. As his marriage broke up he repaired to St. Croix and, while supporting himself as a rock musician, began work on a highly fictional version of what would become Easy Walking—which his editor at Lippincott steered toward autobiography. Now a resident of a suburban commune in Troy, Mich., Nasaw is into a second novel based on his St. Croix experiences.
Marie Farrell (right) finds it hard to believe. “Here I am, a young black woman with no political influence or important friends, in one of the most powerful jobs in the city.” The city is Detroit, her hometown; the job, auditor general. In that capacity Farrell, 27, watchdogs an $800 million-plus municipal budget—a far cry from her work as a supermarket cashier, which paid her way through Wayne State University as a math major. “I looked around me and all the women were bookkeepers, the men accountants. The difference? The men were making a lot more money.”
After apprenticing in a private firm, Farrell, in 1972, became the first black female certified as a public accountant in the state of Michigan. She was elected by the city council to her present $37,000-a-year post over six male candidates in April. Divorced and the mother of a 3-year-old daughter, she is no party-line feminist. “I was so busy doing the things I wanted to do—liberating myself—that I didn’t realize the movement was going on.”