Valley College English professor launches first book

Kimberly Robeson had a book launch event in the campus library to promote her recently published novel, “The Greek Persuasion.”

By Gabriel Arizon, Co-Editor-in-Chief

Photo by Gabriel Arizon/The Valley Star

Valley College held its very first book signing event this past Thursday, and one of its own English professors was the main attraction.

Assistant professor and LGBTQ Club co-advisor Kimberly Robeson, alongside supportive family members and faculty, gathered in the campus library on May 16 in front of dozens of students to talk about and promote her recently published novel, “The Greek Persuasion.” The novel centers around a Greek-American professor named Thair who has spent most of her life searching for her soulmate. The book takes a lot inspiration from Robeson’s Greek-American heritage and from Plato’s “The Symposium,” which tells the story of Zeus splitting humans into two and how people have been trying to find their other half ever since.

When asked by a reporter in a previous interview how similar she was to her protagonist, Robeson said, “Thair is open and strong; she’s bolder and more introspective than I am. Like me, she is an English professor, so I put her in settings that I could write about in a genuine way. Thair’s love of teaching and her overall philosophy are, indeed, a part of me.”

Robeson finished her first draft of the novel in 2011, after nine months of work. However, she continued to encounter snags along the way. At first, her novel was considered too long for the industry standard (she was 40,000 words over the maximum). She then had a female agent who was concerned about a same-sex scene and was told to “just get rid of the gay stuff” to make it more commercial. Robeson decided to find reputable publisher that would accept her work, eventually finding one and getting her novel published on April 30, 2019.

“It was really weird to wake up and go, ‘oh my god, my book is really out there,’” Robeson said. “When you have a dream, you have to take those risks. You have to be strong and persevere.”

The event started out with a performance by singer and songwriter Vassilia, who donated her time to the event, and Robeson was introduced to the crowd by Greek-American actor Adoni Maropis (“24”). Even one of her students, Vincent Fanelli, wrote a song about her book, which he performed during the event.

“I had the idea for the chords and melody a week or two ago, and I finished the lyrics this week,” he said. “I think [the song] is basically done. I do want to do a quick recording and maybe see if she can use it somehow if she wants.”

Towards the end of the event, Robeson signed copies of her book for those who attended. The novel itself was available for purchase at the library for $20, which included a bookmark and a raffle ticket.

“I was part of the LGBTQ Club and … I saw the flyer and wanted to go support her,” Valley student Tee Jae Vaido said. “I’m happy to know that she really put her heart and genuine feeling into this. I’m glad to see this out now.”

Robeson partnered with the library to host the signing and the LAVC Foundation to have all the proceeds of her book donated towards a writing scholarship.

“I love my students, and so I thought if I could put some money in the bank for them to get them excited about writing and give them some scholarship money,” she said. “It was a natural progression for me to do. I was happy to donate my time and the books.”

Robeson is in her fourth year at Valley after coming from Pasadena City College. She’s taught English for 27 years in the United States, Greece and Peru, and has a master’s degree in comparative literature. She has a rough draft for her second novel, “Sixty Days in Santorini,” about a mother and a daughter going on adventures, that she wrote alongside “The Greek Persuasion,” which she will continue to work on next year.