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Around Harvard Square


Race, class, and hormones combine and combust when a Harvard freshman and his two friends attempt to join the staff of the Harpoon, the school’s iconic humor magazine.

$14.95 $11.21

Available as an e-book for:

What people are saying…

Around Harvard Square is the winner of the NAACP Image Award for Outstanding Literary Work (Youth/Teens)!

Around Harvard Square has been named a 2020 Honor Book by the Paterson Prize for Books for Young People!

“A smart, satirical novel about surviving the racial and cultural tensions ratcheted up in the elite Harvard hothouse. Farley has created a marvelously engaging and diverse set of characters, at the center of which is a nerdy Jamaican American with a philosophical bent and his cohort of oddballs struggling to win a spot on Harvard’s brainy humor magazine, which provides a springboard for Farley to dive into the ethics of comedy, among other subjects.”
National Book Review, included in Monday’s 5 Hot Books

“For anyone who likes satire, this quick-witted tale . . . catches a bundle of truths about a very particular and powerful corner of our world.”
New West Indian Guide

Around Harvard Square [is] C.J. Farley’s fun novel about an exceptional Jamaican student-athlete facing class and race issues to get a spot on an elite Harvard University humor magazine.”
New York Daily News, included in CaribBeat column

“C.J. Farley’s Around Harvard Square is a witty and artful narrative of a society on the crossroads of change . . . A must read.”
The Gleaner (Jamaica)

Included in the American Booksellers Association’s ABC Best Books for Young Adult Readers 2019!

Included in Publishers Weekly’s Spring 2019 Children’s Announcements

Included in Rich in Color’s Six Books to Kickstart April

“In his new novel, Around Harvard Square, Farley writes about a scandal strikingly similar to how Singer helped parents and coaches allegedly exploit athletic programs of schools like Yale, Georgetown, and USC.”
Fox 5 NY

“This former Lampoon editor, journalist, and now satirical novelist, has lots of insight into the discrepancies around race and gender that remain present in the comedy industry.”
CityLine (WCVB-TV Boston)

Around Harvard Square brings social commentary to college life, approaching the issues in a humorous attitude . . . Farley makes the injustices more tangible to a younger audience who may be future students at such institutions, and he shows how little progression has been made in the educational system regarding institutional racism.”
Prism Review

“This coming-of-age novel, set in the ’90s, follows Jamaican-American Tosh Livingston and his group of friends—Lao, Meera, and Zippa—on their quest to land coveted spots on the staff of the Harvard Harpoon, Harvard’s humor magazine . . . The characters’ clever dialogue challenges privileged and stereotypical thinking.”
Publishers Weekly

“In this throwback coming-of-age novel, an ensemble of freshmen on the margins struggle for self-definition amid the race and class complexities of Harvard . . . Through the whirlwind of their journey, they begin to question the purpose of jokes and the consequences of laughter—when it’s not just about the joke, but also about who’s making it and why (a significant, timely exploration as comedy culture today struggles to demarcate ethical boundaries) . . . The diverse ensemble of core characters defy and refuse reductive stereotypes . . . For those who would like to take a trip through the hallowed Harvard halls of the past, this goes out to you . . .”
Kirkus Reviews

“Farley, a Harvard alumnus himself, pulls no punches in lampooning the elitist, entitled culture that pervades the campuses of schools like Harvard. Many of his jabs are painfully spot on, and I applaud his efforts to address the experiences of the non-white, non-wealthy, and incredibly smart students who find themselves dropped into that kind of toxic atmosphere every fall.”

“A well-timed novel about race, class, privilege and admissions in the Ivy League.”
Jeff Pearlman

“Farley explores privilege and race in a way that is not subtle but also not in your face . . . Farley not only explores the topics of racism, he also explores sexism as well. This story takes place in the 90s but it is so similar to what is currently going on today.”
Reader Then Blogger

“Wry, sly, and ferociously funny, Around Harvard Square is not just the satire Ivy League college life deserves, but the one it’s been waiting for.”
—Marlon James, Man Booker Prize–winning author of A Brief History of Seven Killings and author of John Crow’s Devil

“Brimming with humor and heart, Around Harvard Square is a delight.”
—Andy Borowitz, creator of the New Yorker‘s “The Borowitz Report”

“The first year of college can feel as dramatic as the first moon landing and somehow C.J. Farley also turns it into a painfully funny adventure. Around Harvard Square is a coming-of-age tale that blends J.D. Salinger’s rueful tones with Paul Beatty’s biting humor and becomes something entirely its own. I had so much fun running around with these kids, it felt like seeing old friends: laughing and crying and laughing some more.”
—Victor LaValle, author of The Changeling

“A hysterical romp through one memorable freshman year. At Farley’s Hahvahd, it’s survival of the funniest, comedy means never having to say you’re sorry, and growing up is hard to do. A provocative pleasure.”
—Gish Jen, author of Typical American

“In this sharp and imaginative satirical fantasy, C.J. Farley explores the complex realms of race and privilege at college with humor, insight, and edge.”
—Walter Isaacson, author of Leonardo da Vinci

“Finally a young brother with a powerful voice, not afraid to say it loud and proud. I welcome him!”
—Terry McMillan

“Farley plays the nineties American Zeitgeist like a violin. But don’t let the laughs deceive you. He hits some literary home runs about a whole bunch of issues: politics, race, and sex.”
—Ishmael Reed


Interest level: 9-up | Grade Level: HS-Adult | Lexile Level: 870 | Guided Reading Level: Z+

Tosh Livingston, superstar student-athlete from small-town USA, thinks he’s made it big as a rising freshman at Harvard University. Not so fast! Once on campus, he’s ensnared in a frenzied competition to win a spot on Harvard’s legendary humor magazine, the Harpoon. Tosh soon finds that joining the Harpoon is a weird and surprisingly dangerous pursuit. He faces off against a secret society of super-rich kids, gets schooled by a philosophy professor who loves flunking everyone, and teams up with a genius student-cartoonist with an agenda of her own. Along the way, Tosh and his band of misfit freshman friends unearth long-buried mysteries about the Ivy League that will rock the Ivory Tower and change their lives forever . . . if they can survive the semester.

With its whip-smart humor and fast-paced narrative, Around Harvard Square will appeal to readers of all ages interested in exploring the complicated roles that race and class play in higher education.

Read a guest post by C.J. Farley at The Grio.

Read a preview of Around Harvard Square at Journal-isms.

Read a Book Notes feature by C.J. Farley at Largehearted Boy.

Listen to interviews with C.J. Farley at q (CBC Radio, Canada), KAZI Book Review (Austin, TX), and Drinks with Tony.

Read an Around Harvard Square event preview at the Boston Globe.

Read a Q&A with C.J. Farley at Deborah Kalb Books.

Read a feature/interview with C.J. Farley at Jeff Pearlman.

Read a guest essay by C.J. Farley on Game of Thrones at QZ.

Watch an interview with C.J. Farley at CityLine (WCVB-TV Boston)

Read an interview with C.J. Farley at The Rumpus, conducted by Colin Channer.

Hear a clip from the Audible audiobook of Around Harvard Square, narrated by Kevin Free:

Watch a book trailer for Around Harvard Square:

Watch an interview with C.J. Farley at Fox 5 NY:

Watch an interview with C.J. Farley, as part of the discussion of Operation Varsity Blues, at Fortt Knox (CNBC):

Watch a roundup video of April 2019 releases including Around Harvard Square by Beautifully Bookish Bethany:

Watch an interview with C.J. Farley on the series end of Game of Thrones at Fox 5 NY:

Book Details

  • Paperback: 272 pages
  • Published: 4/1/19
  • IBSN: 9781617757143
  • e-IBSN: 9781617757266


C.J. FARLEY was born in Kingston, Jamaica, and lives in New Rochelle, NY. A graduate of Harvard University, Farley is the author of the acclaimed fantasy adventure novel Game World and the best-selling biography Aaliyah: More Than a Woman, which was adapted into a hit Lifetime movie. Farley’s young adult novel Around Harvard Square won an NAACP Image Award and was named a 2020 Honor Book by the Paterson Prize for Books for Young People. His latest novel is Zero O’Clock.

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