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My, what a ride!  I’ve had a few questions about the setting for The Daughter of Union County.  Why did I choose that locale?  I didn’t.  Union County found me.

The novel, and it is fiction, is based upon the tellings, the beliefs, the oral history, and that special nuanced Arkansas dialect of my in-laws.  That they were descended from British aristocracy, that they lost land in ways that seemed unfair, that they were fearful, that women were at the mercy of empowered white men, all blended together in the crafting of The Daughter of Union County.

       And, yes, I do know the difference between Burke’s Peerage and Brooks Peerage.  Just as I know the difference between the Dukes of Norfolk (actually in Burke’s Peerage) and the fictional Dukes of Norwalk (Brooks Peerage).  It was a tough call.

I’m hoping that all of you–those who grasp the story in its entirety and those who question–all learn something new from the strength of Salome, the courage of Maxwell Joe, and the conflicted position of the daughter, herself, Lady Margaret.  Thanks to you all for reading The Daughter of Union County.

 

I know all families have oddities–unusual happenings, skeletons in the closet–but the thought has been nagging at me that my family has more than its fair share.  Tell me I’m wrong.  Tell me my family is normal and I’m writing down my family stories for no bona fide reason.

Tell me everyone is related to a famous person–mine happens to be an American president. And most African-American families have Buffalo soldiers in their background–especially one who stowed away on a ship leaving Haiti for the U.S.A.  By the way, grandpa was six and he was running from a rival pirate family.  And, of course, there’s the Ali connection and a father who was a show horse champion.

I don’t think I’d be so confused if I hadn’t married into a family that had it’s own major oddity.  Perhaps I should have paid more attention when my in-laws claimed descendancy from the premier aristocratic family in England.  And then there were the stories about oil land and…   Well, let’s just say, my in-laws ongoing fears and anguish about the generations-long events plaguing their history compelled me to give voice to their pain.

I know many African-American families have stories about oil land but what struck me as odd is the English connection.  And from that oddity, sprang The Daughter of Union County.   No, it is not a family documentary.  It is fiction.  But the family’s fear remains and fuels the heart of the Daughter of Union County.  :Love, greed, betrayal, murder, the American art form of racial passing, and oil all play out in the lives of Henry Hardin, his wife Bertha, his black servant Salome, and his daughter, Margaret.   The first question in Daughter hinges on Margaret.  Who’s her mother?

Tell me, please, does my family have more oddities than most?  If you’re not quite sure, I’ll drop in a few more tantalizing bits about Margaret Hardin, The Daughter of Union County in the next few days.

 

 

 

So Much to Say

Yes, I know, it’s been a long time.  But, I have not been idle.  I am truly excited about the upcoming release of my newest novel, The Daughter of Union County, but first I’ve got to say a few words about Muhammad Ali.  I know the man is receiving all kinds of accolades today from those who knew him and those who didn’t.  I never knew him but one of my fathers did.

Frank Thomas was an African-American trainer of saddle bred horses–the kind that perform dressage, not run around the racetrack.  By 1964 Frank had  worked his way up from groom to trainer of a major show horse.  That horse, Storm-the-Castle, was in his enclosure with Frank readying for a championship competition in Louisville when Cassius Clay, the newly crowned heavy-weight champion of the world appeared in the company of the governor of Kentucky.  Here’s how Frank told the story to me.

Mr. Clay (yes, the name was still Cassius Clay back then) reached the enclosure where Frank and the horse stood.  Mr. Clay asked Frank if that horse, Storm-the-Castle, could take the title.  Frank turned away from the governor, lowered his voice and whispered to Mr. Clay, “If I was riding him he could, but you know how that is.”

Muhammad Ali in-the-making nodded did know how it was.  He turned to the governor and the race officials accompanying him and pronounced, “You can play this anyway you want but tomorrow, if this man is not allowed to ride that horse in the contest, I’ll make sure the story is front page news in every newspaper in the country.”

My first father put on his formal togs, mounted Storm-the-Castle, entered the ring, took the horse through his elaborate paces and WON the championship!  Now do you see why I’m a writer?  With stories like this, I’ve got material for three lifetimes!

Frank’s story of racial discrimination and Muhammad Ali’s generous intervention remind us of a painful period in American history.  It paints an ugly picture where race, not talent nor skill, was the only thing that counted.  Muhammad Ali and Frank Thomas were black.  So was the heroine of  my next novel, The Daughter of Union County, but she didn’t know it, and no one was allowed to tell her.

Margaret Hardin spend the first twenty-one years of her life living the existence of a privileged Union County, Arkansas belle.  The white skinned girl with the blue eyes and frizzy hair had no idea the standoffish Bertha Hardin was not her biological mother.  How could that be, you ask?  Well Margaret’s father–a man self-styled as the Duke of Union County–understood his legacy.  He carried his family history–descendants of the English Dukes of Norwalk–on his shoulders.  Without an heir from his barren wife the line would die out.  So a desperate Henry and his reluctant mixed-race servant Salome…

Well, you’ll get the idea when you read more of The Daughter of Union County coming out August 1.  Go to my Amazon site and take a peek at the cover.  I’m excited to get your reaction to this very American story.  Maybe I’ll give you another hint or two in a few days.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Changing of the Guard

If you were looking forward to the further adventures of Annalaura, John, Alex, and Eula Mae in A Waltz in Tennessee,  you’ll have to wait a little longer.  BUT if you were looking forward to following the story of a strong black woman warding off life’s blows (Annalaura Welles), then you will be pleased to follow the adventures of another strong woman of color–Salome–as the bi-racial child-woman navigates some mighty troubled waters in The Daughter of Union County.

I am very pleased to announce that this novel, set in Arkansas, is currently in pre-publication with a release date of August 1, 2016.  If you pained for Annalaura, you will feel agony for Salome and the white-skinned baby she bore unwillingly to the white landowner (Henry Hardin) who lived the life of an English aristocrat.

If you think you already know about the American art of racial passing–black into the world of white privilege–you’ll be astounded at the lengths Henry Hardin goes to protect his family’s aristocratic blood lines.  Love, betrayal, greed, oil, intimidation, a horrendous land-grab, and murder percolate the pages of The Daughter of Union County.  I can hardly wait for August.

 Page from a Tennessee Journal and Paris Noire are still on Amazon.  Just google my name: Francine Thomas Howard.  Thanks.

          

Waltz Front CoverIt’s here! Well, part of the follow-up to Page from a Tennessee Journal is online. The books not been hooked up quite yet with my other thimg138ree novels on Amazon but I’ve been assured, IT’S COMING! Can’t contain my excitement
I’ve updated the saga of Annalaura, John, Alex, Eula, and now, Dolly to 1930 with a question posed by John. Which man does Annalaura really love–her husband (the man who once beat her almost senseless), or the white farmer who dares to think he can transgress the Jim Crow laws of Tennessee?
You can best find the paperback by keying the title–a Waltz in Tennessee. I’m hoping you can find it on my Amazon site by typing in my name–Francine Thomas Howard–in a day or two.
One more thing. The kindle addition should be out by August 1st. I’ll keep you posted.
A thousand thanks to all of those who’ve told me you’ve been waiting for the other shoe to drop. So has John Welles.

No, I’ve never lived in the South, and yes, I know I’m treading into dangerous waters.  But as an author of novels with racial themes–Page from a Tennessee Journal, Paris Noire, and my upcoming A Waltz in Tennessee, I’m compelled to say a few words about the events in Charleston.  First, my thoughts and prayers to all those in Charleston.  I, too, am an A.M.E.  The opportunity to follow the TV coverage of the Mother Emanuel church service was surreal.  Though three thousand miles away, I knew the order of service and chimed right in during the call and response readings.

Should the Confederate flag flying over State Houses, et al, stay or go?  I refuse to do a knee-jerk reaction.  Let’s just look at the facts.  The flag defenders, including representatives of the Sons of the Confederacy along with some plain-folk, and presumably, good-hearted white South Carolinians state that the flag does not represent hatred of any one race, but instead, honors the valor of fallen Confederate soldiers.  They nail home their point by claiming, rightfully, the stars and bars are a part of South Carolina’s history.

And they are absolutely right.  The battle flag of Virginia (the technical background of the stars and bars) does, indeed, reflect the history of not only South Carolina, but of all the states involved in rebellion against the lawfully elected government of their country–the United States of America.  Those in rebellion from 1861-1865 lost their bid to overthrow their legally elected representatives.  In my college Civics 101 class back in the stone age, the losing side in a Civil War were called traitors.  The flags of traitors were not displayed  in  places of honor, but retired in disgrace.  But what of valor, you say?

I don’t doubt the majority of the poor white, almost landless, white men who made up the bulk of the grunts who actually carried the battle forward in Antietam and Gettysburg fought with “valor.”  But for what was that valor?  Crawling through mud, eating rotten food, wearing rags, shooting at Yankees–courageous, perhaps–but what was it for?  At its core, that “valor” aimed at keeping my great, great, great grandmother in the bed of her white owner even though she didn’t want to be there.  That “valor” fought to keep my great, great, great Uncle Thaddeus working in a cotton field from sun-up to sun-down with nothing of his own to show for it other than a whip if he protested.  This is the “valor’ with which the Confederate soldier fought.

Yes, the Confederate flag represents history–a southern legacy if you will.  But it is an ugly history.  Much like the 1930s symbol of German power, the swastika, the stars and bars are a legacy best displayed in a museum, not on any State or federally owned property.

I understand many white South Carolinians hold that flag dear.  In memory of your own great, great, great, Uncle Billy Bob, I ask you to take it down as a favor.  Ask yourselves, does you pride in Uncle Billy Bob outweigh the pain of my Uncle Thaddeus.  Do the right thing.

Brugestown, Illinois.  More to follow.