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Archive for the ‘African American literature’ Category

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.

 

 

 

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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.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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No, this is not original to me. The question was asked on Black Authors Showcase. The writer seemed to think yes, but I’ve seen no official feedback.
For my part: yes. In my first novel, Page from a Tennessee Journal, not only did I write from a White perspective, I did it from the perspective of a southern White male night-rider (sometimes known as the Ku Klux Klan). That was fun.
In my follow-up novel (coming in Spring 2015), A Waltz in Tennessee, I’ve slipped into the persona of a second white male–this one not nearly so liberal as my night rider. Am I being presumptuous?

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By now, the world knows of my efforts to complete my interrupted 2011 journey to launch my second novel, Paris Noire. Three years ago, I’d made big plans to give Paris Noire the publicity I felt it deserved. With the help of my cousin, I’d arranged to attend one of her legendary soirees with the famed African-American ex-pat, Patricia LaPlante-Collins. She’d agreed to host me and my friend–the man who inspired Paris Noire–at one of her events attended by the Parisian literati, artist, and other creative types. But, again as the world knows, that trip fell to the fates of a medical mishap.
It shouldn’t take much to imagine my excitement when, after three years, I finally stepped off that plane two weeks ago, Patricia had agreed to meet me and my cousin for a dinner that very night at a Paris restaurant. In the weeks prior to the trip, I had plan my attire down to the soles of my shoes. All had to be in order for this important dinner. Too bad, my airline hadn’t been informed.
As I stood at the baggage carousel in Orly airport looking forlornly at the steel, gray metal plates go round and round with nothing on them, my eyes got weepy. A kind French person took me over the Lost Baggage Department. And there my sad, sad, saga began.
Three days later–an hour and a half before I left Paris for the south of France, my luggage turned up. That’s right. No luggage, no shoes with polished sols, no clothes–I won’t tell you what intimate article I had to borrow from my distressed cousin–no nothing! I went to dinner in my airplane clothes. Did I mention I’d been in transit 18 hours by the time I arrived in Paris.
I skulked behind every Parisian lamp post, hid out behind every old church I could find, ducked behind crowds of Parisians–anything to hide my shabby attire. But to no avail. Cousin and I arrived at The Café St. Victoire near Le Marais. And there she was–Patricia LaPlante-Collins. She was so gracious. Didn’t even mention that I looked like a crumbled up mess. The woman was friendly and warm. The meal was delicious, the wine sumptuous, and the company beyond compare. Vive la France!

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Dinner with Patricia Paris 2014Paris! I did it! Three years to the day of my cancelled 2011 trip, I finally made my way to Paris to do justice to my second novel, Paris Noire. What a magical evening!

I met with Patricia Collins-LaPlante, the wonderful American ex-pat who lives in Paris and hosts spectacular soirees every Sunday. You know of the soirees of old where wealthy Parisiennes hosted the literati and artistic types in their grand salons. Well, Patricia does the 2014 version..
In 2011, she’d offered to host me and my French friend to celebrate the launch of Paris Noire. Unfortunately, my leg had other plans and that venture was aborted. But, never fear, I got my second chance. No, I wasn’t hosted at one of her soirees–our schedules did not mesh–but I enjoyed a wonderful under a starry Paris sky. C’est si bon.
Anyone heading to Paris, I highly recommend attending one of Patricia’s Sunday evening soirees. I’ll give you more details later. For now, just know that I am delighted. My dream finally came true!

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I’ve had so much feedback about Page becoming a movie, I’m thinking about a screenplay. Anybody know how to write one?

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I’m curious about oil strikes in Texas, Louisiana, Arkansas–particularly those that may have occurred on land owned by African-Americans. Most of my writing thus far has come out of family stories. My in-laws have quite the story. Does anyone know anything about the land surrounding the Smackover Strike?

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