When my father was fifteen he packed his clothes in a cardboard suitcase, and, over his mother’s tearful objections, caught the bus from Elton, his tiny hometown in the heart of South Louisiana’s rice country, across the border to Port Arthur, Texas, a port town at the mouth of the Gulf of Mexico. It was home to the nation’s largest oil refinery. He moved in with his uncle, Madison Baszile, and finished high school in Port Arthur.
Madison was the most important man in my father’s life. He initiated him into the world of men offering advice on everything from love, sex, and marriage (“Before you marry, go three deep,” which meant before you tie yourself down, research the person’s family back three generations, so you’ll know what kind of people you’re really dealing with) to financial matters (“Never touch the lump” — which meant save your money, spending only the interest you earn, if you have to, but never the principal — an idea he overheard while moonlighting as a cook for the white oil executives at Texaco).
Read the rest of the post here: DOWN WIND
Kima Jones, who owns the publicity company Jack Jones Literary Arts, says, “There needs to be more women of color in publishing, in positions of power, period. As I see other book clubs and speaking series, reading series, organizations pop up that are dedicated to writers of color, queer writers, disabled writers, other marginalized writers, I’m like: yeah, do that! This is what we need.”
As a publicist, Jones is an expert in culturally specific marketing. The agency partners exclusively with writers who have been historically underrepresented in publishing; her client roster includes the New York Times bestselling novelist Dolen Perkins-Valdez, contemporary young-adult author Lilliam Rivera, and the writer and activist Sarah Schulman, among others. She also represents Kimbilio, an organization that supports and develops fiction writers from the African diaspora.
Read the full post on NPR’s Code Switch Blog: Kima Jones on Diversity in Book Publishing
Ravi will be a featured presenter at the Kimbilio/SMU Litfest Reading on October 15th. Save the date!
The Burden of History: an Interview with Ravi Howard
“Growing up in Montgomery, I heard stories about the Civil Rights Movement from people who never became famous. That experience had an impact on my storytelling.”
I met novelist Ravi Howard at last year’s Callaloo conference, held in Atlanta, then again at the Minneapolis AWP conference this spring, where Ravi kindly gave me a copy of his second novel, Driving the King.
Driving the King opens in Montgomery, Alabama, in 1945. Rising star and favorite son Nat King Cole returns for a rare hometown performance. Cole begins the show with a number helping an old friend propose to his gal, but is immediately attacked onstage by a half-dozen white men. Before they can do any serious damage to Cole, that old friend—returning soldier, Nathaniel Weary—leaps from the balcony to rescue him, pummeling one of Cole’s attackers. After the fracas, Weary gets ten years in prison, losing his girl and his sense of self. But he doesn’t lose his old friend: as Weary’s release nears, Cole sends an emissary to offer him a job as his driver and bodyguard out in Los Angeles, where Cole—by 1955, one of the world’s biggest-selling pop stars—is about to be the first African-American to host his own national television show.
Read the rest of the rest of the intro and the interview here:
A HOSTILE ENVIRONMENT
When I asked an employee at a hotel in Richmond, Virginia for directions to the Museum of the Confederacy, he gave me a strange look. “Are you sure you want to go there?” I understood the skepticism of this African American man in his smart bellman’s uniform. Black folks generally tend to stay away from memorials to the “Lost Cause.”
“Yes, I’m sure. Can you please tell me how to get there?” I said with appropriate southern politeness.
I was in Richmond attending an “African Americans and the Civil War” conference and researching for my new novel about people rebuilding their lives after the war. I took off for the museum on foot. As I walked, I could feel that tingle I get when I am about to do research. I would get a chance to see some muskets up close, some uniforms. For a historical novelist, a museum is the best opportunity to confirm accurate period details.
Read the rest of the article here: http://the-toast.net/2015/06/25/a-hostile-environment/
In 2011, Washington writer Dolen Perkins-Valdez published “Wench,” an unsparing look at the brutal relationships between Southern plantation owners and the slaves they kept as mistresses. She captured the horrific treatment of these women even as they attempted to maintain their dignity. And now, in her second novel, “Balm,” she tells an equally moving story set in post-Civil War Chicago.
When the Civil War ended and former slaves were able to travel, many of them migrated north in search of work in cities where communities of emancipated blacks were thriving. Perkins-Valdez brings together three memorable characters who, if the War Between the States had not taken place, never would have come together.
Read the rest of the review here: http://www.washingtonpost.com/entertainment/books/balm-by-dolen-perkins-valdez/2015/06/08/a415ec6a-0887-11e5-a7ad-b430fc1d3f5c_story.html
Dolen Perkins-Valdez wants to change readers’ perspective on the Civil War. Her best-selling debut novel, Wench, explored the lives of slave women — not on Southern plantations, but in a resort for slaveowners’ mistresses in Ohio. Her new book, Balm, is set in the post-war period, and it’s also in an unexpected place: Chicago.
Listen to or read the rest of the story here: http://www.npr.org/2015/06/06/411813657/balm-looks-at-civil-war-after-the-battles-outside-the-south