Alison Mills Newman’s 1974 Novel FRANCISO Has Been Republished

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Alison Mills Newman can’t remember exactly what she was doing that day in Berkeley, Calif. — it was so long ago, the early 1970s — when her novel got discovered for the first time. She knows she’d been writing in the kitchen but got distracted and left. When she got back, her boyfriend was talking with their friend, the writer Ishmael Reed. Reed had been leafing through the pages Newman had left on the table.

The manuscript drew on her life story so far: As a teen actress, she’d found success at an early age, including roles on “The Leslie Uggams Show” and Diahann Carroll’s pioneering sitcom “Julia.” “I was very detailed, very focused, disciplined,” Mills Newman said. But by her early 20s, she got fed up with Hollywood — with its limited roles, the sexual advances of producers — and abandoned it for New York. There she found an artistic scene that had more space for her varied talents, and for the talent of Black women in general. She wrote poetry, acted in Amiri Baraka’s theater and, as a singer, opened for Ornette Coleman. And, centrally for the eventual manuscript, she went on a trip to Berkeley and fell in love with a filmmaker. The book on the table, published as a novel in 1974, was ultimately named after him: “Francisco.”

From the Washington Post Article on the re-release of Alison Mills Newman’s 1974 novel Francisco


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