Posts Tagged ‘Hilary Holladay’

Almost by accident, I bumped into an author event at the Virginia Festival of the Book yesterday.

“Searching for Home and Life: Fictional Journeys” caught my attention while I was roaming through Barnes and Noble, looking for something to read at the gym. Instead, I stayed to listen to three authors read from their novels.

LaShonda Barnett’s “Jam On the Vine” is a coming-of-age story that takes place in the Jim Crow South. Barnett wanted to depict a “normal” Black family, not some dreary, dysfunctional stereotype. She told us that before Plessy vs Ferguson there were 20 Black universities, all in the South, and she brings to life a family that revered the written word. Her young heroine becomes a journalist, moving from Texas to Missouri in the process. I loved the way Barnett spoke about her characters, how they came to life, almost of their own accord. When I mentioned her voice was so beautiful she should record the audio book herself, she told me Phylicia Rashad had just finished doing it!                              http://www.npr.org/2015/02/08/384695774/black-and-female-in-jim-crow-era-a-reporter-in-kansas-citys-vine

Hiary Holladay’s “Tipton” is about a young woman searching for her departed husband. She starts her journey at the Tipton Home, an orphanage in Oklahoma, traveling by car to Virginia with her best friend. Holladay told us she was commuting to James Madison University, a treacherous trip in the winter over Afton mountain, while she dreamed and wrote about her characters’ road trip. Her voice gave us a hint of her melodious language skills, later I found out she was also a poet, which didn’t surprise me. The action takes place in the 30s, the same time period of the Flapper’s story. I asked Holladay is she was able to speak with anyone, or knew of someone, from that orphanage. She said she hadn’t, which made me think of my half-sister Shirley and brother Brian. How poor single, widowed women had to use an orphanage like a pawn shop for their children for centuries. This is an intriguing novel I can’t wait to start.                                           http://hilaryholladay.com/2014/12/19/how-i-wrote-tipton-2/

Katia Ulysse presented us with her novel, “Drifting”, a collection of stories she likened to leaves, drifting to the ground in a haphazard way, that is also well choreographed. Ulysse is an ESL teacher who is also an immigrant herself from Haiti, At times her native language, Creole, would take over her writing; as she told us, some words defy an easy translation. Her heroine is packing, eager to reunite with her husband in the United States, and we immediately feel her urgency, and her pain. “…in their drifting, they find not only their progenitor, but themselves by way of artificially produced calamities and natural disasters. Thus, no matter how far one drifts, one will always find himself or herself back home to an ethereal world created within the solace of one’s mind and heart despite misfortune, pain, and suffering.”                                               http://www.blackstarnews.com/entertainment/books/books-katia-d-ulysses-drifting.html

What is home to you? What kind of courage does it take to risk it all and set off on a journey? And are we ever too old for a second or third act? Barnett told me her heroine was an accidental journey woman, that “…that’s the best kind.”

I thought of my “accidental” stop at this event. and I thought of my Mother, the fearless Flapper, moving deliberately from PA to NJ to be closer to me, her last child. In doing that, she ensured my vista would expand beyond the lilac tree outside my bedroom window. Home isn’t a place, it’s the smell of lilacs and the touch of Bob’s hand.


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