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Friday, March 28, 2014

Visiting a Book Club Long Distance

Had a lovely adventure on Thursday morning, March 20, 2014 with the Daytime Book Group of the Faculty and Spouse Club of Georgia Regents University in Augusta, Georgia.

Lee in Iowa and Becky in Georgia
And I didn't even have to leave home to do it.

My daughter, Becky Delecuona has been active in the group for many years and when my novel Too Much Left Unsaid  came out last summer she suggested that it would be fun to have me come down and meet with her book club. When the group scheduled my book for March (and especially this March when winter has just gone crazy all over the country) we considered whether a drive from Pella, Iowa, to August, Georgia would be a good idea. NOT.

So we began making alternative plans. Jacqui Allison was scheduled to host the group and she was a most gracious hostess. I missed the treats, but enjoyed the company via Skype.

  •  Jacqui set up a Skype connection and AppleTV so that pictures from her Mac computer could be shown on her TV screen. 
  •  Barb Ashton, my housemate and technology guru, got me set up on Skype in our dining room.
  • Jacqui and I checked out the connections a week in advance.
  • Tuesday morning, we had a lovely chat about writing, history, my book, and life in the mid-twentieth century.
Book Clubbers of the world. This is your opportunity to invite a not-quite-world-famous author (ME) to come to your meeting and chat about books. I even have a set of questions about my book that I would gladly send to you. You might even see me post a few questions on this blog. 

Saturday, March 22, 2014

Another History Lesson (Part 2)

                 A few days ago I blogged about "Bloody Sunday," when civil rights advocates began an aborted march from Selma to Montgomery, Alabama, to petition for voting rights that were being denied to African American citizens.  On that day, April 7, 1965, police and state troopers attacked the marchers, and three days later three white ministers were beaten by mobs and one, James Reeb of Boston died of his injuries.
            I used the events in my novel Too Much Left Unsaid when I told of fictional minister Aaron Connors' decision to be part of the third attempt to make the march on March 21.
            Aaron told his congregation that he would go down to Alabama to take part in the march and invited anyone interested to accompany him. He went alone, but met there his nephew Eddie's best friend, Dar Jones, a black law student from Howard Law School.

        Below is another section from my book:

        "On Thursday, March 25, 25,000 people reached the State Capitol Building where Dr. King delivered an address. He spoke of "a society at peace with itself, a society that can live with its conscience...."He concluded by promising, "I know you are asking today, How long will it take? I come to say to you this afternoon however difficult the moment, however frustrating the hour, it will not be long."
        Twenty-five thousand people do not disperse in a hurry. Some marched back along the way they had come or away in various directions satisfied with the outcome. Others hitched rides or rode in cars provided by volunteers like Viola Liuzzo back to Selma. Dar and Aaron returned to the campus at the St. Jude Educational Institute, a private Roman Catholic high school on the outskirts of Montgomery where they had camped on the final evening of the march. Aaron found a pay phone to call Joan [his wife] reporting their elation, but also their bone-tired fatigue. He told her he would start back in the morning.   
        Later on, while Aaron sat listening to his portable radio, Dar called Parkersville to talk to his sister, Sophie. "You should've been there, Soph! People were screaming and laughing and dancing in the street. Dr. King speaks the hopes of our generation. Last night Eddie's Uncle Aaron and I camped at this Catholic church and school and Harry Belafonte and Sammy Davis Jr. sang for us. Peter, Paul and Mary, and Frankie Laine, and Tony Bennett. Today we finished the march and listened to Dr. King speak. After the beatings and arrests and strain, this actually did feel like we shall overcome at last."
        Sophie was watching on television some of the footage of the day's events as she talked to her brother. "Dar! Wait! there's a news flash coming on now. Oh, my God! Listen! Here's what they are saying: Viola Liuzzo, a Detroit mother of five who was assisting with the march, was murdered by four members of the Ku Klux Klan. More news to come..."
        "Viola? Murdered? No-oo! That's awful! I met her, Soph! She was at the hospitality desk in Brown Chapel. We talked together. She was at the first aid station yesterday and today. She drove back and forth taking people where they needed to be. Eddie's Uncle Aaron knew her. Are you sure what you heard?"
        "More news to come is all they are saying now. Mama's frantic that you're down there. Do you think it was worth the struggle?"
        Dar left the question unanswered as he turned around and looked at Aaron. Aaron sat with his head in his hand, having just heard the same news from the radio.
        "Got to go, Soph. Tell Mama I'm safe. I'll get back to school as soon as I can. I'll call from DC."
        Aaron looked up when Dar tapped his shoulder. Tears streamed down his face. Dar scowled, too angry to be sad yet.
        "Is it worth it, Rev. Connors? No one seemed to care when only black people died. Now we have people's attention, what's next?"
        Aaron drew a deep breath. "I can't answer your question, Dar. I wish I could. What I would want is for the nation to be upset when anybody is killed. If God is carrying his purpose out, it seems too many lives are being wasted in the process."

There is more to Dar and Aaron's story. I wrote in my novel. But the historical background includes these facts:

·         Viola Liuzzo was a real person, a mother from Detroit, who helped with the march and was murdered on that night.
·         Martin Luther King's words are quoted from the speech he gave on March 25 at Montgomery.
·         Harry Belafonte, Sammy Davis Jr., Peter, Paul and Mary, Frankie Laine, and Tony Bennett actually did perform at the campground of the St. Jude Catholic High School outside Montgomery on Wednesday night.

The events of that month in Alabama did catch the attention of people around the nation and a voting rights bill was passed by Congress in the summer of 1965.

Saturday, March 8, 2014

Another history lesson: Bloody Sunday, March 7, 1965 (Part 1)

On March 7, 1965, forty-nine years ago yesterday, events came together in Selma, Alabama, which passed into history as "Bloody Sunday." I wrote about this event and the weeks that followed in my novel Too Much Left Unsaid. Here is the beginning of my chapter, featuring the son of my protagonist, Mattie Connors.
            Aaron Connors, pastor of White Grove Presbyterian Church, believed in God and country, in equal rights for all citizens, regardless of skin color, to vote and live and work where they pleased. Aaron's congregation, on the other hand, didn't always appreciate his challenging words from the pulpit. From time to time the Board of Elders, ordained to oversee the spiritual life of the congregation, listened to complaints about Aaron's activities in promoting Negro rights.
                Aaron was aware of the unrest in his congregation, but he still felt it was his responsibility to preach and act as he believed God wanted. He paid special attention to what was happening in Selma, Alabama. On Sunday, March 7, 1965, John Lewis, chairman of SNCC, and Hosea Williams from the Southern Christian Leadership Council scheduled a peaceful march from Selma to the state capital in Montgomery to petition for protection of blacks who were being attacked when they tried to register to vote. Governor George Wallace vowed to halt the marchers. He called out the state troopers to stop them.
                The evening of the march, Aaron and his wife Joan sat in their manse watching network television. What was shown on television shocked them. The marchers moved peacefully until Alabama state troopers assaulted them with flailing billy clubs, stampeding horses, tear gas, and bull whips. People fell and were dragged along, turning the peaceful protest bloody. By the end of the night sixteen marchers were hospitalized.
                 Immediately after "Bloody Sunday," as it became known, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., along with SNCC and the SCLC, issued a call to action. They asked clergy and laypeople from across the country to come to Selma for a second attempt to march to Montgomery on Tuesday, March 9. Many hundreds of people accepted the call.

 Aaron did not answer that call, though he participated in a supporting rally in Detroit. The 2,500 marchers who did assemble were prevented by a court order from marching out of town, but Dr. King and Rev. Lewis held a short prayer session and led the group as far as the Edmund Pettus Bridge, They then turned the marchers back in obedience to the restraining order.

            Many of the younger marchers felt cheated at not being able to complete the march. White racists, disturbed seeing the northerners butting into their way of life, felt just as frustrated. Many fights broke out. Later that evening three white ministers were beaten, and one, James Reeb from Boston, died from his injuries two days later.
                When Aaron heard the news of a fellow minister's death he wept. "It's unacceptable for me to watch from this far away," he muttered. With repeated coverage of the violence on his television screen, Aaron paced the floor, alternately angry and sorrowful. "Next time," he vowed when the news reported Rev. Reeb's murder, "I will be there."

In a follow-up blog this month I will continue both the historical report and my imaginary take on how this particular civil rights struggle affected my fictional characters.