Hailed as "powerful," "accomplished," and "spellbinding," Lalita Tademy's first novel Cane River was a New York Times bestseller and the 2001 Oprah Book Club Summer Selection. Now with her evocative, luminous style and painstaking research, she takes her family's story even further, back to a little-chronicled, deliberately-forgotten time...and the struggle of three extraordinary generations of African-American men to forge brutal injustice and shattered promise into a limitless future for their children... RED RIVER
For the newly-freed black residents of Colfax, Louisiana, the beginning of Reconstruction promised them the right to vote, own property-and at last control their own lives.
Tademy saw a chance to start a school for his children and neighbors. His friend Israel Smith was determined to start a community business and gain economic freedom. But in the space of a day, marauding whites would "take back" Colfax in one of the deadliest cases of racial violence in the South. In the bitter aftermath, Sam and Israel's fight to recover and build their dreams will draw on the best they and their families have to give-and the worst they couldn't have foreseen. Sam's hidden resilience will make him an unexpected leader, even as it puts his conscience and life on the line. Israel finds ironic success-and the bitterest of betrayals. And their greatest challenge will be to pass on to their sons and grandsons a proud heritage never forgotten-and the strength to meet the demands of the past and future in their own unique ways.
An unforgettable achievement, a history brought to vibrant life through one of the most memorable families in fiction, RED RIVER is about fathers and sons, husbands and wives-and the hopeful, heartbreaking choices we all must make to claim the legacy that is ours.
Starred Review. Four generations of African-American Southerners claw their way up from the ruins of Reconstruction in this engrossing family saga by the author of the bestselling Cane River. Tademy begins with a harrowing recreation of the notorious 1873 massacre at Colfax, La., where 150 blacks, gathered in defense of local Republican officials--and their own citizenship--were killed by white supremacists. Her narrative continues into the 1930s with a fictionalized chronicle of her forebears in the Tademy and Smith clans as they struggle against poverty, buy land and pursue their dream of starting a school for African-American children, their progress challenged by floods, hunting accidents and the Ku Klux Klan. It's an unabashed story of racial uplift (sample dialogue: " 'We getting old, and it up to us to move the race forward'"), but there's plenty of drama and grit to keep it from becoming cloying. Through her characters, the author paints an indelible portrait of rural life under Jim Crow, built around backbreaking farm labor, blood ties that bind and chafe, and the omnipresent fear of a capricious white racism that can undo in a moment the work of a lifetime. Combining family anecdotes with historical research and a rich imagination, Tademy crafts another American epic. Photos. (Jan. 3) Copyright (c) Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. -- PUBLISHERS WEEKLY.
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Grand Central Publishing
January 02, 2007
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Excerpt from Red River by Lalita Tademy
Come closer. This is not a story to go down easy, and the backwash still got hold of us today. The history of a family. The history of a country. From bondage to the joy of freedom, and almost ten hopeful years drinking up the promise of Reconstruction, and then back into the darkness, so fearsome don't nobody want to talk about the scary time. Don't nobody want to remember even now, decades removed, now things better some. Why stir up all that old mess from way back in 1873? I don't hold with that point of view. I was there, watching, like all the women done, up close some of the time but mostways from a distance. They all dead and buried now. I outlast each one, using up my time on earth and some of theirs too. One hundred last birthday, trapped in this wasted body. All I do now is remember and pray the story don't get lost forever. It woulda suit Lucy fine, everybody forgetting. Lucy and me, that the only thing we usta argue about, when we was both clear-minded and had more juice to work up, but those talks never last too long. She just shut her mouth and shut her mind, refusing the truth. I still got heat around the subject, but where to put it now? Lucy gone last year. She turn one hundred five before she left this earth. Was two of us held on for such a long time, me and Lucy. Outlasting our men-our husbands, our sons, even some grandsons. We all had it hard, but the men, they had it worse, 'specially those what come up on life from the front. Women is the long-livers at the base of the Tademy family tree.
They don't teach 1873 at the colored school. Wasn't for my husband, wouldn't be no colored school for Colfax, Louisiana. That the kind of man Sam Tademy was. Could carry a vision in his head and stick to it no matter what the discouragement. Some men good providers, got a way with the soil or a trade. Some men been given a singing voice take you to glory, or magic in they bodies to move in dance and make you feel alive. Some men so pretty you gaze on them with hunger, or so smooth they get hold of words and make you believe any nonsense come out they mouth. Some got the gift to make you laugh out loud, and others preach strong and spread the word of God. My man, Sam, he quiet after his own way, look after his family, not afraid of the tug of the plow. He done some preaching, and some teaching, but always thinking about the rest of the colored. Not wanting to get too far ahead without pulling forward everyone else willing to work hard at the same time. Education mean everything to that man. Once he set his head on a colored school in Colfax, wasn't nothing could crush the notion. He mortgage his own sons to the plan, and it come to pass.
We been writ out the history of this town. They got a metal marker down to the courthouse tell a crazy twisting of what really happen Easter Sunday sixty year ago. The ones with the upper hand make a story fit how they want, and tell it so loud people tricked to thinking it real, but writing down don't make it so. The littlest colored child in Colfax, Louisiana, know better than to speak the truth of that time out loud, but the real stories somehow carry forward, generation to generation. Those of us what was there catch a retold whisper, and just the mention got the power to stir up those old troubles in our minds again like they fresh, and the remembering lay a clamp over our hearts. But we need to remember. Truth matters. What our colored men try to do for the rest of us in Colfax matter. They daren't be forgot. We women keep the wheel spinning, birthing the babies and holding together a decent home to raise them in. We take care of them what too young or too old to take care of theyself, while our menfolks does battle how they got to in a world want to see them broke down and tame.