Recently I reviewed and raved about the novel titled The Kitchen House by Kathleen Grissom. I was really touched and inspired by this novel, and I reached out to the publisher to see if I could help promote the book some more by offering my faithful followers a giveaway of the book. So they sent me two more copies of the book, and this guest post from the author. The novel is available now, try Amazon or DeepDiscount.
Who am I, a white woman, to write about African American slavery? My book, The Kitchen House, is a story that is written in first person by two narrators – one, an Irish indentured servant girl, and the other an eighteen-year-old biracial (African and Caucasian) woman. I am a Caucasian woman, a Canadian, (who lives) whose home is now in southern Virginia.
When I began the book, I was so involved in the process of writing the story that I did not consider a possible controversy. However, as I told others of my project, more than one Caucasian friend asked me if I wasn’t concerned about a possible negative response from the African American community – their objection being that as a white woman I was not equipped to write about the experience of slavery.
I sought out and spoke about my concerns to an old African American woman, whose ancestors had been slaves. She listened carefully and then counseled me. “Just tell the truth,” she said. “Do good research and tell what really happened. We are all human beings and you’re writing about human beings. Everyone has the same feelings.”
The beginning of The Kitchen House came to me unexpectedly one day as I sat to do my daily journaling. It was based on a notation that I had recently seen on an old map that read ‘Negro Hill’. Those words haunted me and every day I would ask myself, “What could have happened there?” This particular day, after my morning meditation, I sat down to do my daily journaling and something unusual happened. It was as though a movie began to play out in my mind’s eye. I picked up my pencil and began to follow along. I saw the characters as surely as if they were alive, but what differed from actual reality was that I not only saw the characters, I felt them.
Simply put, I was in them, or, some would say, they were in me. I intrinsically understood what motivated each of the characters and I loved them as much for their failings as for their courage. I cheered them on and watched in dismay as they suffered.
But they were in charge. I could not change their story. From the beginning I learned that if I tried to change an event when I couldn’t bear the thought of an upcoming trauma, the story would stop. My characters drove the story forward but it had to be their experience in their own voice. I felt what they felt, but I did not speak for them, nor did I decide their fate. It’s true, I did my homework. But the mountains of research I did was picked through and used spontaneously by the characters as they had need of it, almost always surprising me when they did so.
Although after years of research I gained a good deal of knowledge and insight about both subjects, I did not intend this story to be a voice for the African American slave experience, nor as a voice for the indentured Irish. Rather, I wrote a story about a group of human beings who lived lives that were filled with trauma and love and indescribable courage. They happened to have been slaves, indentured servants and a family living on a plantation in 1790.
What I came away with, after finishing the book, was a renewed belief in the human spirit and in particular, an awe-like feeling of admiration for the ancestors of the African American people. This story, for me, was a spiritual gift.
Thank you so much for this post, Mrs. Grissom!
And now for my lucky followers in the USA, I have two copies of her book up for grabs.
Leave a comment with your email address telling me about your thoughts of slavery or what you have read that included the topic in some way; or tell me what attracts you to this story that Kathleen Grissom has written.
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Giveaway ends on April 16th.