Happy Labor Day! I love September, the cooler weather, the leaves changing colors and it’s my birthday month. My birthday month means I get to spoil myself this month which usually involves a whole lot of chocolate, coffee, planner, paper & pen goodies and of course….BOOKS! September also means it is time for #30Authors, a fabulous book event where authors are featured and bring their favorite recent reads to book blogs. It’s my turn to host Author Vanessa Hua for #30Authors today who is reviewing Grace by Natshia: Deon today for us. Let’s see what Vanessa has to say about this amazing piece of historical fiction by this talented debut author.
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But First…What is #30Authors, You Ask?
#30Authors is an event started by The Book Wheel that connects readers, bloggers, and authors. In it, 30 authors review their favorite recent reads on 30 blogs in 30 days. It takes place annually during the month of September and has been met with incredible support from and success in the literary community. It has also been turned into an anthology*, which is currently available on Amazon and all author proceeds go to charity. Previous #30Authors contributors include Celeste Ng, Cynthia Bond, Brian Panowich, and M.O. Walsh. To see this year’s full line-up, visit www.thebookwheelblog.com/30authorsor follow along on Twitter @30Authors.
About Grace by Natashia Deon
Synopsis of Grace from Goodreads:
For a runaway slave in the 1840s south, life on the run can be just as dangerous as life under a sadistic Massa. That’s what fifteen-year-old Naomi learns after she escapes the brutal confines of life on an Alabama plantation. Striking out on her own, she must leave behind her beloved Momma and sister Hazel and take refuge in a Georgia brothel run by a freewheeling, gun-toting Jewish madam named Cynthia. There, amidst a revolving door of gamblers, prostitutes, and drunks, Naomi falls into a star-crossed love affair with a smooth-talking white man named Jeremy who frequents the brothel’s dice tables all too often.
The product of Naomi and Jeremy’s union is Josey, whose white skin and blonde hair mark her as different from the other slave children on the plantation. Having been taken in as an infant by a free slave named Charles, Josey has never known her mother, who was murdered at her birth. Josey soon becomes caught in the tide of history when news of the Emancipation Proclamation reaches the declining estate and a day of supposed freedom quickly turns into a day of unfathomable violence that will define Josey—and her lost mother—for years to come.
Deftly weaving together the stories of Josey and Naomi—who narrates the entire novel unable to leave her daughter alone in the land of the living—Grace is a sweeping, intergenerational saga featuring a group of outcast women during one of the most compelling eras in American history. It is a universal story of freedom, love, and motherhood, told in a dazzling and original voice set against a rich and transporting historical backdrop.
Buy Grace on Amazon* (get it FREE with an Audible Trial)
Book Review: Grace by Natashia Deon
Set in Alabama before, during and in the aftermath of the Civil War, Natashia Deón’s Grace is the deeply moving story of Naomi, a pregnant runaway teenage slave who is murdered and gives birth in the opening pages of the novel.
Unwilling to leave her daughter, Naomi narrates in her death. She watches and worries over Josey, blonde and light skinned. Rape and violence has stalked generations of this family, as we learn in Naomi’s flashbacks that reveal her love for her mother and sister, the plantation brutality she was force to flee, and the refuge she finds in a brothel with the mercurial Cynthia, who has haunting secrets of her own.
In an interview, Deón described how she’d written the story as a screenplay years ago. Though she worked at great length to transform it into this sweeping novel, you can sense its cinematic origins in the suspenseful, intensely visual way that scenes unfold. Deon casts an unflinching eye on that era, which has handed down a legacy that our society still grapples with today.
We also get a strong visceral sense of Naomi, despite her ghostly form. We learn of her pain, her suffering, her love for her daughter – it’s a powerful reclamation of the black female body commodified in the slave master’s ledger or in the calculating gleam of a lover’s eye. “My baby was my hesitation. There were things I still need to tell her. That she’s beautiful. That she’s loved. That’s there a God who loves her.” And – most poignantly – “That there’s me.”
Josey will never know her mother’s story, or her grandmother’s. Orphaned and vulnerable, she finds her way in the world, finding the strength to go on after she becomes a mother herself. Grace reveals the enduring power of a mother’s love – a love that offers hope for us all.
About Author Vanessa Hua
Vanessa Hua is the author of Deceit and Other Possibilities, winner of the Willow Books Literature Grand Prize (September 2016). She is a columnist for the San Francisco Chronicle and her novels are forthcoming from Ballantine. For nearly two decades, she has been writing about Asia and the diaspora. She received a Rona Jaffe Foundation Writers’ Award, the San Francisco Foundation’s James D. Phelan Award for Fiction, and a Steinbeck Fellowship in Creative Writing at San Jose State University. Her work has appeared in The Atlantic, The New York Times, PRI’s The World, ZYZZYVA, Guernica, and elsewhere. She lives in the Bay Area with her husband and twin boys.
Synopsis of Deceit and Other Possibilities from Goodreads:
In this powerful debut collection, Vanessa Hua gives voice to immigrant families navigating a new America. Tied to their ancestral and adopted homelands in ways unimaginable in generations past, these memorable characters straddle both worlds but belong to none.
From a Hong Kong movie idol fleeing a sex scandal, to an obedient daughter turned Stanford imposter, to a Chinatown elder summoned to his village, to a Korean-American pastor with a secret agenda, the characters in these ten stories vividly illustrate the conflict between self and society, tradition and change. In “What We Have is What We Need,” winner of The Atlantic student fiction prize, a boy from Mexico reunites with his parents in San Francisco. When he suspects his mother has found love elsewhere, he fights to keep his family together.
With insight and wit, she writes about what wounds us and what we must survive. Her searing stories explore the clash of cultures and the complex, always shifting allegiances that we carry in ourselves, our family, and our community. DECEIT AND OTHER POSSIBILITIES marks the emergence of a remarkable new writer.
Wow, thank you Vanessa for bringing us Grace, it sounds like a compelling and haunting read with a heartbreakingly real look at the life of slaves during the American Civil War. It sounds like a difficult and worthwhile read for those of us who enjoy historical fiction. Similarly, Deceit and Other Possibilities explores the immigrant experience. As a child of immigrants myself, I enjoy reading books that show the challenges immigrants face in their search for a better life for themselves and their families.
Thanks to Allison from The Book Wheel for bringing these talented diverse authors to my blog. If you enjoy reading challenges like I do, Grace and Deceit and Other Possibilities would qualify for Historical Fiction Reading Challenge, Diversity on My Shelf Reading Challenge and Travel the World in Books too! I can’t wait to read these books and see what else #30Authors has in store for this month. My TBR list always explodes with the amazing recommendations from these fabulous authors.