UPDATE: The winner is…Alison Rush!
Happy New Year everyone,
In One Breath Away, my heroine, Mary Hamilton, is an excellent cook who dreams of one day owning her own restaurant. She does not let her life as a former slave determine her destiny. I do my best to depict heroines who have believable flaws yet are resilient. African-American history provides me with many women upon whom I can base them. One such woman is Maggie Lena Walker, the first African-American woman bank president.
The years following the demise of Reconstruction were ones of enormous setbacks to the civil rights of the newly freed as well as those who had never been enslaved. Yet despite laws rolling back their rights and violence from groups like the Ku Klux Klan, African-Americans progressed because of people like Maggie Lena Walker.
She was born Maggie Lena Mitchell in 1864 in Richmond, Virginia. She was able to attend public schools established for African-Americans in the 1870s and trained as a teacher. She taught for three years but had to resign because she got married.
In 1881, she joined an African-American fraternal society, the Independent Order of Saint Luke, which like other fraternal orders worked for the social and financial advancement of their African-American communities. For sixteen years, she held various positions in the Order, and after becoming its General Secretary, took the organization from bankruptcy to solvency in the twenty-five years she held the position.
In 1901, she shared her vision to charter a bank, start a newspaper, and open a department store. All three came to pass. In 1903 the Saint Luke Penny Savings Bank opened its doors thus making her the first African-American female bank president. She is quoted as saying, “Let us have a bank that will take the nickels and turn them into dollars.” Her bank merged with two other banks to become the Consolidated Bank and Trust Company in 1930. It weathered the storm of the Great Depression when many other banks closed and remained the oldest Black-owned bank in continuous operation until 2005.
Despite personal tragedies and failing health, Maggie continued to model and encourage self-sufficiency in her African-American community until her death in 1934. You can learn more about this remarkable woman in Muriel Miller Branch’s article at https://encyclopediavirginia.org.
When I learn about women like Maggie Lena Walker, I am mindful of Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie’s TED talk, “The Danger of a Single Story.” Adichie warns that “if we only hear a single story about a person or country, we risk a critical misunderstanding.” Writing characters like Mary Hamilton who mirror the resilience and resolve of women like Maggie Lena Walker is my way of thwarting the danger inherent in a single story.
For a chance to win a $10 Amazon gift card, share in the comments fictional characters you’ve encountered who have help you thwart the danger of a single story.
One Breath Away
Sentenced to hang for a crime she didn’t commit, former slave Mary Hamilton was exonerated at literally the last gasp. She returns to Safe Haven, broken and resigned to live alone. Never having been courted, cuddled or spooned, Mary now fears any kind of physical intimacy when arousal forces her to relive the asphyxiation of her hanging. But then the handsome stranger who saved her shows up, stealing her breath from across the room and promising so much more.
Wealthy freeborn-Black Eban Thurman followed Mary to Safe Haven, believing a relationship with Mary was foretold by the stars. He must marry her to reclaim his family farm. But first he must help her heal, and to do that means revealing his own predilection for edgier sex.
Then just as Eban begins to win Mary’s trust, an enemy from the past threatens to keep them one breath away from love…
Excerpt from One Breath Away…
Home at last, she’d see if meeting Eban meant this night would be good.
Since her ordeal, her sex rivaled the Chihuahuan Desert in dryness. Yet Eban’s gaze had summoned the fragrant flow that even now moistened her core. Could it be her body had finally healed? She swayed, dizzy with expectation.
The squeak of the indoor pump provided no distraction from the lingering tingle where Eban’s fingers had rested against her spine, where his lips had kissed her hand. She focused on her task to temper her excitement.
Fill the bucket. Lift the bucket. Carry the bucket. Empty the bucket. Fill the bucket. Lift the bucket. Carry the bucket. Empty the bucket.
The pans she filled slowly simmered then steamed on her small, pot-bellied stove.
Her heart seized as she fingered the simple gingham curtains covering Harvest Home’s windows. Harvest Home’s humble kitchen contrasted sharply with the trappings that had graced Mary’s Manor, her Weston restaurant expansion.
She’d looked up the word manor and decided her place would imitate that kind of luxury as much as possible. Brocaded drapes and white, linen tablecloths had dressed up the Manor’s supper room. Slipcovers made from the same linen covered the cushioned chairs. White, bone china and delicate silverware completed the picture of elegant dining she hoped to draw.
A Franklin stove, indoor pump, double sink, polished counter tops and spacious storage cupboards made the Manor’s kitchen a dream made true. Nothing lacked for the grand opening. Picturing couples enjoying themselves in her simple but elegant setting had become her favorite pastime.
Then Judah Little and his lies thwarted her plans. Thwarted. A good word. A true word.
“But not for long,” she whispered. “That dream will come true just as this dream might come true tonight.”