River, Cross My Heart Celebrates 20 years

River, Cross My Heart, the Oprah Book Club selection and debut novel by Breena Clarke celebrates twenty years since its publication. It’s now available in River, Cross My Heart Kindle edition.

River, Cross My Heart

“A genuine masterpiece … full of grace and beauty and profound insights … RIVER, CROSS MY HEART bears traces of Eudora Welty’s charm and Toni Morrison’s passion.” — The Baltimore Sun

Five-year-old Clara Bynum is dead, drowned in the Potomac River in the shadow of a seemingly haunted rock outcropping known locally as the Three Sisters. River, Cross My Heart weighs the effect of Clara’s absence on the people she has left behind: her parents, Alice and Willie Bynum, torn between the old world of their rural North Carolina home and the new world of the city, to which they have moved in search of a better life for themselves and their children; the friends and relatives of the Bynum family in the Georgetown neighborhood they now call home; and, most especially, Clara’s sister, ten-year-old Johnnie Mae, who must come to terms with the powerful and confused emotions stirred by her sister’s death as she struggles to decide what kind of woman she will become.

Legends abound that the Potomac River is a widowmaker, a childtaker, and a woman-swallower. According to the most famous tale, the river has already swallowed three sisters–three Catholic nuns. Yet it did not swallow them, only drowned them and belched them back up in the form of three small rock islands. They lie halfway between one shore and the other, each with a wimple made of seabirds’ wings.

The Three Sisters is a landmark. When you say the Three Sisters, people know you’re going to tell about something that happened on the river to cause grief. And it isn’t really clear whether it’s the boulders or the river at that spot that causes the grief. Nobody in his right mind goes swimming near the Three Sisters. The river has hands for sure at this spot. Maybe even the three nuns themselves, beneath the water’s surface, are grabbing ankles to pull down some company.

–From River, Cross My Heart

Oprah and Breena in 1999

Being chosen for the Oprah Book Club and appearing on the Oprah show in November 1999 was a delight. The book club continues to bring “River, Cross My Heart.” to new readers. For the complete list of all of the Oprah Book Club selections, go to  BookRiot 

I’ll be reflecting on my work and celebrating River, Cross My Heart’s 20th anniversary at

Crossing Thresholds: 42nd Annual ODU Literary Festival, October 6-10

For more information, go to

Old Dominion University Lit Fest.

 

My Neighbor

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By Breena Clarke

Every morning he walked by my house as I came out with my appealing and peaceable dog. Every morning he pushed his toddler past us. He never looked at me. I was open-faced, accessible, tried to catch his eye. He looked away. I was pissed. I began to shout, “Good morning.” He could not avoid responding. He did try. Next time I shouted, “Good morning,” he mumbled a pleasantry. He looked for a second. Generally, he tried to avoid me. Later with more children and a dog, he caught me unawares coming out of my house. He shouted, “Good morning.”

           
Breena Clarke is the author of three novels, Angels Make Their Hope Here,River, Cross My Heart, an October 1999 Oprah Book Club selection, and Stand The Storm. She is a founder and co-organizer of the Hobart Book Village Festival of Women Writers and…

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How Must They Have Felt?

How must they have felt I ask. I write historical fiction primarily from an urge to re-tell the past, rehabilitate the skimpy, fractured, fragmented narratives of the people of The Americas, the so-called New World. I believe that much of the national narrative of The United States is based on limited facts, racially motivated lies and the visceral belief that all people are NOT created equally. .Sometimes it feels like I have a score to settle, an injury to repair. I think I must be a caretaker of imagination so that our race of people are not unimagined and thus disappear from the earth. I feel I need to be  like Scheherazade. I think I survive daily because I’m able to continue to tell stories of myself, of ourselves. 

 – Breena Clarke

Angels Make Their Hope Here         River, Cross My Heart           Stand The Storm

READ excerpts of Breena Clarke’s Novels

Stand The Storm

Angels Make Their Hope Here

River, Cross My Heart

What techniques can the fiction writer employ to create voices of the past?

They Must Have Felt is an idea that I use I my writing. I try to find a way to express what my historical characters felt and how they acted and reacted in their day to day lives. This is often a huge job because little is known about the individuals I’m most interested in. I have written about the mid-nineteenth century struggle to end chattel slavery in this country in two novels, STAND THE STORM and ANGELS MAKE THEIR HOPE HERE. The many diaries of slave owners, traders and ordinary white people of the era form the basis of much available research of this period. The very important work of imagination has to fill in the gaps. A novelist must know what thoughts and feelings all of their characters have. The mind of the character is precisely where a fiction writer wants to be. And this is precisely why we are so sketchy about the lives of African peoples in this era.  Much of historical research does not include their voices.

Thinking about the 19th century, the period in which the enslavement of African people was legal in this country is a hard moment to inhabit.

Dossie Smoot

I begin by posing the questions. How did they feel?  How did they react? I nourish myself  on details about the daily life of my characters. For this writing tool to be successful, I begin by imagining how a human being lives in the moments I’ve constructed because a novel is a composition of moments just as a play is a composition of beats, small actions.

I’m heading to Washington, D.C. to discuss historical fiction, D.C. Emancipation and to read from my novels set in the city. This event is presented by INKPENClarke and Scott

for more information, go to Breena Clarke’s Books

Najeeb Walid Harb 1974 – 1989

Baby Najeeb

Najeeb Walid Harb 1974 – 1989

He was beloved of his parents, Breena Clarke and Walid Najeeb Harb. He was beloved of his stepfather, Helmar Augustus Cooper. He was beloved of his aunts, Cheryl Clarke and Victoria Clarke Wood.

Najeeb & Mr. Peanut

I still have the hat worn on this day

Najeeb and Breena

I am happiest here

These are my favorite pictures of the days that I remember fondly. These are days that I can recall in great sensory detail. These photographs are precious tokens for recollection.

Najeeb W. Harb

one of a series of headshots

Najeeb with football

at Hershey Park, Pa. with Popsi and Mother wearing a Hershey kiss hat and a silk shirt from Syria

Najeeb holidng bag

on the street near Cheryl’s apartment in NYC

 

 

Taming The Sweet Tooth

These Avocado Peanut Butter Brownies are low, low sugar, high fiber and oh, so delicious.

Don’t deny your sweet tooth, hoodwink it!

Few of us can remain healthy if we indulge in the abundant sweet temptations of Valentine’s Day. This recipe could become your favorite.

1 cup of natural, creamy peanut butter
1 12oz. bag of dark chocolate chips (baking chocolate)
1 cup of *Truvia baking blend
1 avocado, peeled, pitted, and mashed
1/2 cup of soy milk (for vegan) OR 1/2 cup of fat-free milk
1/2 cup of canola oil
1 cup of whole wheat flour
1 teas. baking powder
1 teas. of salt
Preheat oven to 350 (175 degrees C) Lubricate 9X13 inch baking pan with canola oil spray. Melt peanut butter,  chocolate chip, and Truvia together in a saucepan over low heat, stirring until mixture is melted together. Then cook together at medium to low heat until slight bubbling at the edges. Blend avocado, milk and canola oil until smooth. Stir avocado mixture into the chocolate until thoroughly combined. Whisk flour, baking powder and salt together in large bowl and add the chocolate avocado mixture. Stir until just blended. Pour batter into baking pan and cook for 20-25 mins, until beginning to crisp at the edges. Cool completely before cutting and serving.
* is made from the stevia plant and has a small amount of granulated sugar for baking.
Celebrate February Black History Month with the historical novels of Breena Clarke

For more information, go to www.BreenaClarke.com

WAKE UP, EVERYBODY! IT’S 2019

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Habari Gani?

The final principle of Kwanzaa is Imani (faith) to believe in our people, parents, teachers, and leaders. It’s a simple principle, the easiest . . . most dangerous. Eyes wide open! Don’t put faith in celebrities. Don’t put power in the hands of charlatans.

Disavow the anti-semite, the racist, the misogynist. Believe, Have Faith, Imani  – in a better future, a better world, a more equitable world.

Wake Up Everybody!

 

free-vector-kwanzaa-icon_101867_Kwanzaa_Icon        MLK

Let’s ruminate on the plausible (?) utopia  Martin Luther King delineated so specifically in a speech that is instantly google-able. In anticipation of the official holiday commemorating MLK, here is a well-known portion:

“I say to you today, my friends, so even though we face the difficulties of today and tomorrow, I still have a dream. It is a dream deeply rooted in the American dream.

I have a dream that one day this nation will rise up and live out the true meaning of its creed: “We hold these truths to be self-evident: that all men are created equal.”

I have a dream that one day on the red hills of Georgia the sons of former slaves and the sons of former slave owners will be able to sit down together at the table of brotherhood.

I have a dream that one day even the state of Mississippi, a state sweltering with the heat of injustice, sweltering with the heat of oppression, will be transformed into an oasis of freedom and justice.

I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character.

I have a dream today.

I have a dream that one day, down in Alabama, with its vicious racists, with its governor having his lips dripping with the words of interposition and nullification; one day right there in Alabama, little black boys and black girls will be able to join hands with little white boys and white girls as sisters and brothers.

I have a dream today.

I have a dream that one day every valley shall be exalted, every hill and mountain shall be made low, the rough places will be made plain, and the crooked places will be made straight, and the glory of the Lord shall be revealed, and all flesh shall see it together.

This is our hope. This is the faith that I go back to the South with. With this faith we will be able to hew out of the mountain of despair a stone of hope. With this faith we will be able to transform the jangling discords of our nation into a beautiful symphony of brotherhood. With this faith we will be able to work together, to pray together, to struggle together, to go to jail together, to stand up for freedom together, knowing that we will be free one day.

This will be the day when all of God’s children will be able to sing with a new meaning, “My country, ‘tis of thee, sweet land of liberty, of thee I sing. Land where my fathers died, land of the pilgrim’s pride, from every mountainside, let freedom ring.”

And if America is to be a great nation this must become true. So let freedom ring from the prodigious hilltops of New Hampshire. Let freedom ring from the mighty mountains of New York. Let freedom ring from the heightening Alleghenies of Pennsylvania!

Let freedom ring from the snowcapped Rockies of Colorado!

Let freedom ring from the curvaceous slopes of California!

But not only that; let freedom ring from Stone Mountain of Georgia!

Let freedom ring from Lookout Mountain of Tennessee!

Let freedom ring from every hill and molehill of Mississippi. From every mountainside, let freedom ring.

And when this happens, when we allow freedom to ring, when we let it ring from every village and every hamlet, from every state and every city, we will be able to speed up that day when all of God’s children, black men and white men, Jews and Gentiles, Protestants and Catholics, will be able to join hands and sing in the words of the old Negro spiritual, “Free at last! free at last! thank God Almighty, we are free at last!”

———– Dr. Martin Luther King

for the   entire text of the speech   

IS THIS DREAM STILL POSSIBLE?

 

 

 

 

 

for more about Breena Clarke’s booksBreena Clarke.com

River, Cross My Heart, an Oprah book club selection and a classic of African American fiction is now available for your e-reader. River, Cross My Heart, kindle edition

“The acclaimed bestseller–a selection of Oprah’s Book Club–that brings vividly to life the Georgetown neighborhood of Washington, DC, circa 1925, a community reeling from a young girl’s tragic death.”  Amazon.com

 

 

 

 

 

Creative Community

Kwanza     Habari Gani?

Kuumba (creativity), to make the community more beautiful and beneficial for the future, is observed on the sixth night of Kwanzaa. Let’s celebrate creative work in the arts.  Founded in 2013, by Cheryl Clarke, Breena Clarke, and Barbara Balliet, the Hobart Festival of Women Writers produced its sixth consecutive weekend of programming in 2018 dedicated to celebrating the work of literary women. The Festival takes place in the small village of Hobart, New York, home of six independent bookstores and designated as The Reading Capital of New York State.

more information at Hobart Book Village

See all the

Highlights of Festival of Women Writers 2018

 

 

View a slideshow of the covers of six years of our Participating Writers’ Books:

Hobart Festival of Women Writers Holiday Gift Guide 2018

Calendar Sign for BLOG   Get a calendar to welcome the New Year. Purchase a Hobart Festival of Women Writers 2019 calendar. It features the work of the women who participated in our first Festival in 2013. The Kwanzaa gift that will last all year long. Purchase here:

HOBART FESTIVAL INAUGURAL CALENDAR

EdnaPayneClarke_GoF

A ROOM OF HER OWN FOUNDATION, a global organization of creative women with which I’ve been associated since its first writers retreat in 2003 has rolled out a wave of treasure this December, Gifts of Fellowship which include unique opportunities for the givers.
TIME IS RUNNING OUT
You can STILL make a donation to support this great consortium of creative women AND have a chance to win an empowering ONE-ON-ONE video-conferencing session designed to build your skills and confidence in reading your own creative writing with Breena Clarke.

Are you ready to read your work for an audience?  Do you shake in your boots at the thought of performing your own writing? Consider donating to A Room of Her Own Foundation’s Edna Payne Clarke Gift of Fellowship and you could win an opportunity to work with me. Find out the full details and donate-to-win a Gift of Fellowship at A Room of Her Own Foundation:

 Winning fellows will be announced January 4th.

In this one on one class with me which is named in honor of my mother, Edna Payne Clarke,  you’ll get email and video-conferencing interaction. I’ll help you select the right material to read and I’ll share my tips on preparation and some techniques for a smooth and exciting dramatic reading. Hurry. Time is running out for this opportunity.

 

River, Cross My Heart, an Oprah book club selection and a classic of African American fiction, is now available for your e-reader.

“The acclaimed bestseller–a selection of Oprah’s Book Club–that brings vividly to life the Georgetown neighborhood of Washington, DC, circa 1925, a community reeling from a young girl’s tragic death.”  Amazon.com

more information at BreenaClarke.com