Maroon New Jersey

Tim Knox interviews Breena Clarke for the website, PLACING LITERATURE, about the setting of ANGELS MAKE THEIR HOPE HERE 

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ANGELS MAKE THEIR HOPE HERE is set in an imagined community in a mountainous area roughly north and west of Paterson, New Jersey in the 19th century. Russell’s Knob is a hidden, secretive place settled by people who might be described today as bi-racial or tri-racial. The inhabitants describe themselves as runaways and stay-aways. They are people who reject the limiting definitions of racial identity and character of 19th century, mid-Atlantic, North America and live outside of the “white” towns. They are spoken of derisively as “amalgamators” and “race mixers” though their true history is as complex as is the history of settlement in the region.

 

for more information on about BreenaClarke’s books: www.BreenaClarke.com

 

“Whose baby child are you?”

A SPECIAL BLACK HISTORY MONTH RE-POST

Anne Rasmussen speaks with Breena Clarke for  LATE NIGHT LIBRARY 

Breena Professional Photo           Fugitives i color

http://latenightlibrary.org/breena-clarke/#wrap.

They’re discussing ANGELS MAKE THEIR HOPE HERE and its depictions of fathers, surrogate fathers, patriarchy vs. matrilineal constructs and parenting in the time of slavery.

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. . . the most damaging aspect of the institution of slavery is the destruction of familial relationships through separation and the inability of enslaved parents to protect their children. It is in the interest of preserving families that the people of Russell’s Knob built a community, preferring to live apart from the mainstream in order to stay together with loved ones.

Parenting in the time of slavery is necessarily fraught with peril. In Breena Clarke’s novel, ANGELS MAKE THEIR HOPE HERE, young Dossie’s parents do the most difficult thing imaginable. They send their child off to uncertainty rather than have her suffer as an enslaved person on the Kenworthy plantation. They embrace a hope that, with the help of others, she can become free and live a better life (even if they don’t actually know what that better life would be). For them, the knowable horror of Kenworthy plantation is worth risking this child’s life and separating from her forever.

for more information on Breena Clarke’s books: www.BreenaClarke.com

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Face Values

Why are people STLL in a tizzy about racial identity in the 21st century?  Is there anything else that Americans talk about and talk about and talk about? However, until now, the topic of white skin privilege was never put on the table. Passing judgment on the racial identity of others is a traditional American sport. A great many people imagine they can do an adequate job of doing the math on race. How much yellow, brown, red or black skin color does an individual have relative to the default white? And myriad other calculations help us decide on a person’s racial identity.

Alfred Clarke

Passing across racial boundaries is a longstanding theme in American fiction.

In the imagined 19th century town of Russell’s Knob, which is the setting for the novel, Angels Make Their Hope Here, race identification is fluid. In a town of amalgamators, race mixers – the complex national and racial identities of the inhabitants do not hinder their cohesiveness, community and camaraderie. But the maroons of Russell’s Knob hector white skin privilege in this small community because of their ancestors’ experiences of the First European Contact, the Middle Passage and chattel slavery in the Americas. In Russell’s Knob you are some combination of what your parents bring with them. You are, in appearance, a blend of the physical characteristics of all of your forebears. If being white-skinned confers no special privileges in this tri-racial town, forays into the wider, whiter world are fraught with danger.

“Maybe you could get in, Pet,” Jan said.

“What? Oh, shut up, Jan! You probably could, too.” Pet    said. “You got the price.”

“But not in the Alta Club. That’s a place for pale white-skinned men like you and your father,” August said to Pet, “only.” August looked straight into Pet’s face. He had the eyes all the Vanders have that people call molasses bullets because they’re the color that molasses becomes in the deep wintertime and they are hard like ice.

“What does it matter?” Pet asked. He felt the one glass of whiskey he’d drunk sear his stomach and roar to his head. He chose to be dumb to August’s provocation. But a realization crept up on him that his pale face had kept him from knowing some deep tenets that Jan knew – that August knew – because their faces said something different from his face in the town. And he didn’t know what they knew, or did he? 

 “I ain’t white,” Pet said.        

“Well, you look white,” Jan came back at him.

You and your papa.” Again August spoke in a sly voice of instigation. “You the only ones look white enough to pass through those doors.”

“I aint no white man,” Pet said as he’d said so many times before. 

“Pet, don’t be dumb about it. You know what you look like. You know what people take you for.”

from ANGELS MAKE THEIR HOPE HERE

Now available in paperback with Reading Group Guides including a Conversation with Breena Clarke http://bit.ly/1K09XEZ

BLACK HER-STORY MONTH, TOO

Nevertheless, she persisted. Maria Stewart, the first African American woman to lecture about women’s rights. Black Her-Story Month, too!

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NEVERTHELESS, SHE PERSISTED

Maria (nee Miller )Stewart was the first woman to speak before a “promiscuous” audience, i.e. men and women, black and white in early 19th century America. She was the first African-American woman to lecture about women’s rights. Stewart focused particularly on the rights of black women, religion, and social justice among black people. She also became the first African-American woman to make public anti-slavery speeches and is one of the first African-American women to make public lectures for which there are still surviving copies.
Maria Stewart newspaper
 
“Most of our color have dragged out a miserable existence of servitude from the cradle to the grave. And what literary acquirements can be made, or useful knowledge derived, from either maps, books or charm, by those who continually drudge from Monday morning until Sunday noon? O, ye fairer sisters, whose hands are never soiled, whose nerves and muscles are never strained, go…

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Why? It’s Her Story

Breena Clarke talks a

Breena Professional PhotoThe impetus for beginning to write River, Cross My Heart came directly as a result of having listened to an oral history that my mother had taped at my request. She and my father grew up in the Georgetown section of Washington, D.C and their memories of the neighborhood were vivid. It was more than facts that they related. They related a sense of community that enforced social segregation made imperative, but that nevertheless was a source of their positive sense of themselves. I regretted that the stories of Washington’s neighborhoods were not known, were not being told. Why not, I wondered? It gave me a lot of energy to galvanize my research work as being necessary, being purposeful.

read the interview:

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see the complete list of historical novels by women recommended for Black History Month 2017 by Herstory Novels : http://herstorynovels.com/read-african-american-history-month/

for more information about Breena Clarke’s books:  www.BreenaClarke.com

Ah, beauty is a complex play of familiarity and surprise!

Dossie Smoot           hanging-plum_1

She’s a pretty little dark plum. Had he trespassed? He had asked her. Ha! She wanted him, she had said, and seemed to. He knew damned well he had a sway with her. Hell, he’d counted on that. Little Bird was so obedient to him now that he was afraid of himself. What was a man supposed to do when a lucky coin cross his path? He will close his hand around it. He will praise his good fortune. But still in all, this ain’t the same as trifling with a grown woman, Duncan argued with himself.

from Angels Make Their Hope Here by Breena Clarke

Read an excerpt:  http://bit.ly/1NZsFus

for more information on Breena Clarke’s books, visit: www.BreenaClarke.com

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Our Trespasses

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StewartMaria_132Prior to the great personal watershed of 1849 when he rescued my mother, then a child, Duncan Smoot was known on the underground circuit as The Moses of Octoraro Creek. Because of his exploits, he was well respected amongst those who knew and emulated the brave ones who worked to free people from slavery. However, in the course of rescuing Mother, he did something that curtailed his effectiveness as a conductor and troubled him for some time after.

from The Moses of Octoraro Creek by Breena Clarke, published in issue #5 STONECOAST REVIEW,  http://www.stonecoastreview.org a literary arts journal published biannually by students and alumni from the Stonecoast MFA in Creative Writing (University of Southern Maine). Breena Clarke is a member of the fiction faculty at Stonecoast. for more about the Stonecoast MFA in Creative Writing: http://www.stonecoastreview.org/our-staff/

read the story: http://bit.ly/28KVhj9

IMG_3709  Breena Clarke’s books are available in all formats.

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