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 2020

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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!

Beginnings: LeBron James

 

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 seventh, consecutive weekend of programming in 2019 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

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

The Subject is Sugar

I’m returning to the subject of Sugar, as in Sugar Diabetes, as in Diabetes.

candy-chalet gingerbread house

 

 

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Habari Gani?

The Fifth night of Kwanzaa is Nia, purpose, to build and develop goals to benefit the people of the community. I’m adopting the goal of disseminating information about one of the most dangerous opponents that POC confront: Diabetes.

How does Food Access affect Diabetes Rates in Communities of Color?

“The American Diabetes Association recently reported that the average diabetic incurs about $9,601 in diabetes-related medical expenses per year. Insulin prices have skyrocketed. According to CBS News, the cost of insulin from two manufacturers rose almost 8 percent last year, to more than $275, and some patients’ costs have jumped from $300 to almost $1,000 in the last year.” 

Many people with diabetes forgo their medicines because they cannot afford to take them.  U.S. News and consider this article,

Food Access and Diabetes Rates in Communities of Color: Connecting the Dots

by Lindsey Haynes-Maslow at Union of Concerned Scientists.org   READ THIS:

“Race and income are highly correlated with healthy food access—and according to our new study—diabetes rates.” Connecting The Dots 

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Personal Apple Cobblers

A low sugar dessert

Peel and slice 5-6 apples of whatever kind you like.  Choose a crisp, sweet type like Honey Crisp or Gala or Fuji or Empire 

The juice of one lemon – approximately 1/4 cup

3/4 cup of Truvia baking blend

2 tablespoonfuls of cornstarch 

2 tablespoons of butter

1 frozen pie crust defrosted. I suggest the rolled kind that can be rolled thinner and flatter.  

6-8 small ramekins.   Much depends on how large your apples are. I suggest using medium sized ones. Fruit will “cook down” and may bubble over. Both of these things are tasty. 

Combine apple slices, lemon juice, sweetener, and cornstarch.  Roll out the softened pie crust. Cut out large circles with a biscuit cutter.  Cut strips of remaining dough into pieces.  Put filling in ramekins to half mark. Put dough in filling. Add more fruit.  Cut one tablespoon of butter into four pieces. Dot the top of each pie with butter. Cover the tops of each with crust rounds and fill in the sides with remaining dough pieces.   Brush the crusts with a tablespoon of melted butter. Bake at 350 for about 40 minutes until crust is lightly browned and filling is bubbling.  

These are nicely portioned for a guilt-free dessert. Less chance that you’ll over-indulge. 

Dossie Smoot

THE PEOPLE CATCHER: MR. WOOLFOLK’S BOUNTY

An original story by Breena Clarke published in Kweli, an online literary journal featuring diverse voices.

The People Catcher   

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

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

 

 

Self-Determination

Habari Gani?

Kujichagulia (self-determination) to be responsible for the community and to speak for oneself.

free-vector-kwanzaa-icon_101867_Kwanzaa_Icon

I was so excited this past year to have been included in the anthology, IDOL TALK: Women Writers on the Teenage Infatuations That Changed Their Lives edited by Elizabeth Searle and Tamra Wilson, a collection of forty-four essays on the women and men who influenced the mature selves of women writers. These are the figures who guided our growing up, who helped to determine who we became. In these delightful essays, we authors are at times lighthearted, but we are also frank and revealing and aware and descriptive of the zeitgeist of the teen idol era, that time between the end of the World War II up to and including the modern Civil Rights Era. Our idols were, by and large, rebels, visionaries, geniuses, innovators, and damn good lookers. And their looks were important as they were served up to us on magazine covers and on TV, the medium through which we came to know a great deal about our American culture. I write about the sweet, dreamy, velvet-voiced Sam Cooke.

I write also of The Sixteenth Street Baptist Church bombing in September of 1963. I was twelve then and Addie Mae Collins, Cynthia Wesley, and Carole Robertson were fourteen years old and Carol Denise McNair was eleven. The four girls who died that day were casualties of the horrors of white resistance to civil rights and their lives are, for me, touchstones. The opportunity for self-determination was taken from them. More information at BlackPast.org

16th_Street_Baptist_Church_bombing_girls    sam-cooke-9256129-2-402

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I’m in great company in this anthology. The essays are written by Elizabeth Searle, Tamra Wilson, Darlene R. Taylor, Suzanne Strempek Shea, Kate Kastelein, Dolen Perkins-Valdez, Lee J. Kahrs, Judy Goldman, Nancy Swan, B.A. Shapiro, Michelle Soucy, Amy Rogers, Ann Harleman, Linda K. Sienkiewicz, Janice Eidus, Katharine Davis, Jill McCorkle, Marianne Leone, Susan Lilly, Ann Hood, Lise Haines, Marianne Gingher, Hank Phillippi Ryan, Susan Shapiro, Marjorie Hudson, Morgan Callan Rogers, Leslea Newman, Leslie Lawrence, Katie Hafner, Lisa Williams Kline, Mary Granfield, Leslie Pietrzyk, Susan Woodring, Caitlin McCarthy, Stephanie Powell Watts, Ann Rosenquist Fee, Shara McCallum, Heather Duerre Humann, Lisa Borders, Mary Sullivan, Diana Goetsch, Emlyn Meredith Dornemann and Susan Straight. Wow! We cover a lot of ground,

For more information about IDOL TALK at this link:   https://mcfarlandbooks.com/product/idol-talk/

Bonus materials in IDOL TALK are the “then and now” photos of the writers including glasses, braces and goofy hairdos, the fond, familiar glimpses of our youths.

Listen to the irresistible Sam Cooke.

Let’s celebrate Kwanzaa by being determined to recognize the needs of our communities and by being willing to stand for justice and dignity and against racism.  For more information about Kwanzaa, go toWhat is Kwanzaa

 

 

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

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

River, Cross My Heart, kindle edition

 

Winter Wonders

Winter wonders are not all about men in red suits and loud celebration. I have watched in wonder as birds have come to my small backyard bird feeder. Too awe-struck to photograph them or records their songs, I’ve just watched them.

I filled a small bird feeder and put it in my beloved dogwood tree. The dogwood has repeatedly complained that throughout the winter months when we abandon the backyard, she is without company. The feeder has brought many visitors including

(top to bottom) the beautiful Downey Woodpecker, Red-Breasted Nuthatch, The Mourning Dove, and the Tufted Titmouse.

Listen to my audio recording of Back Along The Octoraro, a story of avian enchantment. This audio includes some bird sounds recorded near my house last spring.

Back Along The Octoraro read by Breena Clarke

for more information www.BreenaClarke.com

Joy For The World

HAPPY HOLIDAYS 2018

 

Goddess_gif_small_2

The Gleeful Goddess

at the crux of fear and flame ’tis the season of joy.

 

I’m happy to be celebrating the sixth consecutive year of platforming and presenting the work of women writers at the annual Hobart Festival of Women Writers co-founded with Cheryl Clarke and Barbara Balliet. We had a great weekend of rejuvenation and inspiration in the beautiful Catskills this past September 7, 8 &9th.

View more photo highlights here:

Festival of Women Writers 2018 photo highlights

A ROOM OF HER OWN FOUNDATION, a global organization of creative women with which I’ve been associated since its first writer’s retreat in 2003 has rolled out a wave of treasure this December, Gifts of Fellowship which include unique opportunities for the givers. You can donate to support this great consortium of creative women AND have a chance to win an expert book doctor consultation with Esther Cohen, OR secure a winter artist’s/writer’s residency in Santa Fe at a charming casita OR you can experience an empowering ONE-ON-ONE 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 reading.

EdnaPayneClarke_GoF

Check out Hobart Festival of Women Writers Holiday Gift Guide. A book is always the right size.

Gift books

for more about Breena Clarke’s books, go to BreenaClarke.com

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Give a gift of truth and beauty. Purchase a Hobart Festival of Women Writers Calendar

Calendar Sign for BLOG

Get your calendar at hobartfestivalofwomenwriters.com

 

 

 

 

 

Twisting The Night Away

 

 

 

 

 

“We used to dream about Sam Cooke. We imagined we might be his girlfriend one day. I always think “we” because of my childhood BFF, CeeCee. She was my partner in Sam Cooke workship”    – from an essay by Breena Clarke in IDOL TALK

IDOL TALK: Women Writers on the Teenage Infatuations That Changed Their Lives edited by Elizabeth Searle and Tamra Wilson is a collection of forty-four essays on the women and men who influenced the mature selves of women writers. These are the figures who guided our growing up. In these delightful essays, we authors are at times lighthearted, but we are also frank and revealing and aware and descriptive of the zeitgeist of the teen idol era, that time between the end of the World War II up to and including the modern Civil Rights Era. And our idols were, by and large, rebels, visionaries, geniuses, innovators, and damn good lookers. And their looks were integral as they were served up to us on magazine covers and TV, the medium through which we came to know a great deal about our American culture. We know them as well as we know ourselves because we became ourselves, in some measure, because of them. I write about the sweet, dreamy, velvet-voiced Sam Cooke. Sam Cooke on YouTube  I still have a palpable reaction to his singing. I’m convinced there is no other voice like his or ever will be.

 

16th_Street_Baptist_Church_bombing_girls

The victims of the 16th Street Baptist Church bombing

I also write about the 16th Street Baptist Church bombing in September of 1963 in Birmingham, Alabama. I was twelve then, and Addie Mae Collins, Cynthia Wesley and Carole Robertson were fourteen years old and Carol Denise McNair was eleven. The four girls who died that day were casualties of the horrors of white resistance to civil rights. And the next year the Beatles came into my life in February 1964 and a little later Sam Cooke died in troubling circumstances in December 1964.

Young Breena

Breena Clarke

There’s Bonus material in IDOL TALk, too. The “then and now” photos of the writers including glasses, braces and goofy hairdos are fond, familiar glimpses of our youths.

I’m in great company in this anthology. The essays are written by Elizabeth Searle, Tamra Wilson, Darlene R. Taylor, Suzanne Strempek Shea, Kate Kastelein, Dolen Perkins-Valdez, Lee J. Kahrs, Judy Goldman, Nancy Swan, B.A. Shapiro, Michelle Soucy, Amy Rogers, Ann Harleman, Linda K. Sienkiewicz, Janice Eidus, Katharine Davis, Jill McCorkle, Marianne Leone, Susan Lilly, Ann Hood, Lise Haines, Marianne Gingher, Hank Phillippi Ryan, Susan Shapiro, Marjorie Hudson, Morgan Callan Rogers, Leslea Newman, Leslie Lawrence, Katie Hafner, Lisa Williams Kline, Mary Granfield, Leslie Pietrzyk, Susan Woodring, Caitlin McCarthy, Stephanie Powell Watts, Ann Rosenquist Fee, Shara McCallum, Heather Duerre Humann, Lisa Borders, Mary Sullivan, Diana Goetsch, Emlyn Meredith Dornemann and Susan Straight. Wow! We cover a lot of ground.

Peter Noone, the former lead singer of Herman’s Hermits and a certified Teen Idol, wrote the foreword to IDOL TALK: Women Writers on the Teenage Infatuations That Changed Their Lives and he and his group are on our cover. I still remember my excitement the hot afternoon that I saw him perform on The Steel Pier at Atlantic City

For more information, this link: https://mcfarlandbooks.com/product/idol-talk/

find an independent bookseller at Indiebound.org

 

 

link here for a flash of fiction by Breena Clarke Bess

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visit my website at www.BreenaClarke.com

Are you in NYC in August?  Come out to KGB Bar  for a reading from
IDOL TALK: Women Writers on their Teen Idols
Wednesday, August 8, 2018, 8:00 PM
85 East 4th Street, New York, NY
link for the reading lineup: kgbbar.com