Tuesday, April 28, 2015

Lavina by Mary Marcus - Print Copy Out Today! Fiction Based on Author's Early Life...

The ordinary response to atrocities is to banish
them from consciousness. Certain violations of
the social compact are too terrible to utter
aloud: this is the meaning of the word
unspeakable.--Judith Herman
Read the lovely story about the author's decision to write Lavina... I suspect the main reason I ended up writing Lavina is on account of the fact that I lost my picture of Aline.

"Ladies and Gentlemen," he say, "I'm Matthew so and so." Right away, I took to the boy on account of the fact that he said Ladies and Gentlemen. I thought that was very polite of him. Anyway,he say, "I'm here tonight on behalf of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., who can't come tonight because of legal problems."

Then somebody in the front say, "Thought they sprung M.L...Hew ain't still in jail, is he?" "No," Matthew say. But he can's leave Alabama on account of some legal whatchacallum and then somebody else said, "We all heard M.L. gonna be here. We gave our money to the defense fund." Then that Matthew...
I don' remember very much of what the boy said. If you want to know the truth I could hardly understand a word he say. Don' think the rest of us did neither... 
What he do is start telling us about some ray-she-oh which he say mean nothing more than we all knew;; that there were more colored than white in Murpheysfield. Then he starts tellin' us we is oh-pressed...
Guess it was then that he started talking 'bout the sit-in. He say Dr. King and him and two other folds from up North were comin' to Murpheysfield on August 17 to sit-in at the Woolworth's lunch counter and he was here tonight to ask two of us to sit down with them...
"Why, if we sat down at the Woolworth's counter, they'd call out the dogs. The Klan'd burn the place down...." 
"No colored ever say down at no white lunch counter in Murpheysfield." Matthew look stern, stern and say, "No black person has ever tried to sit down at a white lumch counter...."
Lord only know what made me do it, 'cause it was shortly thereafter that I stood up myself...  [then a child interrupted running to the white man, Matthew, and asking for Christmas gifts from Dr. King.]
That's when it came over me, a feelin' I never had before or since. I thought to myself, why that child she don't know black from white but when she do, why it gonna change that little face a hers. I felt the wrongness of it. The wrongness of it for her. The rest of us, we were used to the way things were, and I sat there tryin' to remember if I ever in my whole life go free and happy like that child in her pink dress who didn't know the difference of black and white. Well, I don't think I ever didn't remember. Seemed to me I knew it since the day I were born into this world..."

Everything still and quite in the church. I hear myself, but though it sound like me, it don't feel like my own feets standing in my old worn down shoes. "I'll do it!" I says. Everybody in the church turn round and look at me. Matthew, he come down the stairs and up the aisle heading toward me and he is smilin' and everybody singin' "Lord Laid His Hand on Me"...Lord, we were happy. Though that bluebird of happiness, it didn't last long. Fact near as soon as I say it, second it fly out of my mouth, I know I is making the biggest mistake of my life..."

By Mary Marcus

Having just read Ruby, the latest Oprah Book Club selection, I found I was doing something I rarely do--a comparison... No, the author is not African-American and I understand the selection process. At the same time, I was much more touched by this book--felt the pain and anger of our Black brothers and sisters and want you to know that I highly recommend this book that is, in my opinion, just as valuable to Black History as is Ruby, for those who loved it--which I didn't (click over to read my review).

Lavina is based upon the real life of the author and her relationship to Aline, her beloved friend and mother-figure as she grew up... This is a story full of tragedy during the early years of Reverend Martin Luther King, Jr., but the connection is minor in comparison to the story of the two young children who were most affected by Lavina as they faced their own personal futures...

What I never understood to this day, to this very
day, was how white people could have black
people cook dinner for them, make them meals,
but wouldn't let them sit down at the table with
them. How can you dislike someone so much and
have them cook for you? Shoot, if I don't like
someone, you ain't cooking nothing for me, ever.
--Ray Charles
Mary Jacob was on her way home to Murpheysfield, Louisiana, to see her father who was very ill. Her sister had called from the Shumpert Hospital and put her father on the line..."Child, I want you to come home. I'm longin' to see you."

That shook Mary Jacob! She hadn't been home for years and had no real desire to go. She and her sister had spoken maybe twice in five years.

She hadn't wanted to come and walked into her large home with trepidation, straight on into the kitchen. The woman with her back to her--she first thought it was Lavina, but, no, everything was now changed. 

Kathryn, her sister, made it quite clear why she was willing to call to get her home.

"I'm gonna need you to sit there with him. We can't even keep a nurse, Mary Jacob. He pinches the pretty ones and makes fun of the ugly ones and won't do what they say. He's a livin' breathin' terror. I was thinkin' why it's a good thing he's weak as a kitten, or we'd never be able to control him. I was lookin' at him just today, thinkin' Daddy's an old man now."
Strong Jack Long, weak as a kitten? It seemed impossible. Like God or the devil being ill. 
At a red light, I stopped and turned on the radio. Just a couple of notes let me know it was Billy Ray singing. There's nothing wrong with my musical memory. It was one of his very early hits...
[Billy Ray is a fictitious character so I've selected Charlie Pride as his character. I had the chance to meet him years ago as a first-row fan at Branson...I was thrilled, of course, so was the first singer/musician I thought of for the role! The song selected was based upon Billy Ray's early involvement in the Black church. By the time, though, that he had actually started to perform professionally, he no longer believed in, as he called him, the White God, who did nothing to help his people...]

The announcer on the radio was saying
Billy Ray would be playing tomorrow
night in Murpheysfield, L.A. like it was
Los Angeles, not Louisiana. Home of
the not so great Mary Jacob Long.

"I've always loved Billy Ray's music. I read somewhere a long time ago that, like me, he comes from Murpheysfield. We wouldn't have known each other. Those were the days of Jim Crow, yet the singer has always felt like someone close. At signings, people tell me all the time that they feel close to me on account of my books. Perfect strangers will hold out their hands and call me by name like they know me. And I'm not even remotely famous outside my tiny little children's lit circle. But Billy Ray's been famous forever. As long as I can remember anyway. I even dream about him. Sometimes we are children in the dream and sometimes all grown up. We're always kissing in the dream, kissing and holding on to each other like we'll never let each other go.

When Mary Jacob first went to see her father, she was, of course, shocked at how old he looked, but as they talked, there seemed to be a connection that she hadn't remembered. Could she even be having genuine feelings for him? She willingly began to help take care of him, which, of course, greatly pleased both he and her sister...

What nobody knew there in Murpheysfield was that Mary Jacob had lost most of the memories of her childhood... True, she remembered the music by Billy Ray, but she did not remember there had been a long connection between them--they hated each other... 

Billy Ray was trying to breath new life into his failing career and, with a new manager, was scheduled back in his home town and then on to New Orleans. Would all of his fans remember him?
But when he realized that Mary Jacob was also in town, he knew he must see her, he needed to know--he must know! By whom and how was his mother
murdered? Billy Ray had tried and failed to reach her and then one day he walked right up to the door of the Long home and rang the bell. He demanded to know what had happened and she was shocked and then frightened, claiming she didn't know anything...
Even though Mary Jacob had come to terms with her father, especially when he shared that Kathryn wanted to put him in a home. He also asked her to fulfill a dying wish. He wanted her to find Van, his second wife, and ask her to come... When she left him that night, she was more and more upset and went directly downstairs, past all the familiar things, staring at the guns behind glass, four of them... and through the kitchen into the only room in which she felt safe... She now sat in that rocking chair in the back corner of the laundry room...
I began to feel afraid then, like on the plane only worse: a pulse throbbing in my throat, a sinking feeling in the guts, pain running up and down my arm. Sweat.
I ran from the room, as though I were running away from a shower of bullets. Through another door, along the length of the dining room and through the swinging door of the butlery to the kitchen and once again, like I had done this afternoon, to the laundry room: sanctuary.
There in the dark, simple things shined. The luminous dials on the washer and dryer and the moonlight that beamed in the window above the sink. A shaft of light ran across the maple rocker where I sat down and without thinking, began to rock, as if the chair was waiting for me, the firm slats against my back--safe--in the one place in this house where I belonged...

Memories had been triggered and Mary Jacob started her own investigation...until she remembered...all of it... And the majority of the book is her memories of what had actually occurred...an unwanted child loved by only the housekeeper, who she loved more than anybody; the son of that housekeeper who hated her because his mother spent the major part of her time with Mary Jacob, while at the same time, she jealously hated that he actually lived in a home with her and was there during the night... the rise of Billy Ray's career while Mary Jacob was subjected to seeing her mother dying, and finally overhearing a plan to kill Martin Luther King... An interesting side bar is about her father's hatred of Blacks and Jews in the same sentence and a surprising twist that connects them in reality...

The actual, life-like events were explosive, tragic, and a result of King's leadership to seek freedom...with one important loss to two young children who loved...Lavina... A heartbreaking story that will stay with you forever... about the power of...love...


I was born and raised in Louisiana, but left for New York after graduating from Tulane. I worked very hard to get rid of my southern accent, and now I wish I hadn’t. For many years, I worked in the advertising and fashion industries for Neiman Marcus, Vogue, Lancome, Faberge and San Rio Toys where I worked on the Hello Kitty Brand. My short fiction has appeared in North Atlantic Review, Fiction, Jewish Women’s Literary Journal and others.

My husband, Joel Goodman and I live in Los Angeles and East Hampton, New York. We have a grown son, Amos Goodman.

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