Sunday, November 6, 2022

An Author Event with Barbara Wright

I'm on the email list for my local library, and last week I became aware of an author event to be held this past Friday, the 4th. Barbara Wright, a local author, would be discussing her book, Crow, as a part of the National Endowment for the Arts Big Read series.

From their website:

The National Endowment for the Arts Big Read—a partnership with Arts Midwest—broadens our understanding of our world, our neighbors, and ourselves through the power of a shared reading experience. Showcasing a diverse range of themes, voices, and perspectives, the NEA Big Read aims to inspire meaningful conversations, artistic responses, and new discoveries and connections in each community.

Curious, I called the library to reserve my spot for this free event. I also wondered why they not only required a reservation, but also called me the night before to confirm I'd be coming. I found out why later.

When I arrived at the meeting room, I sat next to a woman in a blue dress who was chatting with audience members around me. It turns out she was the author, and I appreciated that prior to the program beginning, she sat in the audience and then moved around among the seats to talk with everyone. (And if I'm honest, I also appreciated the refreshments provided by the library: caramel apple cider and pumpkin spice wafer cookies.)

a photo of a table with books on it

Barbara Wright has had local ties to Brunswick County since the 1940s, when her grandfather built their home on Holden Beach—a home that was later to be destroyed utterly in Hurricane Hazel in 1954. They rebuilt, and she is still there. For various personal reasons, she found herself exploring not only her family's history but also local history—specifically, Wilmington's history. 

Wilmington is the nearest large city to me and sits about an hour north of where I live. In the late 1800s the city had a prosperous and thriving Black community, but in 1898 white supremacists initiated a massacre that left many Black citizens murdered. It was a coup d'etat in which these white supremacists ran the legitimate government—up to 100 Black civic leaders—out of town, as well as approximately 100,000 Black voters. 

It was a horrific injustice, a crime whose perpetrators were never prosecuted.

The result of Ms. Wright's research was her novel, Crow. The way she spoke about the writing, it sounds like the novel took on a life of its own and made demands for the story to be told. The result is what she described as a middle-grade/young adult historical fiction set in the summer of 1898 in Wilmington, told from the point of view of Moses, an 11-year old boy who is learning about his family history, navigating changing friendships, and observing events as they unfold. 

She read a moving passage from the book and discussed her research and writing process and took questions from the audience. I appreciated that my fellow audience members—including several high school students who had read the book for their class—were engaged, curious, asked questions, and added to the discussion in thoughtful ways. It was also interesting to learn that the first draft was originally historical fiction for adults, but Ms. Wright's agent said he couldn't sell it because the topic and original ending were too grim, so she changed the ending as well as POV, and it became more suitable to middle grade/YA.

At the end of the program, we were each invited to take a free book and have the author sign it (explaining the need for reservations—I'm sure they needed a count for books and refreshments).

Kudos to the NEA and Brunswick County Library for putting on a great author talk. I will definitely attend another in the future, and I am very much looking forward to reading Crow

You can get your copy from bookstores everywhere, your local library, or, if you prefer, by clicking on the image below.



Crow
, by Barbara Wright



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