Archive for September, 2015

Forsaken by Ross Howell Jr.: in anticipation of Feb. 2016 release, book appearances, book trailers, more

Monday, September 28th, 2015 by Lisa Harrison

Forsaken: A Novel by Ross Howell Jr.February 2016 isn’t far off, at least in book publishing terms. With the release of Forsaken around the corner, the hard work of promoting the book begins.

For author Ross Howell Jr., this includes a book tour before his official book tour, which started with his appearance last weekend at the Southern Independent Booksellers Alliance big fall conference — SIBA’s 40th. Ross Howell Jr. signed advance reading copies of Forsaken for dozens of booksellers in attendance, stopping long enough to have his photo taken with long-time SIBA Executive Director Wanda Jewell — the creative force behind the organization — and also Kathy Giuffre, author of The Drunken Spelunker’s Guide to Plato, also at the show promoting her book. From SIBA, Howell travels to the NAIBA and NEIBA conferences, in the mid-Atlantic and northeast, where he will meet more bookstore buyers and managers and talk up Forsaken.

Forsaken author Ross Howell Jr and SIBA Executive Director Wanda Jewell celebrates SIBA's 40th anniversary
Forsaken author Ross Howell Jr and The Drunken Spelunker's Guide to Plato author Kathy Giuffre

Top: Forsaken author Ross Howell Jr. and SIBA Executive Director Wanda Jewell celebrate SIBA’s 40th anniversary; bottom: Howell and The Drunken Spelunker’s Guide to Plato author Kathy Giuffre.

Two book trailers also announce the release of Forsaken and speak to the book’s powerful underlying history. The first generally introduces the story of the sensational crime committed by Virginia Christian, a young black girl who, in 1912 Hampton Roads, Virginia, was convicted of murder and sentenced to death in the electric chair. She was the only female juvenile to be executed in the history of the state. In the second, Ross Howell, Jr. speaks to Dr. Derryn Moten, whose dissertation of twenty years ago inspired the writing of Forsaken.

The trailers also share early praise received by the book. Author Minrose Gwin calls it “a haunting, riveting work of fiction that raises very contemporary questions about the racial politics of justice.” Jennie Fields adds, “A deep and powerful discourse on racism and redemption, Forsaken and the characters who live and breathe within its pages will not be soon forgotten. Not since Atticus Finch have we met a character spun from the threads of integrity as beautifully as Charlie Mears in Ross Howell Jr.’s exquisite novel.”

Last, a newly developed reading group guide, suitable for teachers, is now available.

Forsaken will be available from NewSouth Books or your favorite bookstore in February, 2016.

Legendary civil rights attorney Solomon Seay Jr. leaves legacy in passing

Thursday, September 24th, 2015 by Randall Williams

Jim Crow and Me: Stories from My Life as a Civil Rights LawyerCivil rights attorney Solomon S. Seay Jr. of Montgomery has died at age 84. Seay was the son of the Reverend Solomon S. Seay, a mentor to Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and one of the architects of the Montgomery Bus Boycott. The younger Seay graduated from Howard University Law School and opened his law office in Montgomery in 1957, shortly after the end of the boycott, just in time to play a key role in the escalating battles against Jim Crow segregation in education, housing, public accommodations, and other areas. Over the next half-century, attorney Seay, often in collaboration with his longtime law partner Fred D. Gray and/or the NAACP, ACLU, and other civil rights groups, won landmark rulings in scores of legal cases.

Seay describes his work and shares his observations about the people and times in his eloquent and witty memoir, Jim Crow and Me: Stories from My Life as a Civil Rights Lawyer (NewSouth, 2009).

Attorney Fred Gray, his friend and colleague, said, “Sol and I worked together in the practice of civil rights law for almost fifty years. He played a major role in most all of the civil rights cases I handled during that period of time. His first civil rights case, Gilmore v. City of Montgomery, desegregated the public parks of Montgomery, and he went on from there. What he did in the civil rights movement has been felt not only in Montgomery but also in the state of Alabama and the United States of America. Each of us should be proud of what he did for mankind. He will be sorely missed but never replaced.”

A large crowd, including friends and fellow lawyers and judges from across the nation, gathered at the Church of the Ascension on September 19 for a memorial service, with burial following in a local cemetery.

Jim Crow and Me is available from NewSouth Books or your favorite bookstore.

Crooked Letter i authors talk coming out in the South at Decatur Book Festival and with Georgia Public Radio

Tuesday, September 22nd, 2015 by Lisa Harrison

Crooked Letter i: Coming Out in the South, edited by Connie GriffinCrooked Letter i had its public launch at the Decatur Book Festival, where book contributor and festival panelists Susan Benton, Christina Holzhauser, B. Andrew Plant, Ed Madden, and James Villanueva participated in a lively and thought-provoking discussion about coming out in the South. Thanks to the Decatur Book Festival organizers for arranging for such a great kick-off event.

A few days before the festival, contributors Suzanne Lea and B. Andrew Plant were interviewed on the Georgia Public Radio program On Second Thought on an episode concerning the opening of the LGBT Institute in Atlanta. Host Celeste Headlee spoke with the authors about the emotions related to the experience of coming out in the South. Plant and Lea discussed the personal nature of the stories they shared in Crooked Letter i. They talked about the importance of trying to reach the next generation of LGBT teens with a message of support and opportunity. They also discussed how the distinct character of Southern culture — including very specifically the element of strong religious fundamentalism — affected their decisions to come out. “Southern” makes the stories in Crooked Letter i unique to LGBT literature.

Crooked Letter i panelists at the Decatur Book Festival: Susan Benton, James Villanueva, Christina Holzhauser, and Ed Madden. (Courtesy

Crooked Letter i panelists at the Decatur Book Festival: Susan Benton, James Villanueva, Christina Holzhauser, and Ed Madden. (Courtesy

Crooked Letter i is available from NewSouth Books or your favorite bookstore.

Remembering Lynn Huntley, Southern Education Foundation president emerita

Friday, September 18th, 2015 by Randall Williams
Lynn Walker Huntley (courtesy Southern Education Foundation)

NewSouth Books joins the chorus of voices mourning the recent passing of Lynn Huntley, former president of the Southern Education Foundation. For two decades, Lynn brought effective, creative leadership to the SEF, which has long been a powerful force for improved education, better race relations, and greater understanding in our region.

SEF VP Steve Suitts (author of NewSouth’s Hugo Black of Alabama) directed us to this post on the Southern Education Foundation website that remembers Lynn and also includes an essay she wrote for the World Conference Against Racism and Xenophobia. Lynn’s essay, “A Message to the Next Generation,” is as timely today as it was when she wrote it for the youth conference in South Africa in 2001.

The SEF post also included a link to a video of Lynn speaking to the first class of the Southern Education Leadership Initiative (SELI), which we’ve embedded below.