Michael Paul Williams of the Richmond Times-Dispatch offers a stunning interview with Ross Howell Jr. about the writing of the historical novel Forsaken. Williams noted that he “had the pleasure of introducing” Howell at the Library of Virginia. The piece includes insight from Howell on why he created the narrator Charlie Mears to tell the story of executed juvenile Virginia Christian, and the relevance of her story to the Black Lives Matter movement today.
Williams quotes Howell as having a moment in which he imagined Oprah Winrey interviewing him about how he as a white male could have insight into the person of Virginia Christian. Having created a character with which to view the story of the young girl’s trial and execution, Howell was able to further explore the affect of racism on whites as well as blacks in early twentieth-century America. He noted that the residue of that racism is still with us into the twenty-first century:
“Today, we have more young black males incarcerated than at any time of our history. … We’ve seen videos of unarmed black men and boys being killed by police officers with such frequency that it’s mind-numbing. Virgie Christian’s life and death were shaped by the fear and hate of one race for another. I saw it a half-century ago. And now, a century after the girl’s death, we see fear and hate are with us still. What I hope for this novel is that readers will take away empathy and the firm resolve to honor human rights and human dignity.”
The story highlights the research Howell did at the Library of Virginia and provides a link to the digital bibliography for the book created there. The bibliography is the gift of senior archivist Roger Christman, whose own insights into the history are beautifully captured in a recent blog posting on the Library of Virginia website.
Forsaken is available from NewSouth Books or your favorite book retailer.