Archive for the 'Forsaken' Category

Virginian-Pilot features historical novel Forsaken in extended article

Thursday, July 21st, 2016 by Lisa Harrison

Forsaken by Ross Howell

The Virginian-Pilot featured the Forsaken book trailer, and links to Forsaken: The Digital Bibliography at the Library of Virginia, in an extensive article covering the genesis, action, and themes of Ross Howell Jr.’s powerful historical novel. Denise M. Watson interviewed Howell, who told about coming across the story of Virginia Christian, a juvenile tried for murder and executed by the state, while researching another criminal case, and later learning of a dissertation on her execution written by Dr. Derryn Moten.

The Virginian-Pilot article examines the facts of the case, and notes how Howell weaves in interconnected material, including the eugenics movement in early 20th-century Virginia. Howell told the Virginian-Pilot, “I have always seen myself as a fiction writer, and I felt that if I could bring this girl to life that it would make the story of her fate much more compelling, and that’s what I set out to do. I hope I did that.”

The Library of Virginia subsequently digitized and indexed many of the historical documents from Howell’s research for an exhibit related to the book.

Forsaken is available from NewSouth Books or your favorite bookstore.

Richmond Times-Dispatch recaps highlights of Ross Howell Jr.’s Library of Virginia event

Wednesday, March 30th, 2016 by Lisa Harrison

Forsaken by Ross Howell

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.

“Virginia Currents” Ross Howell Jr. interview yields rich insights into Forsaken research

Friday, March 4th, 2016 by Lisa Harrison

Forsaken by Ross Howell

A post of Ross Howell Jr’s interview with Catherine Komp of WCVE on the station’s “Virgina Currents” website includes links to archival documents the author used in researching his historical novel Forsaken.

Visitors to the site can learn what intrigued Howell about the 1912 murder trial that ended with the execution of African American juvenile Virginia Christian, and view letters and telegrams to Virginia Governor Mann asking that the death sentence for Christian be commuted. Included is one such letter from Charles Mears, the reporter who becomes a leading character in Ross Howell’s novel. Audio of the interview includes readings from Forsaken.

For anyone interested in Jim Crow-era or Virginia history or the way history informs a work of fiction, Catherine Komp’s story is a great resource.

Forsaken is available from NewSouth Books or your favorite bookstore.