Society Doesn’t Approve
Posted by Literary Titan
Beloved Mother follows the lives of several family members in a poor coal-mining town during the 1900’s. What was the inspiration for the setup to this intriguing novel?
I know these people. I grew up in a lower Appalachian coalmining area. My mother grew up in the Appalachians where coalmining was a way of life. I spent my summers there where soil was a black as the coal itself, where miners can’t wash the black rings from around their eyes. The livelihood of the community depends on what can be extracted from the earth’s belly. No coal=no food, no warmth, no clothing. An accident, a death, would turn a woman’s life into a catastrophe, as she tired simply to feed her children.
Three woman struggle to find their place in a harsh Appalachian mining town. What were some obstacles you felt were important to telling their story?
One of the primary obstacles women faced then, and for many today, is society’s failure to recognize that women must cope with whatever they have available. Often times, what they are relegated to do is not what society accepts. Society then shuns them, casts them aside, because they are different. The women in BELOVED MOTHER must choose. Mona must choose a way of life that will allow her to survive by using what she has been taught. Anna chooses to live her life for a lover, and Lily chooses to make her own way through what Nature offers her. Society doesn’t approve of any of their choices. As a result, all three find themselves isolated.
You explore many ideas in this novel like family, God, and humanity. What were some themes you wanted to capture while writing?
I didn’t think about themes as I wrote BELOVED MOTHER. The threads seemed to come together as the plot developed. This novel was gifted me. Once the characters and setting gelled, the action, dialogue, senses and plot – all the story elements – played out before me as if I were watching a movie. After I finished the preliminary plot, I did see that each of the women hold a different concept of family, even though they are biologically connected. I initially included the spirit world to emphasize the Cherokee legends, to justify the bizarre actions of Mona and to lighten the tone of what was happening to the earth people. As the spirits Sister Sun, Brother Moon and Great Spirit came into focus, I realized that they offer the differing beliefs of many people, not just mountain folk or Native Americans. As a result, the earth characters pull from the spirit world in order to establish their own philosophy. The beliefs are as different as the characters themselves. Some would argue that one belief is as valid as another.
God? God, or a supernatural power, is presented as a vengeful Old Testament being, a being that terrifies Anna as she realizes she is dying. As Great Spirit is known to Mona and Lily, this supreme being is sometimes tired, a forgetful character who gets overwhelmed by the actions of those on earth. Other times, he leaves people to survive their own actions. He also merges with the spiritual concept of a loving God for good, to help Lily survive the loses she must face. Then, too, Mona so distorts the concept of a superior being that she, or her talking weasel, convinces herself that she is more powerful than Great Spirit. In looking back, the reader might see these characters as prototypes of different ways of looking at a supreme being. I had no intention of writing such, but perhaps I did.
Humanity is depicted as humanity often shows itself to be: hurtful, manipulative, greedy, gentle, loving. One character who borders on being a narcissist comes forward to save the most vulnerable character in the novel. One character has no concept of the role of father and almost kills his son. One character, on the other hand, bribes his boss to insure that his son will have an education that will carry him out of the coalmines. Overall, the characters portray the different personalities that we encounter. We all are different. We all have different reasons for doing what we do. We make mistakes. We have successes. Like the characters in BELOVED MOTHER, we trod along, attempting to survive as best we can.
What is the next book that you are working on and when will it be available?
The working title of my current project is SUMMER OF NO RAIN. The manuscript is currently with Beta readers. I hope that it will be available late 2019. The story is based on actual events of the late 1960s near Montgomery, Alabama. A clinic for women of color used 1964 Civil Rights monies to establish a program that used sterilization experiments on illiterate and young girls of color. The case against the clinic went to the US Supreme Court in 1974.
In SUMMER OF NO RAIN, the characters, the setting, the events all are fiction. I researched what medicines and procedures were used to sterilize these young girls and let those events become part of a 12-year-old mulatto’s summer. The plot focuses on her socialization failures, her physical decline, and her eventual suicide attempt and the love her mother has for her.
Like BELOVED MOTHER, the tone is serious. It must be, for the procedures were brutal. The outcome was a farce as the reader will see, but I tried to lighten the mood by including events typical of children in 1968 in rural Alabama.
SUMMER OF NO RAIN depicts a grave injustice that many today know nothing about. Unlike when writing BELOVED MOTHER, I had a goal in creating this novella. That goal is to make people aware of the hidden evil man can perpetrate on his fellowman.
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A story of the lives of three women, tightly woven together and surviving the harsh societal environment of an Appalachian mining town in the early to mid-1900s. Two religions contrast with each other—the Cherokee spirits of the native people and the Old Testament God of the white settlers—as each woman struggles to find her place. Love and hate, marriage and adultery, childbirth and abortion, all have their parts to play. Beloved Mother accurately portrays the evilness in humanity, in which the wicked corrupt the innocent to create a vicious cycle of abuse, until one person—with a heart of understanding and forgiveness—has the courage to end it.
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