a novel about race and relationships in the South
Southern desserts with author Minrose Gwinn
Blue Ridge Books, the Haywood County Public Library and Folkmoot are hosting the author Minrose Gwin for a reading and discussion of her new novel, Promise. The event will be held on Friday, March 16 at 1:00 pm in the Queen Auditorium at the Folkmoot Friendship Center at 112 Virginia Avenue in Waynesville. Tickets are $20 per person and may be purchased at Blue Ridge Books. The price of the ticket includes admission to the event, dessert and beverage, and a $10 coupon toward the purchase of the book.
A few minutes after 9 p.m. on Palm Sunday, April 5, 1936, a massive funnel cloud flashing a giant fireball and roaring like a run-away train careened into the thriving cotton-mill town of Tupelo, Mississippi. The official death toll ranged from 216 to 233 but deaths in the black community, one-third of the town’s population, were simply not counted. Promise attempts to shed light on the untold stories of that day through the fictionalized tale of two women—one black, one white—who fight for their families’ survival in the tornado’s aftermath while grappling with their tragic shared past.
A literary love song that hits all the right notes, Promise is a powerful story of loss, hope, despair, grit, courage, and race. By tackling increasingly relevant issues of race and what it means to be considered a citizen in America, Promise has quickly become a timely and important book during this era of political upheaval, societal divide, and ideological polarization. Drawing on historical events and her personal connection to the disaster, Gwin beautifully imagines natural and human destruction in the deep South of the 1930s and reminds us of the transformative power that comes from confronting our most troubled relations with one another.
In the novel, Dovey, a local washwoman, harbors nothing but hatred for her employer, powerful judge Mort McNabb and his family. Mort allows his violent and reckless son to do as he pleases, ultimately leaving Dovey’s granddaughter bruised and broken with an illegitimate child. Mort’s daughter Jo is no stranger to Son McNabb’s nature, but she is nothing like her brutish brother. While Dovey and Jo come from different worlds, both are thrust into chaos by the powerful and devastating force of an F5 tornado appears without warning and levels the town.
Houses are ripped from their foundations, while people—black and white, alive and dead—are scattered throughout the town. When Jo discovers a baby in the wreckage, she believes it to be her baby brother and vows to protect him in the horrific aftermath of the storm. But Jo is not prepared for Dovey, who claims the baby is her own great-grandchild. During the harrowing hours and days that follow, Jo and Dovey will struggle to navigate a landscape of disaster and be forced to battle both the demons and the history that link and haunt them.
With Promise, Gwin flexes her impressive narrative muscle creating her most ambitious novel to date. With her sharp examination of race relations, disaster aid relief and more, Gwin has crafted a searing cultural commentary on today’s most prescient issues focused through the lens of history. A breathtakingly gorgeous account of an unknown side of history, Promise is an enthralling saga that is affecting, shocking, and ultimately redemptive.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Like the characters in her latest novel, Promise, Minrose Gwin grew up in Tupelo, Mississippi. She began her writing career as a newspaper and wire service reporter in cities throughout the southeast. Her civil rights-era novel, The Queen of Palmyra, was a “Indy Notable Selection” and a finalist for the John Gardner Fiction Book Award. Her memoir, Wishing for Snow, tells the story of her mother’s descent into mental illness. Wearing another hat, Minrose is also the author of cultural and literary studies books that focus on racial injustice. In Remembering Medgar Evers: Writing the Long Civil Rights Movement, she writes of the reverberating impact of the Civil Rights leader’s martyrdom. She is also a coeditor of The Literature of the American South and has taught as a professor at universities across the country, most recently the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.