Loading...
Bless our hearts as Edmund Burke quoted: The only thing necessary for the triump of evil is for good men(and women) to...

A book about black people, not white racism

In West Mills
1 of 3
De'shawn Charles Winslow
DGMartin.jpg
Loading…

Sunday, May 19, 2019

 

Elizabeth City native De’Shawn Charles Winslow’s debut novel, “In West Mills” might be the blackest novel set in North Carolina this year, maybe ever.

This book is all about African Americans living and struggling in eastern North Carolina from about 1940 to 1987. There are no major white characters and no focus on racism and Jim Crow. There is almost nothing about racial conflict or the civil rights struggle. Putting these themes aside, Winslow shows his characters dealing with universal challenges that people of all races confront as they deal with the human situation.

West Mills is a fictional small town in eastern North Carolina, somewhere between Elizabeth City, where the author grew up, and Ahoskie where the main character of the novel was born and reared.

That main character, Azalea Centre, or Knot, as she is called by everyone, has moved to West Mills from Ahoskie, where her father is a dentist and a bulwark of the local church. Knot, however, wants to get away from her family and make her own way.

She finds a teaching job in West Mills. Knot loves 19th century English literature. That sounds good for a teacher, but she also loves cheap moonshine and bedding a variety of men. One of them, Pratt Shephard, wants to marry her. But after a session of enthusiastic lovemaking, she tosses him out of her life. He signs up to fight in the looming World War II.

Soon after Pratt leaves, Knot learns she is pregnant. She does not want to end the pregnancy, but wants nothing to do with the child after its birth. To the rescue comes a dear friend, Otis Lee Loving, and his wife, Penelope or “Pep.” They find a local couple to adopt Knot’s daughter. All this is done in secret and only a few people in the community know that Frances, daughter of Phillip and Lady Waters, is really Knot’s birth child.

Shortly after she recovers from the first delivery, Knot becomes pregnant again. Otis Lee comes to the rescue once more. He finds a place for the new baby with local storeowners, Brock and Ayra Manning. They name the baby Eunice.

When they grow up, Frances and Eunice, not knowing about their common origin, come to despise each other and fight for the attention of the same man.

On this situation, Winslow builds a series of confrontations and complications that challenge the comfortable order of the West Mills community.

Meanwhile, as time passes, the community seems immune to the racial conflicts in other parts of the state. In one of the book’s few mentions of racial conflict, Otis Lee hears stories in 1960 about “the young colored people in Greensboro who had organized a sit-in a couple of months earlier” and pronounced it a terrible thing. Winslow writes, “Greensboro hadn’t come to them yet. And Otis Lee hoped things would get better so that it wouldn’t have to.”

Otis Lee is not only Knot’s loyal friend and rescuer. He becomes a major character. In a flashback to prohibition days he travels to New York City to rescue an older sister who is trying to pass for white. That effort fails, but his relationship with that woman provides a poignant thread that carries the book to one of its surprising endings.

“In West Mills” will not be released until June 4, but it is gathering early praise that indicates it could be a blockbuster. Adah Fitzgerald of Main Street Books in Davidson writes, “Winslow's characters are rich and deeply developed. His dialogue feels like part of the landscape.”

Colin Sneed of Flyleaf Books in Chapel Hill says, “Winslow loves and respects and understands his characters and it comes through on every page."

I agree with them.

D.G. Martin is a retired lawyer, politician and university administrator and is host of UNC-TV’s “North Carolina Bookwatch,” at 11 a.m. Sundays and 5 p.m. on Tuesdays.

Loading…

Humans of Greenville

@HumansofGville

Local photographer Joe Pellegrino explores Greenville to create a photographic census of its people.

Look

July 21, 2019

Overlook Mountain may have had grandiose visions of overlooking history’s landmark music festival. Always an art and music colony, still an art and music colony, Woodstock, New York, has always dabbled in grandeur, nurturing Hudson River artists and Bob Dylan musicians and even Chevy Chase…

joy moses-Hall.jpg.jpg

July 21, 2019

Parker’s Barbecue in Greenville opened in March 1970. During the nearly 50 intervening years, locals and visitors alike have become aware that the restaurant’s owners are people of Christian faith who worked all their basic religious principles into the business.

But it has only been in…

Bob Garner.jpg

July 21, 2019

There are four seasons of the year in Pitt County: December, January, February, and the season of mowing grass.

For nine months of each year, I am a full-time employee of the yard. And I should join a union, because there is plenty of conflict between management and labor. The yard always manages…

harvey

July 19, 2019

Q Help me understand the recent news about diet soda and stroke risk. CK, Greenville

A I got lots of questions about the news headlines that screamed “drinking two or more diet beverages a day linked to high risk of stroke, heart attacks!” There often is a difference between the…

Kolasa, Kathy

July 17, 2019

For the last five months Winterville has been home to a new restaurant that has been gaining a steady and devoted foodie fan base.

Main and Mill Oyster Bar and Tavern has taken over the old Wimpies building at 204 W. Main St. The same layout has been retained with welcoming, warm, and wide open…

Raw Oysters (1).jpg

July 17, 2019

Q Help me understand the recent news about diet soda and stroke risk. CK, Greenville

A I got lots of questions about the news headlines that screamed “drinking two or more diet beverages a day linked to high risk of stroke, heart attacks!” There often is a difference between the…

Kolasa, Kathy

July 17, 2019

Whether you plan on hiking, visiting the beach or partaking in any other outdoor activity this summer, knowing what to do and being prepared in case of an emergency can help save a life.

Approximately 40 percent of trauma-related deaths worldwide can be attributed to bleeding or its consequences.…

bleed

July 14, 2019

When I was in college, I had a friend who bragged he could remember every meal he ever ate.

Rob used to regale us with tales of meals past, from the first time he ever tried a club sandwich (“Double the sandwich goodness! Sheer genius!) to his unfortunate encounters with his grandma’s…

5d253db81d9f1.image.jpg

July 14, 2019

I recently passed an important milestone on the fascinating journey of growing older: being told it was time for cataract surgery.

For 35 years, I’ve worn progressive, no-line bifocals with transition lenses that darken and lighten automatically. One pair of glasses for both reading and…

Bob Garner.jpg

July 10, 2019

Cd’s Grill has celebrated its one-year anniversary and updated its menu and hours just in time for summer. If you’re seeking comfort food in all its forms with a welcoming atmosphere, then Cd’s should be your next food stop.

The restaurant is located at 111 W. Fire Tower Road,…

cheesebiscuits
178 stories in Look. Viewing 1 through 10.
«First Page   «Previous Page        
Page 1 of 18
        Next Page»   Last Page»