I don’t know of many YA novels set in Reconstruction era Virginia with a boy main character so that’s reason enough to read Anne Westrick’s BROTHERHOOD. As others have said, you might think it’s not the venue for a gripping story — but you would be most definitely be mistaken. It’s honest and authentic and will make you cringe sometimes, but that’s the whole idea — the times were definitely cringe worthy. I respect her for reflecting the harshness of the era. Anne grew up in a Southern family that purposely transplanted itself to Pennsylvania but she always wondered about her relatives during this time in history.
For DC area natives, Anne (BROTHERHOOD), Kristin Levine (THE LIONS OF LITTLE ROCK) and I (SEEING RED) will be doing a panel on Civil Rights issues at Hooray 4 Books in Alexandria, VA on Friday, October 25, 2013.
Now, let’s hear from Anne herself:
Why did you write this book / choose this topic?
I have a sense that this topic chose me. I grew up in Pennsylvania where people said woudder instead of water. But at home, my Southern parents used words like y’all and howdy do there. When I asked them about our ancestors, they told me to read Gone with the Wind, and they regurgitated the noble-lost-cause diet of the defeated Confederacy because that’s what their community had fed them. But I think it gave them indigestion. When Daddy told me that as a child, he had vowed never to raise his own children in the South, I wondered what it would have felt like to grow up in a community polarized by racial tensions, a community where whites were expected to treat blacks badly. Brotherhood grew from those wonderings.
When do you write?
Every morning, six days a week (sometimes seven).
Where do you write?
On a mac computer on a table (that used to be my sewing table) in the northwest corner of my bedroom. There are two windows, one on either side of the table. When I glance to the right, I can watch the sun rise, and to the left, if I happen to be at my computer in the early evening, occasionally the setting sun will do such a number on the sky that it’ll compel me to get up and move to a window where I can take in the purples, pinks, reds and oranges. I guess I’m saying that I’m sometimes distracted.
What’s an important “nugget” that you’d like readers to take away from your book?
After the 2012 James River Writers conference, Maggie Duncan posted at “Unexpected Paths” a quote from poet Camisha Jones: “Just because you’re white doesn’t mean you can’t write about diversity. I would like to see stories by white people about the pressure on them to conform to racism. That’s an important story to tell.” Before reading those words, I hadn’t thought of Brotherhood in that way. But that’s what Brotherhood is about—that pressure to conform. Sometimes pressure comes in big, bad, bold ways, such as in the ways the characters in Brotherhood must answer to the KKK, but sometimes it comes quietly, as in a racist comment during a dinner party. Do you let it go or call the person out on it? If you call her out, do you do it publicly or privately? If you don’t call her out, have you granted tacit approval? I guess I’d like to leave readers with questions when they finish Brotherhood.
Do you have a favorite quote or bumper sticker?
I have two favorite quotes. Brenda Ueland said, “The more you wish to describe a Universal the more minutely and truthfully you must describe a Particular.” And Flannery O’Connor said, “I write because I don’t know what I think until I read what I say.” Yeah. Same. I get that.
Autumn. Fall colors mesmerize me.
Deciduous or evergreen?
Definitely deciduous (see favorite season).
Cat or dog?
Cat, but I’ve met some awesome dogs that could change my mind.
Flats or heels?
Flats. By the time I hit seventh grade, I was 5’7” and although I’ve shrunk a little over the years, I developed an “I’m too tall” complex and haven’t been able to shed it.
Favorite board, card, or computer game?
Bridge! I grew up in a bridge-playing family and met my husband playing bridge. These days, I think the average age for bridge players might be eighty, so it’s hard for us to find couples to play with. We enjoy contract bridge, not the competitive version (“duplicate bridge”).
Favorite musical instrument.
Tuba. My son is a tuba player and can make the instrument sound as mellow as a French horn.
Favorite sport or form of exercise?
Activity you wished you enjoyed:
Cooking; it requires so much time that I wish I could find joy in it. But I’d rather be writing.
Thank you, Anne! You can find out more about Anne and her writing at her website or one of the events mentioned above. Happy reading!