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The history of Oakley 1 Reply

Started by Rob Neufeld in Local History. Last reply by Sheilah Jastrzebski May 16.

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Another Brooklyn by Jacqueline Woodson

Award-winning novelist captures fleeting youthby Rob NeufeldAnother Brooklyn by Jacqueline Woodson (Amistad: HarperCollins, Aug. 9, 2016)            The amazing, unusual thing about Jacqueline Woodson’s new novel, “Another Brooklyn,” I realize as it sinks in, is that the initial mystery—that is, why the narrator can’t…See More
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A rare interview, a story about an acid plant

A worker’s view of tannery work in Rosmanby Rob Neufeld             Haskell Luker was 11 when the Flood of 1916 caused his dad, Americus Alfred Luker, to leave the farm where he worked and take a job with an acid (tannin) plant in Pisgah Forest.             “Daddy was going down there to make big…See More
Aug 15
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Interview with Chitra Divakaruni about Before We Visit the Goddess

A talk with Chitra about her benediction of a novelby Rob Neufeld             Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni, one of our country’s most engaging and inventive novelists, first came to this region six years ago for Western Carolina University’s Spring Literary Festival.  That’s when I got to know her and began…See More
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Gary Carden's Outlander--about Kephart--at UNCA July 31--with author

Is Carden's Kephart play controversial?Gary Carden's play, "Outlander," receives a "staged reading" in the Reuter Center, UNC Asheville, 2 p.m., Sun., July 31.  Carden will be on hand to discuss the play with the audience.  It is a controversial play in that it has been criticized by the descendants of Horace Kephart who felt that the play "demeaned" Kephart.  "Ironically," Carden says, "my original purpose in writing the play was to 'redeem' Kephart. who has often been denounced by the…See More
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Bring Back the Game

BRING BACK THE GAME     Anna and I basically spent a month in Asheville, NC this summer. We returned to Georgia a few days ago, and while we were glad to get home, as we got out of the car, we were met with the suffocating heat that I still have not become acclimated to even though we have lived in Middle Georgia for over 30 years. Every plant in our backyard had dried up and only the belligerent squirrels had survived the summer’s inferno.      We had a great time in Asheville. We visited our…See More
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Amy Ammons Garza to Present Her Memoir at City Lights Bookstore

August 6, 2016 from 3pm to 4:30pm
Amy Garza will be presenting her new memoir, Appalachian Storyteller in a Feed Sack Dress, at City Lights Bookstore onSaturday, August 6th at 3 p.m. Follow Amy as she tells the story of her life as she lived it, each chapter being a story in itself. These are the compelling stories of a mountain girl who found the courage she needed in her life to listen and retell the stories of her family and heritage.  Amy Garza was born and raised in Western North Carolina, which leads her into her many…See More
Jul 16

A metamorphosed fundamentalist crafts her memoir

by Rob Neufeld

 

            Virginia Redfield, age 88 of Asheville, has written a remarkable book—“Night Bloom,” a memoir about her liberation from a closely guarded fundamentalist household, aided in that passage by a humanities education and ultimately supported by her parents’ rock solid love for her.

            Her childhood in Depression-era Miami had included no playmates.  One girl, for instance, was found guilty of wearing shorts when she’d visited, and was banished. 

            Virginia—called “Baby” by her mother, and “Mister” by her father—also had no pets, except for a duck soon sent away for annoying neighbors, to be replaced by a voiceless Muscovy, which Virginia disconsolately rejected.

            Until she was grown, Virginia slept in her parents’ bedroom, gladdened only by the scent of night-blooming jasmine outside her window. 

            Her mother kept giving their handyman, Jack, instructions to cut the unruly plant.  Virginia learned from Jack that jasmine sends off shoots that root, and is very hard to kill—a symbol.

            “The nights I dreaded,” Redfield writes, were the ones when her mother could be heard “padding along the tile floor…Often she fell on her knees beside my cot and began to pray, sobbing, stretching her body across mine.”

            Mama begged God to take her precious child.  “I’d rather dig a hole, O Lord,” she pleaded, “and put her in a box and put the box in the ground than have her be like Rosalie,” Mama’s wayward younger sister.  She’d tell God how she’d given her only child to him before she was born, “like Hannah in the Bible.”    

 

One-way house

 

            For over half of the book, we see Virginia grow up in this environment.  It is a privilege to get a first-hand, unadorned, insider account of life in such a rare, true, private society.

            And it is rare.  When Virginia’s mother goes to her daughter’s high school principal to protest the “indecent gym outfits” that girls are required to wear, he tells Mrs. Haynes, “Five hundred and ninety-nine other mothers don’t find them indecent.”

            At the Haynes’ dinner table, “Mom” prays that her loved ones be saved, and lays out their current transgressions.  “Dad,” a property buyer and fixer, does not share his wife’s passion for righteousness, but accedes to keep the peace.

            The family’s experience with Central Church of the Nazarene provides much interest, as preachers come and go and stay at the Haynes home.  A trio of “Prayer Warriors” convenes in Sister Haynes’ “Prophet’s Room,” their news and deliberations overheard by Virginia in her hiding place.

            When a hurricane converges on Miami, several families camp out at the Hayneses, for the house had survived the hurricane of 1926.  In fact, that earlier event leads off the novel.  Virginia’s mom had moved her baby into her and Dad’s bedroom from the crib room moments before the crib room’s roof had blown off and crashed down.

 

Away from homeward

 

            Virginia’s graduation from high school starts the process of her finding herself.  Her parents allow her to take an English 101 summer course at the University of Miami before heading to Trevecca Nazarene College in Nashville; and when Trevecca literally sickens Virginia, they allow her to go back to the university (only three days a week, so she can be monitored for ungodliness in between).

            At the university, Virginia encounters Dr. Tharp, who introduces her to Thomas Wolfe and “Look Homeward, Angell.”

            “By saying what he felt,” Redfield writes, “Thomas Wolfe  gave me permission to acknowledge to myself what I felt—beyond the Bible, beyond the preachers, beyond Mama.”  Like herself, Eugene Gant was searching, via literature, for a way to break free of a confining upbringing.

            Redfield also writes, “The person I was at Church was my base; school was an excursion.”  From her church base, she took away a passion for stripped-down honesty, minus the fear of temptation’s damning power.

 

A triumph

 

            “‘Night Bloom’ has been in the making for several decades,” Redfield notes in her acknowledgements.

            A full appreciation of her achievement takes into account the accomplished way in which she has constructed her story.  What may seem like simply the chronological presentation of key episodes at first turns out to be a building up to perfectly placed, held off revelations.

            I wanted to know more about Virginia’s inheritance from her parents, and about their legacies, and wondered if I’d get that deepness from the book; and I did.

            It also has to be mentioned that the two chapters in which Virginia and her father meet and talk with Thomas Wolfe’s mother, Julia, are a treasure.  Not only do these chapters add significantly to Wolfe lore and serve as a credit to Redfield’s remembering power, they also beautifully reveal the father’s character.

            The publication of “Night Bloom” is a testimony not only to the author’s life, but also to the writers’ support community in Asheville.  Noticed by Tommy Hays, director of the Great Smokies Writing Program at UNCA, the manuscript was passed to other writers, and nurtured, and eventually published as an e-book with help from Kevin McIlvoy, a member of the faculty in the MFA Program in Creative Writing at Warren Wilson College.

            “More than one of us found ourselves saying, ‘Yes!’” to the question, “Read anything great lately?” McIlvoy relates,  and “sharing our frustration that it (“Night Bloom”) had not yet found publication...and, eventually, sharing our determination that this remarkable book be given its chance to lay claim to others’ hearts as it has claimed our own hearts.”

 

THE BOOK

Night Bloom: A Memoir by Virginia Redfield (e-book, April, 2012, 296 pages).

 

HOME PAGE PHOTO

Virginia Redfield and her parents in the 1940s (from the author’s website, www.virginiaredfield.com)

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