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Rob Neufeld posted a discussion

Salman Rushdie come to Asheville with new novel

Atheist believes in genies, novel revealsby Rob Neufeld             Salman Rushdie’s latest novel—“Two Years Eight Months and Twenty-Eight Nights” (1,001 nights)—has permitted me to come up with a headline as wild as the one above because the book is so exuberantly and infectiously…See More
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Rob Neufeld posted discussions
Jan 31
Rob Neufeld posted a blog post

73 classic works about Appalachia going online

Key Appalachian studies publications now going onlinefrom press release, Jan. 27. 2016 Appalachian studies scholars and those interested in regional history will have greater access to out-of-print works thanks to a two-year National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH) and The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation Open Book Program grant totaling $88,000 awarded to Belk Library and Information Commons at Appalachian State University.  Pamela Mitchem, the library’s coordinator of digital scholarship and…See More
Jan 30
Rob Neufeld posted a discussion

John Parris' home-grown prose

South of Sylva, back of yesterday: John Parris' inspiration             “For the life of me, I just can’t understand why folks stopped usin’ cradles,” John Parris’ 97-year-old maternal grandfather had told him 60 years ago.            The oil lamp, the buggy, and the spinning wheel—they all were replaced by things…See More
Jan 27
Rob Neufeld posted a discussion

James Sturm expands scope of graphic novels

James Sturm blazes cartoon path to a new worldby Rob Neufeld             Why is it that when an author combines pictures with words, the medium is considered juvenile, like comics?  Words create literature; images, art.  Why, when you marry them, is it like pairing a milk cow with a mop?            Nothing against…See More
Jan 24
susannah eanes posted a blog post

The Writer as Pilgrim

Two articles leapt at my consciousness this week, both about writing. And suddenly, I know how to go forward from here. The first, The Price I Pay to Write, by Laura Bogart and published online in Dame Magazine, reflects on the difficulties of…See More
Jan 24
Rob Neufeld posted a discussion

Tired of thrillers with no soul?

Why read a 1940 man-on-the-run classicby Rob Neufeld             After reading a classic novel, you might think, “Oh, look at this superior ancestor of today’s fiction.”              For instance, “The Power and the Glory,” Graham Greene’s 1940 thriller about political oppression in Mexico, exemplifies the…See More
Jan 17
Susan True updated their profile
Jan 9
Rob Neufeld posted a discussion

Art of Grace by Sarah Kaufman

Dance critic applies grace to every moveby Rob Neufeld             It’s nice to find just the right word for something, especially when it sums up a main idea in your way of thinking.            That was the case with Sarah Kaufman when she’d first felt moved, nine years ago, to write her new book, “The Art of Grace” (W.W.…See More
Jan 9
City Lights Bookstore posted events
Jan 9
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Jan 8
Kathryn Hall posted a blog post

Fire and Ice Roses interview with author/gardening blogger Kathryn Hall

Fire and Ice Roses has been interviewing gardening bloggers and gardening experts and were kind enough to include this short interview recently which was quite fun and very much appreciated! http://fireandiceroses.com/ask-an-expert-kathryn-hall/See More
Jan 5
Rob Neufeld posted a blog post

History in the making, January 2, 2016

History in the making: items of note, January 2, 2016It was reported in today’s print edition of the Asheville Citizen-Times that a new state law went into effect, requiring people who’ve filed for unemployment benefits to make at least 5 job contacts a week.  It had been 2.  How will that work?  Are there that many jobs for which a person is qualified?  Can you apply to the same job twice if it continues to be listed? Paul Bonesteel, noted Asheville filmmaker, revealed on Facebook that a…See More
Jan 2
Rob Neufeld posted a blog post

Local event of the day, Jan 1 2016

Tarantino, eminent domain, and emancipation Tarantino comes to townQuentin Tarantino’s New Year’s gore and gabfest, The Hateful Eight, is gutted by New Yorker reviewer Anthony Lane, who says that Tarantino toys with rather than explores history, using it “for boyish fantasies of revenge, as if enormous crimes could be undone, after the event, by lone and wanton acts of humiliation.” …See More
Jan 1
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Railroad history in Western North Carolina: a close-up and bottom-line look

Railroads in WNC: the perils, the people, and the profitby Rob NeufeldWritten in conjunction with exhibit, "How The West Was Won," in Rural Heritage Museum, Mars Hill University PHOTO CAPTION: The entrance to the railroad show at the Rural Heritage Museum is commanded by a mock-up of Climax engine…See More
Dec 24, 2015

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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