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This powerful debut novel is the story of Jacinta Moses, the child of a passionate and courageous love. Jacinta's father is a black African writer, Simon Moses; her mother, Louise, is a white British actress. Her father dies when she is young, sending her mother into a state of madness and depression. Impoverished and alone, Jacinta longs for a better life. As she grows older, however, prejudice?her own as well as others'?leads her to make adventurous but damaging choices. Jacinta flees from London to the ...
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This powerful debut novel is the story of Jacinta Moses, the child of a passionate and courageous love. Jacinta's father is a black African writer, Simon Moses; her mother, Louise, is a white British actress. Her father dies when she is young, sending her mother into a state of madness and depression. Impoverished and alone, Jacinta longs for a better life. As she grows older, however, prejudice—her own as well as others'—leads her to make adventurous but damaging choices. Jacinta flees from London to the American South and marries a white man. When her daughter, Lady, is born with a disability, ruining her hopes for a picture-perfect life, Jacinta travels to Africa to search for answers in her father's homeland. Her experiences there will change her forever. In Africa she is forced to draw on her family's great strengths and weave something brilliant out of their history of pain.
Lady Moses is about being both black and white. It is about passionate characters in extraordinary situations; about how one woman employs her creativity, intelligence, and strength to forge an identity. With its unflinching insight and dazzling prose, Lady Moses marks the entry of a sparkling new voice in African American fiction.
On April 3, 1998, barnesandnoble.com was pleased to welcome Lucinda Roy to our Authors@aol series to discuss her first novel, LADY MOSES. Lucinda Roy is a professor of English at Virginia Tech. She is author of two collections of poems, WAILING THE DEAD TO SLEEP and THE HUMMING BIRDS, the latter of which was awarded the Eighth Mountain Poetry Prize. Lucinda Roy's LADY MOSES is available at keyword BarnesandNoble.
Lucinda Roy: I'd like to say how delighted I am to be here tonight. And I'm really looking forward to hearing what people have to say!
Lucinda Roy: Yes. I do. I think that all of us who are mixed-race faced some unique issues. Culture, especially American culture, tends to force us to think within a single perspective, but those of us who are biracial have a genetic disposition to thinking "in stereo." This can be challenging but also enriching. And I wouldn't change it for the world.
Lucinda Roy: I don't really think that Jacinta was shallow when she reacted in a negative way to the birth of her child. I think she was very human and very afraid. Part of her fear stemmed from the fact that she herself had endured so much prejudice. She was hoping that her child would not have to endure the same kind of thing. But prejudice against difference is extreme in our culture, particularly if people have some kind of physical difference. It seems to me that courage involves overcoming those fears somehow. And that is what Jacinta does.
Lucinda Roy: When I began writing fiction, I was a poet. When I finished LADY MOSES, I'd like to think I was a novelist. But the journey in between was hell. [laughs] Poetry is so very different from fiction that the skills I had as a poet didn't really help when I started writing a novel. I had to shed some of my poetic sensibilities and had to think like a storyteller. May I never have to go through the same thing again.
Lucinda Roy: I was delighted that Clinton went to Africa. I thought it was about time. I'm hoping that many people in America will understand for the first time that Africa is a vast continent of enormous complexity. I'm also hoping that Americans will be encouraged to make their own journeys to Africa to give something back, if possible.
Lucinda Roy: I have discussed this with Africans on many occasions, and I think that the range of reactions is vast. Sometimes Africans have a very clear understanding of what the situation is in America and in the diaspora. And other times, of course, this isn't the case. But one thing that struck me as being remarkable is that all of us who are people of color and who trace our roots back to Africa understand something deep and profound about racism. In some ways it's that knowledge that binds us together. As well as our ability to celebrate what is strong enough.
Lucinda Roy: I think I'd be a little reluctant to call it a "psychological rallying point." In fact, I think that is part of the problem with what happened before. I think that some of us who could trace our roots back to Africa tended to think of the continent in an overly romanticized way. We looked to it to nurture us, to make us strong, instead of thinking what it was we could to do for Africa. And those two things were antithetical. In other words we wanted to take, rather than to give. I'm hoping that this time around, we'll respect the integrity of Africa and try to find out what it wants from us, before asking what we can take from it.
Lucinda Roy: I laugh when I get this question, only because I was asked this before the book was published, and I completely understand why someone would ask this question. Let me tell you what I was thinking about when I titled the book. I was hoping that Lady Moses would come to stand for all three generations of women in the book -- that Louise Buttercup would be Lady Moses, that Jacinta, the daughter, would be Lady Moses, and that the child, of course, would also have that name. I was also hoping that the title would show how important it was for Jacinta to claim her child by naming her herself. When she changes Lady's name from "Lydia" to "Lady," she has laid claim to the beauty of her own child, and she will never let her go.
Lucinda Roy: I am working on some poetry. I'm trying to get my third collection together. I want to include a series of poems about the Information Age. And I'm also trying to write a sonnet sequence about sports. And I'm having a lot of fun, although I don't have as much time to work on it as I would like. I'm not really involved in National Poetry Month. Poetry is as central to me as it always was. It is where I sit down and write naked, in the figurative sense. [laughs] It's where I shape my spirit into a form that is recognizable. I will never leave it behind.
Lucinda Roy: There's a wonderful book on my nightstand called POPE JOAN, by Donna Cross. And I highly recommend it. It's out in paperback now. She also sold the movie rights, so I'm hoping for a movie one day. It's the story of a woman called Joan, who according to legend became Pope for two years in the 9th century. It's one of the best-researched books I've read in a long time, and it also happens to be great fun. Every time I read it, I celebrate, because I'm alive in 1998!
Lucinda Roy: Jacinta finds it easier in America than she did in Britain, as a woman of color, but there are lots of complicated reasons for this. It's not necessarily true that there is less racism in America. But it is true that there are more people of color. So Jacinta is able to identify with them. When she goes to the basketball game, for example, she sees the glory in the style of the black players on the court. Something in her rises up and sings. She had not experienced this before.
Lucinda Roy: At the end of the book, she understands that her mother's past is her present and her daughter's future, and she describes it this way She says that she must not segregate the tenses, past, present, and future. I chose the word "segregate" carefully because of its racial overtones, and I was trying to show that we can liberate ourselves by going back to the past fearlessly and by applying it to our present tense, and by remembering it as we head on into the future. I think that's what Jacinta learned.
Lucinda Roy: I love these questions! They make me rethink the book. When you write, you don't think, you just write from your heart. It's only afterward, during the rewrite, that the intellect comes in, at least for me. So this is a great question. I think that in the end, she identifies equally with both. This probably sounds like a cop-out, but I don't think it is. Remember that the whole book takes place at her mother's deathbed. It is her mother's death that flings her back into a memory of the past. In a way, once again, her white mother brings her back to a knowledge of her black father. In her journey, she finds them both.
Lucinda Roy: Political questions are always tough, but I like to give an honest answer, so here goesI think that in theory, introducing "multiracial" as a category is a fine idea. In practice, however, I'm concerned that it will lead to economic hardship for African Americans. I'm worried that the figures would be used to suggest that there are fewer minorities suffering economic hardship, and that multiracial people would also encounter more difficulties due to this new classification. In conclusion, however, I have to say that I think it was inevitable. People are proud of both of their parents. And their desire to express the full extent of their racial heritage is completely understandable.
Lucinda Roy: I think that racism is a lot worse than many people believe it is. I think that it's rooted so much more deeply than people would like to believe. And I think it will take many more decades to erase the horrors of racism. On the other hand, I am extraordinarily optimistic about people and individuals. I saw the love my mother had for my father. Although she was white and he was black, their passion was as true as anyone's I have ever seen. The fact that a love like that existed in the 1950s, and the fact that so many of us have deep friendships across race, means that there is hope. We need to teach our children not to be afraid. If we do that, we win.
Lucinda Roy: You're very welcome!
Lucinda Roy: I'd love to come again. Thank you so much!
Posted November 5, 2003
This is a great book. I loved reading this book. It was like going on each journey with the title charater. From her mothers home to her own discovery abroad. Great reading!!Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted March 11, 2001
Jacinta Moses is very worth every page about her. This book is one I have felt, not only read. Lucinda Roy is an amazing and blessed writer. She now has me wondering what I will be reading once I finish her books? How much autobiography and what part gloriously created? Relationships decoded by a young woman, sometimes too late. Picturesque experiences, all.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.