Francine Thomas Howard left a rewarding career in pediatric occupational therapy to pursue her first love, writing. She resides with her family in the San Francisco Bay Area.
Page from a Tennessee Journalby Francine Thomas Howard
It is 1913, shortly before the start of the First World War, and Annalaura is alone again. Her gambling, womanizing husband has left the plot they sharecrop in rural Tennessee why or for how long she does not know. Without food or money and with her future tied to the fate of the season’s tobacco crop, Annalaura struggles to raise her four children. When help comes in the form of an amorous landowner, who is she to turn it and him away?
In this remarkable first novel, as bracingly original as it is exquisitely rendered, Francine Howard tells a moving story of American desire and ambition and the tragic, slippery boundaries of race under Jim Crow.
“Based on a true family story, this haunting first novel admirably revisits a painful time in history. Too often historical novels about women indulge in anachronistic explorations of feminism, but this novel admirably avoids that trap and instead portrays realistic characters dealing with their difficult lot in life.”
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Most of us have heard stories about how racial relations were in the south in the early 1900's. Even today, admit it or not, there are some that have bias against those of other races, colors, religions, or just because some one or a group doesn't agree with their own ideas. Francine Howard has given us a story of this time in history that none of us should be proud of regardless of our convictions in any of the above. Francine writes about several families of blacks and whites that had extreme feelings, usually hatred, of each other but still those whites with financial means controlled the blacks even to the extent of forcing themselves upon a black woman tenant sexually. Those powers did not end with just sex but in all facets of life of that time, keeping a separation of the opposite color in public and living another type of life in private. The Welles family, Annalaura and John and their four children farmed a forty-acre section of land owned by Alexander McNaughton and his wife Eula Mae. The living conditions of the Welles family duplicated what other black farmers had. The houses, if one could call them that, along with their very poor standard of living, existed throughout the south. They scrounged for food that was edible, clothes to cover their bodies, and worked for meager wages and lived in the shacks that were not humane housing. John Welles decided to leave his family for a short time to get some funds built up so his family could improve their lives and purchase their own land. Little did John know what turmoil he left his family in as they alone tried to farm the fields with just four children and his wife. The work was extremely hard when everyone was there. When their white boss, Alexander McNaughton, decided he wanted to force himself sexually on the good looking black tenant, Annalaura, he had no qualms doing such a dirty deed. After all she was only a black tenant and she was there for him. After a while she started enjoying Alex and his sexual favors. Alex started giving her some goods to allow a better living for her and the children. Alex never told his wife about his fun affair but when she noticed goods missing, she knew something was up. After a short time, Annalaura became pregnant with Alex's child. Since no one else was around to blame, he had to admit that the baby was his. From here the story follows John Welles on his working time in various places to sock away some money, which he did quite well. Laura never knew if John was ever coming back so she lived as though he wasn't. But, eventually John did come back to the huge surprise of a new child in the house. The actions of all involved are well told by Francine Howard in this book. It is very enlightening to read about how things occurred that never should have, but they did. Thank you Francine for this excellent story of a terrible personal time in our nations history.