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Red River
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Red River

3.9 27
by Lalita Tademy

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From the author of the New York Times bestseller Cane River comes the paperback debut of an epic work of fiction that tells the dramatic, intertwining story of two families and their struggles to make a place for themselves in a country deeply divided in the aftermath of the Civil War.


From the author of the New York Times bestseller Cane River comes the paperback debut of an epic work of fiction that tells the dramatic, intertwining story of two families and their struggles to make a place for themselves in a country deeply divided in the aftermath of the Civil War.

Editorial Reviews

Kim McLarin
Tademy also manages to straddle the line between glorifying her ancestors and humanizing them. The Tademys of Colfax not only survived the oppression and brutality of post-Reconstruction America, but they prospered, confronting racism, accumulating land and building the first colored school so that the local black children might build themselves better lives. Lalita Tademy has every right to be proud.
— The Washington Post
Publishers Weekly
Four generations of African-American Southerners claw their way up from the ruins of Reconstruction in this engrossing family saga by the author of the bestselling Cane River. Tademy begins with a harrowing recreation of the notorious 1873 massacre at Colfax, La., where 150 blacks, gathered in defense of local Republican officials-and their own citizenship-were killed by white supremacists. Her narrative continues into the 1930s with a fictionalized chronicle of her forebears in the Tademy and Smith clans as they struggle against poverty, buy land and pursue their dream of starting a school for African-American children, their progress challenged by floods, hunting accidents and the Ku Klux Klan. It's an unabashed story of racial uplift (sample dialogue: "'We getting old, and it up to us to move the race forward'"), but there's plenty of drama and grit to keep it from becoming cloying. Through her characters, the author paints an indelible portrait of rural life under Jim Crow, built around backbreaking farm labor, blood ties that bind and chafe, and the omnipresent fear of a capricious white racism that can undo in a moment the work of a lifetime. Combining family anecdotes with historical research and a rich imagination, Tademy crafts another American epic. Photos. (Jan. 3) Copyright 2006 Reed Business Information.
Library Journal
A successful black female executive, Tademy left corporate America to explore her family's roots. Cane River, the first novel to result from her genealogical research, was a 2001 Oprah's Book Club summer selection and a New York Times best seller. Here, the author tackles a different branch of the Tademy family tree, skillfully portraying the repercussions of what became known as the Colfax Riot. In 1873, during Reconstruction, black voters in Colfax, LA, many of whom were freed slaves, took up arms to install the legally elected white Republican Party sheriff, who was seen by angry whites as a hated carpetbagger. A violent standoff at the town courthouse resulted in great loss of life and ushered in a new era of intimidation and discrimination that many Southern blacks had hoped was ending with Reconstruction. This engrossing and eyeopening emotional family saga spans several generations while bringing an African American perspective to a very painful time in U.S. history. Strongly recommended for all fiction collections. [See Prepub Alert, LJ 9/15/06.]-Laurie A. Cavanaugh, Brockton P.L., MA Copyright 2006 Reed Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
Bestselling author of Cane River (2001) brings another 19th-century family story, this one focused on the Colfax Massacre, the bloodiest battle of the Reconstruction era. In the aftermath of the Civil War, the November 1872 elections are the first time the freed slaves living in the Bottom, an African-American settlement near Colfax, La., are able to assert their citizenship. But the election is inconclusive, and when the white Democratic ticket tries to unlawfully take office, the largely Republican black population occupies the town courthouse, waiting for support from the federal government. For Israel Smith and Sam Tademy, the choice is difficult-each has a wife and children in the Bottom to think about, and every day they spend in the courthouse is a harder one for their families. But as whites begin to learn about the occupation, the Bottom also becomes increasingly unsafe. Fighting begins in earnest in April, when a white army enters Colfax and brutally murders nearly every black man there. Sam is given the task of leading the women and children out of Colfax and is thus spared, and on his way back to town finds Israel, wounded but still alive. Nearly a decade after the riots, the author continues the story of the two families and their depleted community from the perspective of the next generation-particularly Israel's son Noby and Sam's son Jackson (Green, who shared his father's dream of building a school for black children, is killed in a hunting accident). The families further intertwine when members of the third generation marry, and each tries to figure out how to-and if they even should-maintain the legacy of Colfax. The first half of the book sheds light on an overlookedevent, and is rife with palpable tension, but the author tries to cram far too much history and family drama into the second half. What starts as a page-turner becomes an overblown saga.

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Grand Central Publishing
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5.25(w) x 8.00(h) x 1.00(d)

Read an Excerpt

Red River

A Novel
By Lalita Tademy


Copyright © 2007 Lalita Tademy
All right reserved.

ISBN: 0-446-57898-3



Come closer. This is not a story to go down easy, and the backwash still got hold of us today. The history of a family. The history of a country. From bondage to the joy of freedom, and almost ten hopeful years drinking up the promise of Reconstruction, and then back into the darkness, so fearsome don't nobody want to talk about the scary time. Don't nobody want to remember even now, decades removed, now things better some. Why stir up all that old mess from way back in 1873? I don't hold with that point of view. I was there, watching, like all the women done, up close some of the time but most ways from a distance. They all dead and buried now. I outlast each one, using up my time on earth and some of theirs too. One hundred last birthday, trapped in this wasted body. All I do now is remember and pray the story don't get lost forever. It woulda suit Lucy fine, everybody forgetting. Lucy and me, that the only thing we usta argue about, when we was both clear-minded and had more juice to work up, but those talks never last too long. She just shut her mouth and shut her mind, refusing the truth. I still got heat around the subject, but where to put it now? Lucy gone last year. She turn one hundred five before she left this earth. Was two of us held on for such a long time, me and Lucy. Outlasting our men-our husbands, our sons, even some grandsons. We allhad it hard, but the men, they had it worse, 'specially those what come up on life from the front. Women is the long-livers at the base of the Tademy family tree.

They don't teach 1873 at the colored school. Wasn't for my husband, wouldn't be no colored school for Colfax, Louisiana. That the kind of man Sam Tademy was. Could carry a vision in his head and stick to it no matter what the discouragement. Some men good providers, got a way with the soil or a trade. Some men been given a singing voice take you to glory, or magic in they bodies to move in dance and make you feel alive. Some men so pretty you gaze on them with hunger, or so smooth they get hold of words and make you believe any nonsense come out they mouth. Some got the gift to make you laugh out loud, and others preach strong and spread the word of God. My man, Sam, he quiet after his own way, look after his family, not afraid of the tug of the plow. He done some preaching, and some teaching, but always thinking about the rest of the colored. Not wanting to get too far ahead without pulling forward everyone else willing to work hard at the same time. Education mean everything to that man. Once he set his head on a colored school in Colfax, wasn't nothing could crush the notion. He mortgage his own sons to the plan, and it come to pass.

We been writ out the history of this town. They got a metal marker down to the courthouse tell a crazy twisting of what really happen Easter Sunday sixty year ago. The ones with the upper hand make a story fit how they want, and tell it so loud people tricked to thinking it real, but writing down don't make it so. The littlest colored child in Colfax, Louisiana, know better than to speak the truth of that time out loud, but the real stories somehow carry forward, generation to generation. Those of us what was there catch a retold whisper, and just the mention got the power to stir up those old troubles in our minds again like they fresh, and the remembering lay a clamp over our hearts. But we need to remember. Truth matters. What our colored men try to do for the rest of us in Colfax matter. They daren't be forgot. We women keep the wheel spinning, birthing the babies and holding together a decent home to raise them in. We take care of them what too young or too old to take care of theyself, while our menfolks does battle how they got to in a world want to see them broke down and tame.

Was a time we thought we was free and moving up. When forty acres and a mule seem not only possible but due. First we was slave, then we was free, and the white call it Reconstruction. We had colored politicians. Yes, we did. It was our men vote them in, before the voting right get snatched away. We losing that sense of history, and it seem wrong to me. Young ones today, they don't carry memory of our colored men voting. Like those ten years of fiery promise burn down and only leave a small gray pile of ash under the fireplace grate, and don't nobody remember the flame. Not like the locals made it easy, but we had our rights then, by law. We was gonna change the South, be a part of the rebuilding after the War Between the States. We owned ourself and was finding our voice to speak up. Some on both sides of the color line talked about us going too fast. No matter how hard times got then, when wasn't food enough for the table and the debt growed too fast to pay off at the general store, or a homegrown pack of the White League terrorize us or string up one of our men to keep us in our place, still our hearts and heads swole up with the possibilities of Reconstruction. Our men was citizens. We had the prospect of owning a piece of land for ourself. Ten years. Don't seem so long when you reach over one hundred years in your own life, but more hope and dreams in those ten years than the slave years come before or the terror years after. Back then hope was a personal friend, close to hand. Seem anything could happen. Seem we was on a road to be a real part of America at last.

I think on those colored men in the courthouse every day. They was brave, from my way of seeing, dog-bone set to fight for a idea, no matter the risk. Not all the old ones see it the same. Lucy used to say by stepping up, the colored courthouse men bring the white man down on us, but what foolishness is that? Some white folks never change from thinking on us as they own personal beasts of burden, even after freedom. Those ones down on us already.

But we got the strength to outlast whatever trials is put before us. We proved it. There a special way of seeing come with age and distance, a kind of knowing how things happen even without knowing why. Seeing what show up one or two generations removed, from a father to a son or grandson, like repeating threads weaving through the same bolt of cloth. Repeating scraps at the foot and the head of a quilt. How two men never set eyes on each other before, and, different as sun and moon, each journey from Alabama to Louisiana and come to form a friendship so deep they families twine together long after they dead. How one set of brothers like hand and glove, but two others at each other throats like jealous pups fighting for the last teat. How two brothers from the same house marry two sisters, sets of bold and meek. How men come at a thing nothing like what a woman do, under the names dignity, pride, survival. The words alike, but the path not even close between man and woman, no matter they both trying to get to the same place. Making a better way for the children. In the end, making a better life for our children what we all want.

Eighteen seventy-three. Wasn't no riot like they say. We was close enough to see how it play out. It was a massacre. Back in 1873, if I was a man, I'da lift my head up too and make the same choice as my Sam and Israel Smith and the others, but there was children to feed and keep healthy and fields to harvest and goats to milk. Those things don't wait for history or nothing else. But I saw. I cleaned up after. I watch how 1873 carry through in the children that was there, and then in they children years later.

My name is Polly. I come to the Tademys not by blood but by choice. Not all family got to draw from the bloodline. I claim the Tademys and they claim me. We a community, in one another business for better or worse. How else we expect to get through the trials of this earth before the rewards of heaven?


Excerpted from Red River by Lalita Tademy Copyright © 2007 by Lalita Tademy. Excerpted by permission.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

Meet the Author

A former vice-president at Sun Microsystems, Lalita Tademy left the corporate world to immerse herself in tracing her family's past and in writing.

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Red River 4 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 26 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
If you're reading this book to read another Cane River, don't. It's a bit lacking in character development and plot. I admire Tademy and her dedication and research, but left me wanting more. I'm not sorry I read this book, but I would not necessarily recommend it.
Guest More than 1 year ago
RED RIVER had me weeping almost from the first page, and yet left me inexplicably hopeful after I'd read the final sentence. A multi-generational tale that begins with the Colfax Riot of 1873 and ends in 1937, it was, for me, an eye-opening tale of courage and violence, love and community, and the necessity of dreaming for ourselves and for those who will follow us.
Guest More than 1 year ago
This book is most refreshing, It was hard in the beginning to get through, but once I finish the first part it was on and running. It just show you with determination that you can accomplish what you want, I love the part how the third generation started the school. We must teach our children so they will know where they came from and where they are going. What's so wonderful that I read this book when Obama is the first african american elected to run for democratic president of the United States. I love this book Lalita Tademy did a wonderful job with both books, I seen myself and my ancestors in both of these books Cane River, Red River. Thank you so much Lalita I will buy both books for my library to keep encouraging me to look for my ancestors. 'my roots'
Patsreads09 More than 1 year ago
I read her Cane River novel a couple years back and thought it was ok. So I picked this from the sale table of Barnes & Noble. Big Mistake. Supposedly based on the true story of what happened in April 1873 in Colfax, LA but slow writing. About the newly freed black residents during the beginning of Reconstruction. With friends in Alexandria, La. and having visited Colfax Parish I thought I'd enjoy this. It was pure torture to get through 92 pages. I read and hoped it would get better. It didn't and so, enough...This goes right into the donate bag.
Guest More than 1 year ago
This is a well-written story with a lot of life lessons in it. The way these characters, in their time and place, learned and taught these lessons to each other is stunning, from my vantage point as a privileged 'majority' member of American society. Without romanticizing or sentimentalizing the struggles depicted, I say that if I were Ms. Tademy, I would be bursting with pride at my ancestors' faith, courage, love, love of life, endurance, and intelligence. I liked Cane River, and I will look forward eagerly to Ms. Tademy's next work.
Guest More than 1 year ago
History and fiction intertwine to create an engrossing story.. Lalita Tademy left the corporate world to research her family history. In her latest book, Red River, the accomplished author shares the true story of the ¿Colfax Riot.¿ She successfully intertwines history and fiction to educate and entertain the reader. The setting is Colfax, Louisiana, 1873. The Civil War had ended years before, and the ¿colored¿ had been given their freedom. In many ways, it was a freedom in name only. There was still a lot of hatred between white and black. The Southern Democrats had been voted out and the Republicans in. The black men banded together to guard their town. They gather at the courthouse to defend their rights. The White League, a group of vigilantes, determined to regain control of the government and attack the courthouse, brutally murdering the men protecting it. The ones that surrendered were hung. Two white men and over one hundred black men were killed. Sam Tademy and Israel Smith survived they are the ancestors of Lalita Tademy. The story does not end there it continues on spanning three generations, sharing a tale of survival, triumph, and growth. Sam carried through with his dream to have a school for the black children in Colfax. It took hardship, tears, and work but he met the challenges and succeeded. Red River by Lalita Tademy is a must read for all Americans, for we take for granted our right to vote. We have become lazy and complacent. Ms. Tademy successfully tells the heartbreaking story of the ¿Colfax Riot,¿ which was not a riot at all but a massacre. I liked this book it has educated me to a piece of history that I knew little about. It has reminded me that men fought for the rights I take for granted. The first part of Red River, is very sad and has much violence. The second half offers hope and optimism. Red River is not an easy read it will stir the emotions of the reader. The narrator is Polly, I would have preferred that the book be told first person. I found I had to concentrate on the words while reading this book, it is written in the manner that Polly would have talked. This would be a fine addition to a library, or to as a gift to a history buff. Reviewed by Debra Gaynor for ReviewYourBook.com, 11/07
Guest More than 1 year ago
I read Cane River in two days, this took me longer to get through the beginning chapters, it moves a little slower but she builds anticipation as you continue to read. Her descriptions were so vivid and emotional I couldn't read for long periods of time (as I did Cane River). Lalita Tademy is a wonderful story teller, and her second novel is great story worth telling!!!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This book made me cry!!!!! Wow.
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psl_mom More than 1 year ago
My mum recommended the book to me, I thought it started out rather slow in the beginning, the by like page 130... the entire story FINALLY got my attention. After that is was just an okay story.. -- if your looking for something to read and you come across it, cool. -- Not a book I would recommend (but still a fun read) -- Not a book I will reread.
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Spa603 More than 1 year ago
This was an excellent read. I read her first book Cane River and that is what led me to buy this one as well. A must have.
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ancient24 More than 1 year ago
Great story and a very credible story.Good character development. I read it twice. I highly recommend this one.
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Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Enjoyed the development of the characters. Really gives a good sense of life during that time.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This left me wanting to know more about the heroic Tademy family and their struggle to bring education to African American children in the South even while fighting to survive. I was drawn in by the rich character development and felt that the interspersing of real historical documents helped to place the events in world history.
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Guest More than 1 year ago
One of the best novels I've read in a long while. Its full of history and Ms. Tademy had a great way of telling her story. She is a true writer who did not bore the reader with pages and pages of dialogue. Its a hard book to put down and so refreshing. If our youths knew more about our history, maybe they would pull their pant up and have more pride about themselves. This is a rare book compared to what sets on shelves of popular book store today.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Lalita Tademy never fails to draw the reader in to where they feel they are standing right there in the middle of the story, right there next to the characters themselves - from the opening page to the last. The first part of the book is, admittedly, hard to get through... the brutality that humans can inflict upon each other wrenches at your heart, but it is a view through the eyes of these characters that needs to be told. The second part is the true treasure - the family that we get to know and love as well as our own, who teach their children the importance of family, education, and community that will lift them forward throughout their lives. Although her books are listed as fiction, I have learned more from Lalita's stories about history, seen through the eyes of people who were there, than I was ever taught in my formal education. I sincerely hope that Ms. Tademy will continue to educate us about historical events told through personal accounts.