Tademy Photo Credit: Copyright © InMenlo LLC, 2010. All Rights Reserved
A former vice-president at Sun Microsystems, Lalita Tademy
the corporate world to immerse herself in tracing her family's past and in
Lalita Tademy was born in Berkeley, California, far from her parents’ southern roots. Nonetheless, her parents made sure their household (Louisiana West) maintained a definite non-California edge, including a steady supply of grits, gumbo, cornbread, and collard greens, and a stream of other transplanted southerners eager to share their “back-home” stories.
Capricorn by birth and temperament, Lalita decided early that independence and self-sufficiency trumped personal amusement, and set out with dogged determination and methodical resolve to fashion a career. She climbed the corporate ladder, rung by rung, entering the business world when computers were as big as Volkswagens and mollycoddled by highly specialized experts in refrigerated vaults. By the time she left her position as VP and General Manager at a Fortune 500 high technology company in Silicon Valley twenty years later, ending that particular chapter of her life, all she had to do was pack up her laptop and run for the nearest exit.
The transition from focused, driven, corporate drone to balanced, fully satisfied, fully realized human being (okay, she hasn’t really made it there yet) was an incredible journey of self discovery and growth, only impeded by the fact that there was absolutely no money coming in. But her obsession with finding each root, each branch, stripping the bark and turning over every hidden leaf and stem of her family tree consumed her, until she had accumulated such powerful stories there was no choice but to write about the amazing people with whom she had made acquaintance.
And so, over 1,000 documents in hand, she wrote a novel based on the lives
of four generations of colored Creole slave women in Louisiana, women from
whom she descended. Cane River was a testament to the strength of those who
came before, a blend of fact and fiction, homage, but hopefully a good,
fast, exciting read. Fortunately, Oprah Winfrey thought so, and she selected
the novel as her summer book pick in 2001.
After everything she learned researching and writing Cane River, book two, Lalita thought, would be much less difficult and involve less than three years to create. She was wrong. Maybe if not for the time-intensive process of falling in love and getting married, it would have been, but she will never know. It will be almost six years between the publication of Cane River and Red River’s debut in January 2007. Red River also takes place in Louisiana, and is also a historical novel, based on real events during Reconstruction after the Civil War, a time period and subject matter often summarily skimmed in our history books. The story of Red River begins in 1873, and follows the ramifications of an incident on Easter Sunday of that year on successive generations of two families involved.
Meanwhile, I look forward to the succeeding chapters of my own life, eager to know what comes next.
A conversation with Lalita Tademy October 22, 2007, SF Main Library
“Lalita Tademy has done it again—Citizen's Creek is a deep,
touching novel of great historical import and lyrical beauty. At the heart
of this book is a headstrong family living both as free blacks as well as
Muscogee-speaking Creek. We learn the history of a people: one in constant
battle to protect both their lands and freedoms, their loves and loved
ones--and ultimately, the quest for their inheritance and birthright as
Americans--in the greatest, truest sense of the word.”—ZZ
The New York Times bestselling author of the Oprah Book Club Pick Cane River brings us the evocative story of a once-enslaved man who buys his freedom after serving as a translator during the American Indian Wars, and his granddaughter, who sustains his legacy of courage.Cow Tom, born into slavery in Alabama in 1810 and sold to a Creek Indian chief before his tenth birthday, possessed an extraordinary gift: the ability to master languages. As the new country developed westward, and Indians, settlers, and blacks came into constant contact, Cow Tom became a key translator for his Creek master and was hired out to US military generals. His talent earned him money—but would it also grant him freedom? And what would become of him and his family in the aftermath of the Civil War and the Indian Removal westward?
Cow Tom’s legacy lives on—especially in the courageous spirit of his granddaughter Rose. She rises to leadership of the family as they struggle against political and societal hostility intent on keeping blacks and Indians oppressed. But through it all, her grandfather’s indelible mark of courage inspires her—in mind, in spirit, and in a family legacy that never dies.
Written in two parts portraying the parallel lives of Cow Tom and Rose, Citizens Creek is a beautifully rendered novel that takes the reader deep into a little known chapter of American history. It is a breathtaking tale of identity, community, family—and above all, the power of an individual’s will to make a difference.
Click to order via Amazon
Paperback: 448 pages
Publisher: Grand Central Publishing (January 3, 2008)
Product Dimensions: 8 x 5.2 x 1.2 inches
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.
When Cane River was published in 2001, Lalita Tademy established herself as the chronicler of her own family's life, since their arrival here as slaves in the 1800s. Mixing family history, fiction, and fact made the story rich and unforgettable enough that Cane River became an Oprah's Book Club®. Now, with Red River, Tademy has done it again. Writing is a second career for Tademy, who is a former vice-president of Sun Microsystems. She left the corporate world to immerse herself in her family's history--and the history of the south.
In 1873 in the small southern town of Colfax, Louisiana, history tells us
there was a riot. The Tademy family knows different. "1873. Wasn't no riot
like they say. It was a massacre..." The blacks are newly free, just
beginning life under Reconstruction, with all its promises of equity, the
right to vote, to own property and, most importantly, to decide their own
future as individuals. Federal Government troops are supposed to arrive to
protect the rights of the colored people--but they are not yet on the scene.
In one wretched day, white supremacists destroy all the optimism and bright promise by taking Colfax back in an ugly and violent manner. The tragedy begins with the two sides: the white Democrats of Montgomery and the colored and white Republicans of Colfax in the courthouse, finally meeting face to face to discuss their differences. Then, a group of white thugs kills a colored man who was not involved in the courthouse struggle. He was home minding his business and the ugliness came and found him.
The confrontation that follows results in the death of more than 100 black men, killed by white supremacists bent on denying them their voting rights and keeping in office those who uphold the status quo prior to the Civil War. The massacre is only the beginning of Tademy's story. Using reliable sources wherever they may be found, she tells the hard and proud story of Sam Tademy, Israel Smith and their families as they fight their way back from the massacre. They get a foothold in Colfax, finally starting a school, owning land and businesses and becoming full-fledged citizens, as they were meant to be.
Tademy tells part of our history that we would like to forget; she also tells the story of her family, which is a story worth remembering. --Valerie Ryan (Amazon.com Review)
Cane River (Oprah's Book Club Selection)
Click to order via Amazon
Mass Market Paperback: 543 pages
Publisher: Warner Books (February 1, 2005)
Product Dimensions: 4.1 x 1.5 x 6.9 inches
The "New York Times" bestseller and Oprah's Book Club Pick--the unique and
deeply moving epic of four generations of African-American women based on
one family's ancestral past.
Lalita Tademy was a successful corporate vice president at a Fortune 500 company when she decided to embark upon what would become an obsessive odyssey to uncover her familys past. Through exhaustive research, interviews, and the help of professional genealogists, she would find herself transported back to the early 1800s, to an isolated, close-knit rural community on Louisianas Cane River. Here, Tademy takes historical fact and mingles it with fiction to weave a vivid and dramatic account of what life was like for the four remarkable women who came before her. Beginning with Tademys great-great-great-great grandmother Elisabeth, this is a family saga that sweeps from the early days of slavery through the Civil War into a pre-Civil Rights Southa unique and moving slice of Americas past that will resonate with readers for generations to come. Well-researched and powerfully written, Cane River is just the kind of family portrait that will appeal to the same diverse audience as Alex Haleys bestselling phenomenon Roots (Dell Books, reissue 1980) and the New York Times bestseller Sally Hemings (Buccaneer Books, 1992), which sold over one million hardcover copies and inspired the feature film Jefferson in Paris, starring Nick Nolte and Thandie Newton.