Book Review: Priscilla: Engaging in the Game of Politics
Publication Date: Jun 12, 2018
List Price: $19.95
Format: Paperback, 354 pages
Imprint: M. J. Simms-Maddox
Publisher: M. J. Simms-Maddox
Parent Company: M. J. Simms-Maddox, Inc.
Borrow from Library
Book Reviewed by Robert Fleming
In this novel, Priscilla: Engaging in the Game of Politics, Dr. M. J. Simms-Maddox weaves the fabric of her life with the narrative of her imagination. The author, encouraged by her family and friends, realizes the pillars of her existence could make for an entertaining book. It should be noted that her mother, Hazel B. Owens Simms, is her greatest inspiration, making her mark as the family’s first published author.
The book opens with Priscilla J. Austin, a recent graduate from Livingstone College in North Carolina, coming to Tallahassee, Florida. She has landed a job at Florida A&M University (FAMU) as an assistant professor, something that that pleases her father. She always wants to please her father, Rev. James Nelson Austin. It is a far cry from the family’s roots in Canton, Mississippi to reach a prized academic post at FAMU, one of the oldest historically black colleges.
Before going on with the major plot points of the novel, one must note that the author loves detail, textures, colors, and description. Simms-Maddox wants to put the reader into the scenes and make the experiences meaningful. Since she is the daughter of a minister, her work bears the weight of spiritual and moral conscience, the choice between sin and purity, the decision between rational thought and impulsivity. Sometimes, that tendency should be curtailed, modified, and even stymied.
At a crucial point in the story after a series of miscues, Priscilla’s mother tells her: “What’s it you’re tell me? You haven’t gone and gotten mixed up in something else, have you? Not again. Dear Lord, Priscilla, you know how you are girl.”
Everything happens to Priscilla. She endures an abortion from a young man, who she admires but do not loves. Her parents, especially her mother, feels this suitor would be ideal for her to marry. However, she desires a career and a life away from her community, choosing to go against her religious teachings. Later, her femininity and sexual identity comes under attack again when he experience a brutal campus rape. In these two episodes, this is some of her finest writing, heartrending yet wholly revealing.
Fiction often takes its cues from real world. Simms-Maddox, a very astute observer of life, turns her attention from the personal to the political. She has earned her doctorate in political science from Ohio State University and served as a legislative aide in the Ohio Senate. In a conservative state such as Ohio, Priscilla revisits her old relationship with Senator Callahan after a four-year absence and becomes a vital asset with his organization. When the Republicans triumph nationally, state and local influence by Democrats suffers and they lose their majority and clout. Still, the senator scores a much-needed win in a key legislative fight.
This author knows the inner workings of state political politics, the wily maneuvers, the party bartering, the importance of rank, experience, and sponsorship. Priscilla survives an affair with her boss, weathering it like a veteran from New York tabloid wars, while writing a letter about her former allies that would have destroyed someone in real life. It makes for good reading that keeps the reader interested.
As the planned first entry in “the Priscilla trilogy,” this autobiographical novel moves between revelation and secrets effortlessly. It’s great to read between the lines. Also, one wonders how family, friends and lovers responded to these clever tales told in mixed company.