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Ocilla Holst

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  1. Hi, I would like my novel to be considered for a book review. The Harlem Story, originally written as an integrated, musical screenplay, follows the journey of gifted singers raised in the church, aspiring to sing professionally. The story incorporates R&B, gospel, and Hip Hop song lyrics and ideas from my script. In 1963, JAMES HARRIS and DIANE SMITH, gifted singers at age six, witness the murder of their parents by the Klan outside their Southern church. AUNT MILLIE, age 52, James' mother's religious aunt, flees with the children back inside the chapel. The House of God is set on fire. They are trapped inside, but a deacon arrives to rescue them. The next day, the Klan are arrested. A week later, funeral services are held. Aunt Millie leaves the South with the children who have no other family, and they relocate to Harlem. She raises the children in the community and continues their Christian values and love for singing in their new church. In 1983, James and Diane are amazing singers in their church choir. They enter Amateur Night at the Apollo after rehearsing love duets by Marvin Gaye and Tammi Terrell. They win top honors by singing "Lift Every Voice." BILL COLLINS, a music manager sitting in the audience, is impressed by their performance. He offers them an audition to sing at his studio; however, the next day, James is wrongfully arrested and jailed for the murder of a local store owner. He encourages Diane to pursue her dreams without him. She vows to help him gain his freedom while going on to become a successful R&B artist. In 1990, James is exonerated and released from prison owing to DNA evidence unavailable in "83. He reunites with Diane, but he loss his love for singing and faith in the Lord. Moreover, he refuses Diane's help. He tries to make it on his own. He faces job discrimination, so he enlists in the U.S. Army Reserves. In 1991, the Gulf War breaks out. He is deployed and suffers a leg wound in the fighting. He is discharged from the army. He returns to Harlem unemployed again, limping, and he is hospitalized at the VA for PTSD. Upon his discharge, he becomes homeless and panhandles on the streets of New York City. In 1992, his mental and physical condition worsens. He limps outside the Grammys at Radio City Music Hall while Diane is inside and unaware of his presence. He attempts to sing "Lift Every Voice" again to the taunts and mockery of music fans lining up to enter the Showplace of the Nation. He returns to Harlem sick and dying from pneumonia. He suffers a series of hallucinations that lead him back to his now condemned church; and he passes out on the pulpit. Diane's love for James endures throughout the years despite his misery. She meets new music handlers who plot to manage her career. They hire hit men who kill Bill Collins. When she discovers their involvement, she gives up her career, and she searches for James. Fearing she might go to the police, the music handlers direct the hit men to kill her. They search for Diane and find her entering the condemned church. They set the House of God on fire, entrapping her and James, who is still unconscious, but they are rescued by fire fighters. The hit men attempt to flee Harlem, but they are gunned down by the police and detectives investigating Bill's murder; and the music handlers are arrested for conspiracy. In 1993, James receives a settlement from the City for his wrongful arrest and imprisonment; and he recovers from PTSD. James and Diane attend an Amateur Night reunion at the Apollo ten years to the date they had first appeared on stage. They sing "Lift Every Voice" again to a standing ovation.
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