Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Katharine Russell, Guest Blogger

 Today, I'd like to welcome guest blogger, Katharine Russell. She's the author of Deed So, a novel her publicist describes this way:

Deed So  is a moving coming-of-age tale set in a small Southern town in 1962, the year before America would be changed forever by civil rights, women’s rights, war, the assassination of a president, and more.

Welcome to 1962, one year before the world would witness President John F. Kennedy assassinated, and a time before civil rights, women’s rights, and the Vietnam War changed everything. Deed So by Katharine Russell chronicles the coming-of-age of brainy twelve-year-old Haddie Bashford, a sensitive young girl who wants nothing more than to leave the close-minded world of her home in Wicomico Corners. When Haddie witnesses the killing of a black teen by a down-on-his-luck white farmer, her family becomes embroiled in a web of hatred that threatens to engulf the whole town. Tempers flare and prejudice heats to a boiling point, even as Haddie struggles to fully comprehend what is going on, especially the dark consequences within her own family. When the murder case goes to trial, neighbor is pitted against neighbor, and the violence escalates to a dangerous level. As the case drags on, arson erupts, paralyzing the community. Can the town—and Haddie—survive?

Intertwining the major themes of struggle, equality, loyalty, and love that defined a generation, Deed So is a provocative snapshot of a tense time in history. Filled with larger-than-life characters, pitch perfect dialogue, and a wonderful sense of history, Deed So is as moving as it is thrilling. Haunting, edgy, and thought-provoking, this is a perfect read for fans of To Kill a Mockingbird or Nicholas Sparks.

Katharine Russell is a former executive in the healthcare industry.  She has a Bachelor's degree in History from Northwestern University, a Master's degree in Journalism from Boston University and a certificate in creative writing from UCLA's Writers Program.  A descendant of Maryland colonists, who grew up in Southern Maryland, Russell divides her time between Baltimore, MD, and Palm Desert, CA.  Under the pen name Kath Russell, the author writes the Pointer Mystery series.

Thank you, Katharine, for taking time to write this.
Guest blog by Katharine Russell

Deed So is the story about a tipping point in history. It is a snapshot of a society at equilibrium, just before it slips into a period of radical change. You can see the seeds of change germinating as you turn the pages. You know what the characters don't -- how it all turned out.

One of the things I liked most about writing DEED SO was experiencing  all sorts of wonderful stuff I hadn't thought about in years. The songs, clothing, pastimes and hairstyles of the Sixties. Funny behaviors like carrying your smokes in your rolled-up t-shirt sleeve. Teasing your hair so much, you were three inches taller. Enjoying treats like jawbreakers. Do they still have them? (Of course, even if they do, you're not going to catch me chomping on one after what I've spent on dental work!) I remember my big phonograph and how thrilled I was that it had an automatic record changer. There was no shuffle feature, of course. I remember my mother's wringer washing machine, our console television with its tiny convex screen, and my father hefting our first air conditioner into place in my parents' bedroom window.

DEED SO is about how far we have come, not in terms of washing machines and televisions, but in terms of equality, access and opportunity. What has been accomplished is pretty breathtaking, when you look back from the prospective of fifty years. Segregation is gone and so are the constraints around the roles for women. However, not everything has been 'improved.' I miss the freedom I had as a child in the Fifties and Sixties. I pretty much roamed free, rowing my father's skiff down through the marsh to the river, or wandering alone through the woods with our hunting dog in tow. As long as you were home by dusk, you were okay. Well, you were if you had done your homework. It is a rare child today who can enjoy such freedom. Too many two-legged predators about. I miss setting off my own fireworks, too. Sure, some things were dangerous, but that's why they were exciting. Better to learn how to be careful and handle something responsibly, than to live a dull existence in a safety cocoon.

I also miss the originality or authenticity of those times. McDonalds was just a bit more than a twinkle in Ray Kroc's eye.  Restaurants were as unique as snowflakes, each reflecting the skills and proclivities of its owner/proprietor. Ingenuity and self-reliance were much on display. In Deed So, the character Cleo solves a childcare problem by designing and building her own Jungle Gym. It was a little quirky, but it did the job. Rube Goldberg was alive and well and 'in the building.' Now, if you handcraft a toy for a child, you run the risk of getting sued over toxic varnish or sharp edges. Better to give gift cards. Every mall looks like every other mall from Maine to New Mexico, so different from the town square of Deed So.

I wonder what people will be nostalgic for fifty years from now and what they will be glad to be rid of. Here's some stuff from my list. I think I will miss regional accents. We'll all sound pretty much alike in another fifty years. I'll miss bookstores and libraries with row after row of bookshelves. I'll miss small neighborhood churches. I'll miss big Prairie Schooner style American cars. Yes, I'll say it; I'll even miss the postal service. On the flip side, I hope we'll be done with telemarketing by then. And, nothing personal, but I pray the Charlie Sheen and Lindsay Lohan stories are finally no longer news. Also, I hope that cancer, Alzheimer's and autism, a tragic condition which features in Deed So, will be history.

I also contemplate how today's young people are being shaped by our times. Deed So details the deck of 'culture' cards the Baby Boomers were dealt. Some bad cards like racism. Some good cards like abundance and stability. What they made of this was a mission to insure access and opportunity for all, and an infectious optimism and idealism that convinced them this could be achieved in a generation. Although their results are mixed and the jury is still out, it's fair to say that the Boomers accomplished a lot that is positive.

What will today's Haddies chose as their generational mission? I hope they set the bar high. They have a toe in the last millennium, but they are most assuredly of this new age. They are our bridge, our continuity with our past and our shiny new prospect for a brighter future.

Deed So by Katharine A. Russell. Createspace. 2010. ISBN 9781453775035 (paperback), 438p.


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