By Amanda Moses
Last month, Publishers Weekly presented a hybrid version of the U.S. Book Show for its third year from May 22nd to May 24th, showcasing upcoming books that will be released this fall season at NYU’s Kimmel Center.
With dozens of authors, literary icons, and those who know the ins-and-outs of book publishing, this year’s book show had a stellar line-up, enthralling avid readers and book aficionados alike. The event held ten keynote speakers, 28 panels with 117 authors and industry leaders who discussed their latest books and work routines.
On May 23rd, the adult book’s keynote guest was actress and entrepreneur Sarah Jessica Parker as a representative of her new Zando imprint, SJP, where she introduced their debut novelist Kim Coleman Foote and her book, Coleman Hill.
Moderated by Glory Edim, the founder of Well-Read Black Girl, the event delved into what SJP Lit looks at when selecting an author and what characteristics Foote exhibited that attracted the new publishing company.
“We were astounded by the gift of the writer, the skill, but equally importantly, the story that Kim was sharing with us. I had not read a book about this specific period of time in our history. I didn’t know about Vauxhall. It’s right across the river,” Parker gushed about her new author.
“I was just so indescribably moved, saddened and impressed by the courage and bravery. I found it incredibly heart rending and I knew that while this story was Kim’s there were other stories that were equally impactful. And simply, as I said to Kim earlier today, this book stands on its own. It’s her story that she’s sharing. But it is a story of so many people and it’s this extraordinary achievement. It’s sweeping in scope. And it’s tiny in the most important emotions that we feel and sort through. And it’s told with such skill and courage and smarts and just a real gift for language and dialect and letting us understand people and want to know more,” Parker added proudly.
Based loosely on Foote’s own family history, which she calls a biomythography (a term coined by Audre Lorde to describe historical records fictionalized,) Coleman Hill is about two women in 1916, Celia Coleman and Lucy Graves who fled the racial injustices and poverty-filled, post-Civil War South to find opportunity in the North. However, racism and inequality followed them like a dark cloud, and the only work they could find was domestic work—a position that women of color spend majority of their days slaving over another person’s family and in turn unable to raise their own children. They arrived at Vauxhall, New Jersey where a few years after arriving both of their husbands had died, so they had to rely on each other to help raise their children in this new home.
These two have their lives so intertwined that complications began to occur when their adolescent children are found behaving inappropriately, and this causes blame to shift around like a hot potato. A rift forms between these longtime friends that’s so encompassing it effects two generations of their families.
“I just wanted to tell stories about my family. These colorful narratives that I heard growing up, like I said, I wanted to honor them in some way because I thought that they were just fascinating. And my family, you know, they weren’t wealthy. They, you know, they didn’t go to college. They barely even finished high school. You know, there’s a lot of poverty. There’s the trauma, there is abuse, but I thought that these stories are just so amazing and my family I wanted to share them in some way. But basically, once I use those photographs and stories, and then I started to see a connection,” Foote said.
Coleman Hill will be released this coming fall for readers.
Photos by Amanda Moses