iUniverse proudly welcomes a blog article from Josephine Garner, whose A Banner of Love won the silver medal in Multicultural Fiction at this year’s INDIEFAB Foreword awards. Here’s Josephine to tell us about her book and writing experience . . .
A Banner of Love is set in early 1950s New York City, where Taylor and Esther Payne, the main characters are beginning their lives together as a married couple. Greenwich Village offers them a safe place where they can have their love and their license. Esther is a Negro woman, and Taylor is a white man. Their relationship began in the segregated South of East Texas; and is the story told in Solomon’s Blues. Now in New York, Esther must learn to live in Taylor’s white world no longer as his housekeeper but as his wife.
In addition to the social conventions that are still against them, even in New York, Esther fears that their marriage has exacerbated the distance between Taylor and his family. Although Taylor remains oddly dismissive of his fractured family relations, Esther is haunted by the sister and uncle’s absence. Her own family of origin is strong and sacred to her. She yearns for the family she and Taylor hope to make to be whole—her people and his—however what she learns in the process puts at risk their hopes for the future.
When I think of my literary influences the first and foremost influence that comes to mind is the Bible. I was raised a Baptist and was trained in the King James Version (KJV) of the Bible. Even now, as an Episcopalian, and a decent student of Scripture, I still like to read the KJV for its poetic tone. There are many wonderful stories in the Bible with relevance for us today, and I often tap into those themes as a writer.
In A Banner of Love (the title comes from the Song of Solomon), for instance a central theme is forgiveness, even when the offense is unforgivable. Esther has to remind herself and Taylor of that, how this is a principal condition of the agreement between God and man. But all that being said, I don’t really write traditional Christian fiction per se. My faith is just the lens through which I see the world, but there are many vantage points, as Esther learned from Taylor early on in their relationship.
And if I had to pick an author that has most influenced my style I think it would have to be Charlotte Brontë, and the book of course would be Jane Eyre. I’m pretty sure I write in first person because of how I experienced Miss Brontë’s storytelling skills. Intimate and introspective, Jane Eyre reads like you were sitting across the table from the narrator over coffee—or tea. I love that.
Ernest Hemingway probably had the most influence on my uses of sentence structure. From James Baldwin, Langston Hughes, and Toni Morrison, I learned how to write about race in America, how to speak to its complexity, and contradiction, and hope. The human condition can break your heart, and such stories should be told, but human condition is also full of inspiration and courage, those stories must be told too. I hope A Banner of Love does some justice to both sides of the equation.
We’ll be back shortly with Part Two of Josephine’s blog!