Tomorrow’s Bread by Anna Jean Mayhew
Published March 26th 2019 by Kensington Publishing Corp.
From the author of the acclaimed The Dry Grass of August comes a richly researched yet lyrical Southern-set novel that explores the conflicts of gentrification—a moving story of loss, love, and resilience.
In 1961 Charlotte, North Carolina, the predominantly black neighborhood of Brooklyn is a bustling city within a city. Self-contained and vibrant, it has its own restaurants, schools, theaters, churches, and night clubs. There are shotgun shacks and poverty, along with well-maintained houses like the one Loraylee Hawkins shares with her young son, Hawk, her Uncle Ray, and her grandmother, Bibi. Loraylee’s love for Archibald Griffin, Hawk’s white father and manager of the cafeteria where she works, must be kept secret in the segregated South.
Loraylee has heard rumors that the city plans to bulldoze her neighborhood, claiming it’s dilapidated and dangerous. The government promises to provide new housing and relocate businesses. But locals like Pastor Ebenezer Polk, who’s facing the demolition of his church, know the value of Brooklyn does not lie in bricks and mortar. Generations have lived, loved, and died here, supporting and strengthening each other. Yet street by street, longtime residents are being forced out. And Loraylee, searching for a way to keep her family together, will form new alliances—and find an unexpected path that may yet lead her home.
I had never heard about the Brooklyn an area of Charlotte, North Carolina before reading this book. I was shocked that this event occurred in the 1960s. After reading this story, I read some more online to learn about this tragedy. https://www.charlotteobserver.com/news/local/article224643350.html is an article with comments from some of the actual citizens who were affected by this event.
In the 1960s calling it “urban renewal”, the city councillors in Charlotte, North Carolina, bulldozed a vibrant black neighborhood. It had its own churches, cemeteries, stores and businesses that were thriving, but they managed to destroy this community and scatter its residents around Charlotte. The story is told from the POV of three characters. Two are Brooklyn residents – a pastor about to lose his church and have his cemetery moved, and a young, single mother who must hide her relationship with her white boss. The third is a white woman who senses that this is wrong, even though her husband is championing Brooklyn’s destruction in the name of progress. Through research done on the cemetery, there is information about slavery, and other incidents that African Americans had to deal with. This is a moving, story that evoked emotions of sadness, anger and helplessness. It is historical fiction that’s both informative and entertaining. I love Anne Jean Mayhew’s writing. Her prose is wonderful, the story well-paced and kept me reading long into the night. The publisher generously provided me with a copy of this book upon my request. The rating, ideas and opinions shared are my own.
About the Author: Anna Jean (A.J.) Mayhew’s first novel, The Dry Grass of August, won the Sir Walter Raleigh Award for Fiction, and was a finalist for the Book Award from the Southern Independent Booksellers Alliance. She has been writer-in-residence at Moulin à Nef Studio Center in Auvillar, France, and was a member of the first Board of Trustees of the North Carolina Writers’ Network. A native of Charlotte, NC, A.J. has never lived outside the state, although she often travels to Europe with her Swiss-born husband. Her work reflects her vivid memories of growing up in the segregated South. A.J. – a mother and grandmother – now lives in a small town in the North Carolina Piedmont with her husband and their French-speaking cat.