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Nancy Rawles is the author of three critically-acclaimed and award-winning novels. Love Like Gumbo won an American Book Award for its portrayal of a lesbian daughter’s struggle for independence from her warm but suffocating family. Crawfish Dreams, the second in a series about the same family, was selected for the Barnes and Noble Discover Great New Writers Program. Nancy’s third novel, My Jim, tells the story of the wife and children of Mark Twain’s famous slave character from The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn. My Jim is the winner of an American Library Association’s Alex Award and the Legacy Award in Fiction from the Hurston/Wright Foundation. The Seattle Public Library chose My Jim as the 2009 selection for its popular program Seattle Reads, in which readers all over the city are encouraged to read and participate in discussions about one book.
Crown – January 11, 2005
To help her granddaughter accept the risks of loving, Sadie Watson mines her memory for the tale of the unquenchable love of her life, Jim. Sadie’s Jim was an ambitious young slave and seer who, when faced with the prospect of being sold, escaped down the Mississippi with a white boy named Huck Finn. Sadie is suddenly left alone, worried about her children, reviled as a witch, punished for Jim’s escape, and convinced her husband is dead. But Sadie’s will and her love for Jim animate her life and see her through.
Told with spare eloquence and mirroring the true stories of countless slave women, My Jim recreates one of the most controversial characters in American literature. A nuanced critique of the great American novel, My Jim is a haunting and inspiring story about freedom, longing, and the remarkable endurance of love.
Praise for MY JIM
“Here, finally, is the Jim we can only glimpse between hijinks and humiliations in Huck Finn—a man who’s clever and tender, romantic and tragic. And there’s just no escaping his wife’s voice. I read some chapters without blinking.“—Ron Charles, Christian Science Monitor
“A wonderful first-person narrative…both a love story and a chronicle of a brutal time in American history.”—Chicago Tribune
“My Jim is a compelling, eloquently written novel that can stand on its own merits beside the great works that inspired it.”—San Francisco Chronicle
“Rawles’s affecting spin-off of Twain’s classic gives the resilient Sadie Watson a harrowing story and a powerful voice to tell it.”—Entertainment Weekly
“In a spare, naturalistic style that’s reminiscent of oral history, Rawles covers territory Twain did not….As heart-wrenching a personal history as any recorded in American literature.”—New York Times Book Review
“This book is a beautiful and powerful re-vision that teaches us to see with new eyes. I wholeheartedly recommend it.”—Sherman Alexie
“This is a moving novel of American slavery and enduring love.”—Booklist
Doubleday – March 18, 2003
The luminous, uplifting story of a woman who cooks up a plan to bring her family back together and discovers that love, sharing, and a dash of daring are the secret ingredients that can turn dreams into reality.
Camille Broussard can remember a time when she had more pep in her stride and her single-story house was one of the nicest homes in the cozy, well-kept neighborhood of Watts. Her kitchen overflowed with the fragrant aromas of Creole cooking, and the taste of her divine crawfish, rich gumbos, and delicious pralines had family and friends begging for seconds and thirds. The devastation of the Watts riots and the ravages of Reaganomics, however, changed everything. Her neighbors have fled, the church pews are nearly empty at Sunday mass, and her own children have turned their backs on Watts and on the pride and values Camille instilled in them.
Her grandson Nicholas has just finished serving time for a crime he knew better than to commit; her politically active lesbian daughter, Grace, is struggling with an identity crisis; and Yvette, her naïve, sexually cloistered daughter, has a husband whose secrets threaten to destroy the bond between mother and daughter. But despite how far they have strayed, Camille is not ready to give up on the family who has nourished her as she has nourished them. So she decides to combine her love of family and her love of cooking into one great enterprise. She opens Camille?s Creole Kitchen and recruits her family to help her get the restaurant on its feet. As the business gradually grows, Camille not only restores her family?s spirit and sense of purpose, she also recovers her own lost dreams.
Written with grace and vitality, Crawfish Dreams is a generous novel about responsibility, community, family loyalty, and the pursuit of personal happiness. From its heartwarming messages to the recipes sprinkled throughout its pages, it is an irresistible treat from start to finish.
Praise for CRAWFISH DREAMS
“With lyric precision, Nancy Rawles creates a wondrous world of food and family, gumbo and love. An African American Like Water for Chocolate, this novel even has a few delicious recipes.”—E. Lynn Harris, bestselling author of A Love of My Own
“Nancy Rawles has crafted a warm and funny tale of love and motherhood. The unforgettable characters, wry sense of humor, and mouth-watering recipes will leave you smiling in recognition of the ties that bind us into family and community.“—Connie Briscoe, author of PG County
“Crawfish Dreams is a terrific read—rich in folklore, rich in recipes, rich in love!“—Jewell Parker Rhodes, author of Douglass’ Women
“[A] thoughtful, lovingly written tale of one woman’s quiet determination to survive.”—Kirkus Reviews
“A tasty tale of a proud Creole family in Los Angeles.”—The Seattle Times
LOVE LIKE GUMBO
Fjord Press – November 1997
Set in South Central Los Angeles in 1978, Love Like Gumbo is the delectably funny story of the Broussards of Compton Avenue, who insist on clinging to their Louisiana roots as tenaciously as they cling to each other. Grace Broussard is eager to start her own life, but her Creole family is not quite ready to let their youngest child go, even at the age of twenty. Drastic measures are called for, so Grace devises a Ten Point Plan to leave her family behind. The centerpiece of the plan is her vow to refuse her mother’s gumbo, something that no Broussard has ever done. But Grace is not the only planner in the family. She hasn’t fully reckoned with the power of the dead-but-not-slumbering T-Papa, who has a plan of his own for bringing his errant daughter back into the fold.
A witty, warmhearted portrayal of the often exasperating but ultimately inescapable bonds of family, this brilliant novel marks the fiction debut of Nancy Rawles. Love Like Gumbo is the second in the Fjord Discoveries series introducing new American writers.
Praise for LOVE LIKE GUMBO
Winner of the 1998 American Book Award and Washington State’s Governor’s Writers Award
“At each bend and turn, in a blend of the past and the present, in the Broussards’ Creole world of Louisiana and South Central L.A., Rawles offers a beautiful first novel rich with the intricacies of a family that endures as part of, yet separate from, that complicated tapestry we call America.”—Colleen J. McElroy
“Love Like Gumbo is a rich stew of family ties, budding lesbian sexuality, and Creole culture set in 1978 South Central L.A. This is Nancy Rawles’s first novel, and it bears the marks of her previous work as a playwright—crisp dialogue and characters portrayed more with gesture and movement than narrative. Protagonist Grace Broussard is a 20-year-old caught between the traditions of her Creole family and her love for her Mexican girlfriend. This warm, funny novel will appeal to women who question the relation between cultural tradition, family obligation, and an individual’s sexual choices.”—Amazon.com
“This novel celebrates family life at the same time it reminds readers that separation doesn’t necessarily mean rejection. Rawles’s first effort is sure to please fiction lovers.”—Library Journal