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Bookstore - Essay Example

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It was a pleasant Tuesday and I decided to spend my evening at "A Clean Well-Lighted Place for Books", a popular bookstore in Van Ness Avenue, San Francisco. I had found out the same day from the sfgate website that Susan Straight Author of "A Million Nightingales" was coming there for a reading…
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It was a pleasant Tuesday and I decided to spend my evening at "A Clean Well-Lighted Place for Books", a popular bookstore in Van Ness Avenue, San Francisco. I had found out the same day from the sfgate website that Susan Straight Author of "A Million Nightingales" was coming there for a reading. I had read quite a few book reviews and since I was myself into feminist writing, this seemed to be an evening worth looking forward to.
I reached the venue precisely on time and was surprised to find a considerable number of people there. The audience present primarily consisted of avid reader's who appreciated the writer's previous publications, local amateur writers, a couple of press reporters and a few students (mainly from art schools). The consistency of the crowd reflected that this book was aimed at an audience with a literary inclination and a level of intellect to understand and appreciate sensitive subjects like the one covered in "A Million Nightingales". Eavesdropping into low pitched conversations around me further confirmed that almost every person present there was a connoisseur of history and literature. The otherwise quaint and silent book- store was now filled with soft murmurs and muffled discussions as people bunched into groups and exchanged views and opinions about the book and the author. the ambience was very appropriate for a literary event as every member of the group was focused on the purpose. The much awaited moment arrived as Susan Straight walked into the store and seated herself on the podium after a warm greeting and a smile. SusanStraight is a pleasant looking woman and a mother of three daughters and teaches creative writing at the University of California, Riverside. She does most of her writing by hand in little notebooks whenever she gets a few odd minutes to spare. I discovered from one of her interviews that she firmly believes in the dictum that "When you read all the time, language comes naturally to you". Her novel, "A Million Nightingales," traces the amazing life of a young slave girl growing up in Louisiana in the early 1800s. the protagonist Moinette is a "cadeau-fille" - or "gift girl" - conceived after a rape. The term itself, considered and reconsidered throughout the book, captures the double ness always at work in Straight's richly complicated narrative.
Contrary to the popular reputation that writers authors and poets have, Susan came across as a very outgoing and confident person. I was expecting a certain level of aloofness and abstractedness which I could not find a trace of.
"Being a good listener is essential," Straight said after a brief round of introduction which reflected her belief that most writers are natural eavesdroppers and that they work hard to learn "the natural rhythms of people's speech and to get the dialogue right."
Despite being a lover of language and being fluent in French, Spanish and Swiss-German, she found it difficult during her research trips to communicate efficiently in "Louisiana French," which has its own dialect.
"A Million Nightingales" is Straights first historical novel after four others. the resilient character of Moinette who is the main protagonist is inspired from her own daughters, all of whom "look like Moinette" - and then she went through numerous books about Louisiana, French trappers and explorers, the brutal treatment of slaves and gathered every piece of information that would help her understand the culture of the early 1800s.
"You have to be careful with historical novels," said Straight. "I can read 100 pages of a historical novel and then lose interest because the research becomes overwhelming. I want the history to be accurate, but I don't want to overwhelm the reader with historical facts."
The cover of the book has the image of Straight's 14-year-old mixed-race daughter . her imagination for this story was inspired by a court documents about a woman who was freed when she was 30 but she had to leave her son behind. Four years later, she traded a female slave for her son
It took her almost five years to write this novel. Straight plans two more volumes about Moinette's descendants and make the book into a trilogy.
It was definitely a fascinating experience to learn about the roots of the book and the inspirations that lead to the emergence of ideas. Since, Susan Straight is a creative writing professor; her talk also had some useful tips on language, style, research and publication. She handled the evening in a very professional and equally captivating way which inspired a large part of the audience to purchase a personal copy of the book right on the spot and I have decided to bye my own copy too . After the reading there was a round of questions from the audience about the book and the storyline which the author handled with amazing ease and panache. it was in all a very enriching and inspiring experience.
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