Largely absent from the canon of American literature are the experiences of African-Americans who live in economically disadvantaged regions of the country and who experience the last effects of segregation.
In her 2017 novel, “No One is Coming to Save Us,” Stephanie Powell Watts focuses on an extended African-American family and sets her story in a rural North Carolina town that has seen its furniture manufacturing largely evaporate.
“I wanted to talk about a place that is both post-segregation, but that’s also southern [and] post-industrial,” explained Watts, who was a guest this week on St. Louis on the Air. “We think about the Rust Belt and white workers a great deal, but the African-Americans who are suffering in the same kinds of ways, I think that story is sometimes hidden a little bit.”
Watts’ novel is this year’s selection in the Kirkwood Public Library’s One Book, One Kirkwood program, which encourages the community to read a book that promotes discussion and has a lasting impact.
“I’d hope that people read the story and enjoy [but] that they find something interesting about it, something compelling that they identify in some way with,” Watts said, also noting that it’s unwise to try to universalize what the “American experience” should be.
“I think there's something really lost when we insist on everything being universal,” she said. “There's some experiences that I will never have. I’m not an immigrant, for example, but I can appreciate some of the feelings and some of the emotional weight of being an immigrant and being othered in that way.”
Watts will participate in a book event Wednesday evening at Nipher Middle School in Kirkwood.
What: One Book, One Kirkwood Author event with Stephanie Powell Watts
When: Wednesday, May 2, 2018 from 7:00 – 8:30 p.m.
Where: Nipher Middle School 700 S. Kirkwood Rd., Kirkwood
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