Dear Book Club Administrator/Leader:
I welcome a conversation about Time’s Undoing with your Book Club members.
Conversation is the way to uncover details, insights, nuances, and feedback that brings a value-added experience for the reader, and the writer.
I love speaking about my research process, and my once-in-a-lifetime findings. There is also an interesting backstory around the long-held mythology around my grandfather’s life and death, and the legacy of secrets held in our family. I also love to provide readers with the inside story on the ideas and goals that motivated me to keep moving forward in telling this story.
Conversely, I appreciate hearing the reactions, ideas, and takeaways from readers who have spent time with my novels.
Time’s Undoing is fiction. It is a narrative that is part imagination mixed with memory, family lore, and oral history. This story of the last few months in one Black man’s life before a fatal altercation with Jim Crow era policemen is only the tip of a very large, and insidious iceberg of stories. Most of them untold.
The novel also includes a contemporary story, one in which a young, Black journalist seeks to equate the past violence of police excessive force with the violence we still see today in the headlines and breaking news of our media outlets. Black lives have always mattered to some, but not to others.
My goal in meeting with Book Clubs and discussing Time’s Undoing is to continue a dialogue started by many others about reconciling the dark past of racial strife in America. It is a dialogue I believe is necessary for moving toward a future where social justice is a given for all of America’s citizens.
If you’re interested in having me as a guest of your book club (in person, or virtually), please go to my Contact Page and send me a message. I promise to respond. Thank you for your interest in Time’s Undoing.
Resource #1 Photograph
This is a photo of Robert Harrington and Anna Kate Smith Harrington taken on the day of their wedding in 1926. The male face superimposed on the locs of the female profile on the book cover (see above where the book cover is) is of my grandfather, and comes from this photograph.
Skin tone is a recurring theme in the 1929 chapters of Time’s Undoing. Are issues of skin color still discussed in your community in 2023? If so, how has this issue changed?
How this photograph was important to my writing process.
Resource #2 Book epigraphs
This is the epigraph page of Time’s Undoing. The first quote, from James Baldwin, addresses the view of some that Birmingham (especially during the Civil Rights era) was an anomaly. The second epigraph comes from University Professor, Kristie Dotson whose specialty is epistemology, defined as: the theory of knowledge. Do we know things? And if we do, how and when do we know things?
Are these epigraphs effective in illustrating the motifs of the novel?
How does the Title: Time’s Undoing fit with the general narrative of the novel?
Resource #3 Family Tree
This family tree, designed by Dutton Books, is a poignant visual display of the familial relationships in Time’s Undoing.
Is it important to have knowledge of our family ancestry? How does it aid individual family members or families as a whole?
Why do you think there is so much recent interest in genealogy? And is it important for Black families to know their family histories?
Resource #4 Whistle Photo
I imagined the whistle that’s referred to a couple of times in Time’s Undoing looked something like this:
Was the imagery of the whistle useful to the narrative? How does it help the reader to connect to one of the novel’s important plot lines?
Resource #5 Automobile Photo
This photograph is of a 1929 Franklin Victoria sedan. It is another important image in Time’s Undoing. This luxury car would turn heads, and in the novel gets the attention of the Klan. My grandfather, Robert Harrington, was known to buy a new car each year from his wages as a carpenter. This is the vehicle I imagined he might have.
What was the relevance of the Franklin sedan in Time’s Undoing?
Does Robert Harrington’s connection to his car give readers a better sense of this primary character?
What, specifically does it say about the Great Grandfather in Time’s Undoing?
Resource #6 Police Incident Card
This Police Incident Card is one of several hundred recovered from the basement of the former Birmingham, Alabama police headquarters. The novel has no mention of these documents, but they are an important resource when researching the Birmingham Police Force of the early Twentieth century. As you will note, in this card,the victim is reported to have resisted arrest. This was often the motive listed on these incident cards.
My grandfather’s shooting by the Birmingham police was one of hundreds of incidents uncovered by researchers of Northeastern University’s Civil Rights and Restorative Justice Project. These incident cards reside in the archives of the Birmingham Central Library.
What was the influence of the Klan in police departments, and city governments during the Jim Crow era?
Were Black citizens ever able to find justice in the early Twentieth Century in the South?
How much is different (or the same) in 2023 about the relationship of police forces and the Black communities?