Wednesday, June 25, 2014

When Lilacs Last in the Dooryard Bloomed - Guest Post and {Giveaway}

When Lilacs last in the Dooryard Bloomed by Bradley Greenburg was published on 19 June 2014 and is available at all good bookstores and online, price $19.00.

How my local area inspired my book

When Lilacs Last in the Dooryard Bloomed is set largely in the Wabash River Valley in Tippecanoe County, Indiana, as well as in the river town of Lafayette, Indiana. My father's family has lived in this region since the 1850s. Before the formation of the United States it had a rich Native American tradition as well as being the site of an early 18th-century French fort and trading post (Fort Ouiatenon). I grew up along the river just a few hundred yards from that fort. When I was a kid there was a large archaeological dig that established the true site of the fort as well as a large Native American village alongside it. I went there almost every day in the summer and volunteered when they would let me. It made a lasting impression on me, the idea that beneath our feet our history lay there if we could only find the means to dig it up. A novelist who is interested in recreating a historical world works similarly: you go back into the record, into local memory, and into your imagination to reconstruct how life was lived. Each trace that has a dramatic potential can be useful in telling a story.

When I began writing Lilacs I had Clayton McGhee's voice. The historical circumstances of his life grew up around him once his life story began to emerge. He is not based on an actual historical person, but on my idea of what would happen to a black family if they set off to escape the racial politics of the South in the 1860s by moving to the North. I knew there was a rich history of immigration and diversity in Lafayette and Tippecanoe County due to river and, later, railroad traffic. I knew this because I had assiduously read a local historian named Robert Kriebel for many years. His column in the local newspaper was a touchstone and an inspiration for historical detail and period authenticity. I used old newspaper accounts and books as well, but the work of this local historian was a key to getting started. If I have done this properly, the novel should open an imaginary space that is true to the past while also offering us a window into how we have come to our present dilemmas in terms of race and class.

About the book
Published 19th June
Press contact: Lucy Ramsey

‘Bradley Greenburg holds up to the light what may be our keynote American dilemma – the racial tension that trailed the Civil War – and he turns it into an inventive and thrilling heartbreak. Here is a novel with 20/20 detail vision: it sees every particular of small-town life, business and family, identity and home. Clayton McGhee is one of the signature characters in contemporary historical fiction.’ Darin Strauss

The end of slavery is no guarantee of freedom. When Clayton McGhee journeys north with his parents and grandparents in search of a new life, they must build a homestead with their own labour and defend their right to own land from powerful vested interests and deep rooted prejudice. Thirty years later, Clayton is still forced to defend his livelihood and his family’s safety from racism and greed. But life is more complex now, as the men of influence in this increasingly mixed community find to their cost. When Lilacs Last in the Dooryard Bloomed is a riveting adventure story about fathers and sons and the difficult moral choices which resound down the generations as America moves slowly towards freedom and equality.

About the author
Bradley Greenburg grew up along the Wabash River in Tippercanoe County, Indiana, a few miles from Prophetstown and the Battle of Tippencanoe site. He teaches Renaissance drama and English literature at Northeastern Illinois University in Chicago. This is his first novel.

Follow the instructions on the Rafflecopter form to win a paperback copy of When Lilacs Last in the Dooryard to U.S. only.
a Rafflecopter giveaway


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  1. I live in Connecticut, in the area where a large part of "Making Freedom: The Extraordinary Life of Venture Smith" took place. It's a biography worth reading.

  2. I live in Oklahoma near the area of the Chisholm Trail, Indian reservations, etc. and a favorite HF book was about the life of Cynthia Ann Parker, the white girl raised happily by Comanches, and mother of Quanah Parker, their last chief.

  3. I have to say I love the simplicity, and boldness of that cover. You know I'm not normally a historical fiction fan, but I think I would enjoy this one.

    My hometown of Two Harbors, MN is the oldest shipping port on thenorth shore of Lake Superior.

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