Recalling such epic novels as Roots and The Joy Luck Club, R. A. Russell’s sweeping drama chronicles four generations of the Tilman family as they search for the things that will relieve the pain of the past. With its roots in 1975, Raising Redemption is a stirring and provocative story of the shame, secrets, sacrifice and struggle of an African American family who has worked to establish a name synonymous with respect, honor and dignity. Raising Redemption brings readers on a journey to discover the ultimate gift of love and the true legacy left for the Tilman women to embrace.
For Alicia Tilman, a seventeen-year-old girl on her way to Radcliffe, meeting her parents’ expectations means everything. But when Dickey Samson comes around, Alicia defies her father’s longstanding rule that she stay away from the boy, and is unprepared for the consequences that rain down upon her: a baby, a near shooting, estrangement.
Learning the dark family secret behind her father’s warning, Alicia leaves her home in Chesapeake, Virginia, and heads for San Francisco, a big city on the opposite coast, whose pictures always look pretty. Alone, pregnant, and homeless, Alicia makes a decision that will alter her relationship with her family forever: making a new home for herself at Lil’s Place, an escort service of girls who become Alicia’s confidantes, sisters.
After placing her son for adoption, Alicia realizes that success is the only solution to shame, and struggles to become worthy of the symbolic silver teapot handed down among the noble Tilman women. As the years go by, and her efforts build, Alicia is determined to reconnect with her mother, her father, and her son, whose life she had protected at the risk of ruining her own.
The Taste of Soil 1930
Mabel Tilman stooped over a wood-burning stove, stirring simmering rice. Shadows crept around her. She lit a kerosene lamp and hobbled to the front door of her three-room shanty, then peered outside as dusk settled on Chesapeake. “Marjorie?” she yelled, searching for her daughter. “Marge?”
Should have been home by now, thought Mabel. Maybe she helping out one of them teachers of hers. She gone be somebody, doing all that homework I can’t help her with no more, all them crazy numbers and letters she got going this way and that in the math she taking. She just like her daddy was, smart as a whip. She grown up, too, already fifteen, and the men done started eyeing her.
Mabel moved back to the stove and eased the pot off the fire. I better get to the outhouse ’fore it get too dark. She grabbed a walking stick and ambled outside, crunching over dried dirt and windblown leaves. When she returned to her doorstep, Mabel scanned the nearby woods, but she saw only emptiness amongst the trees. Where is that girl? she wondered, stomping off debris. Then she stepped inside and felt the presence of another. She brandished her stick, searching across the room until she found the outline of her daughter cowering in a corner.
“Marge, where you been? I been worried about you, girl. What you doing over there? Come out so I can see you. Come give your mama a hug.”
Marjorie staggered out of the shadows, her eyes cast downward. Mabel squinted at features once clean and sharp, now bloodied and swollen. She bolted for her daughter.
“What happened to you? Your face! Look at these clothes! That blood on this skirt? Oh, my God, no. Oh, no. Oh, Lordy, no! Who did this? Who did it! I said who?”
Mabel waited for an answer, but Marjorie remained mute.
“You ain’t saying, I see. Then I know who. I’m right, ain’t I? It was him, wadn’t it? Tell your mama, or give me a sign.”
Marjorie glanced at her mother and issued a sob.
“I knew it,” screamed Mabel. “That evil, low-down fucker! Lord Almighty, strike the bastard down! Strike him down, Lord. If there’s a God in heaven, strike the good-for-nothing bastard down, down, down, down, down!”
Mabel’s mournful cry pierced the walls and filled the air. The only response: sympathetic howls from neighboring dogs.
Marjorie remained silent as she dried her tears. Gone was the lively spark, the joyful smile, the trademark laughter; now, an expression of shame, regret, and helplessness.
Mabel gathered Marjorie into her arms, attempting to stroke away the pain. She had the horrible feeling that just as she had when pregnant with Marjorie, her baby girl would soon crave the taste of soil.
( Continues… )
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