A Texas Writer Penned This Love Story Set in Jim Crow South

This debut novel, selected for the Oprah Book Club last year, examines the trauma behind violence against blacks in the South during the 1950s.

By Becky FogelFebruary 10, 2016 3:11 pm, ,

If you wanted to explore the African-American experience in Texas, you could perhaps peruse the many books written on the subject – if there were many books written by and about African-Americans in Texas.

Frankly, there are not. A major exception is Ruby, which follows young Ruby Bell who moves from a small East Texas town for 1950s New York, only to return to face a difficult and violent past. When she’s back at home, Ruby also becomes involved with a man named Ephraim, who never forgot her.

Author Cynthia Bond, a native Texan, wrote Ruby, the first in a planned trilogy that has already topped The New York Times Best-Seller list and become an Oprah Book Club selection. Bond is working on the second installment.

“I was born in Texas, my ancestors are from Texas. Their bones are resting under the soil,” she says. “I grew up listening to my mother’s stories about Texas.”

Bond’s mother grew up in an all-black town called Liberty, which is featured in the book.

“It is what black people have endured, in Texas, throughout the South, and, really, throughout America,” she says. “That walk of living in oppression and racism, it’s almost like a heavy fog and you breathe it in every day.”

Bond says everyone she knows has a story of someone they knew who’s come to a “horrible end” from violence and “crushing discrimination that people lived with.” Bond says she counts Zora Neale Hurston’s “Their Eyes Were Watching God” as one of her most-loved books.

“She infuses nature into her work and love is something you breathe, it’s so powerful,” she says. “That’s what I tried to do with Ruby and Ephraim.”

Listen to the full interview in the audio player above.