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There are elements of Ruby—locations, characters, stories—that have come from real life. It’s a bit like a pot of gumbo. There are moments, spices, that have been stirred in slowly—from my life and from the stories of others.
Some of my first memories are listening to my mother tell stories about her childhood home, a small, all-black East Texas town. A stunningly beautiful and nationally recognized academician today, my mother grew up on a little farm in the piney woods. She has a collection of tiny scars on her body that illustrate her journey…stepping on a rusty nail and having to wear a slab of salt pork wrapped around her foot for an entire summer. The elbow where a teacup was hurled at her as she bolted out of a door. As children, my sister and I would point to each of these scars, these “chapters” in her young life. In many ways, this is how Ruby began.
As my sister and I grew older, my mother shared more of her story. Of her beloved sister being murdered by the Sheriff and his deputies, of so many other siblings who, because of their skin color and the dehumanization of racism, made the decision to flee up North and pass for white. My mother told us tales of being picked on for being “yellow,” having light skin and straight hair. She told us how, for survival, she learned to fight to protect herself. How she became legendary, beating boys and girls three times her size. Maggie, in my novel, is this part of my mother’s life.
More than anything, my sister and I grew to love our grandfather, Mr. James Marshall, the son of a slave master and a slave, who has become Mr. Bell in the novel. Mr. Marshall who was so light in complexion, whose eyes were so blue and hair so blond, that he was mistaken for white. However, he always corrected the misconception. When stepping onto a bus, and being told by the driver that he did not have to go to the back of the bus my grandfather would turn around and say, “No sir, I’m colored.”
My own history of abuse informed this novel, as well. I joined a support group very early on in my recovery and met an amazing woman who had survived the unthinkable. She had lived through some of the things that I write about in Ruby. Then, in completely disconnected instances, I heard similar stories from women who had never met my friend, sharing the same details, the exact same experiences. Somewhere along the way, working with at risk and homeless youth in Los Angeles for 15 years, living with my own abuse, and hearing stories of such pain and torment, I thought—If you can bear to have lived it, I can at least bear to listen. Ephram Jennings says that in some form to Ruby later in the novel. I asked that of myself while working on this book.
I read books about conjure and ancient spiritual beliefs, about both healing and destructive magic in the Deep South and throughout America in both white and black communities. I have, as a writer, taken the facts I have gathered and woven them together—images, and voices, with the ephemeral thread of fiction. I had already written scenes, snippets of a short story entitled Ruby, and these images were already sifting through my mind, my heart and my fingers. They had taken hold.
While beautifully and poetically written, this was a really hard read. Content is very disturbing, speaks directly on the issues of human trafficking. Read morePublished 9 days ago by KIm Rivera-Reynolds
To be able to write like this is a true gift. Bond includes poetic lines that make this disturbing story shine. Read morePublished 12 days ago by Nelda Brangwin
Ruby is an extraordinary look at the complexities of life. Its setting adds to the mystique of the novel. Well written.Published 16 days ago by Linda Edwards
After reading the first page of "RUBY" I was smitten by the beautiful, lyrical prose. It hooked me in all the way to the end. Cynthia Bond is a writer of immense talent! Read morePublished 22 days ago by margaret Medina
masterfully crafted prose. riveting. like honey dripping over deep crusted wounds. truthful, enchanting, and devastating, this writing casts a magical and cathartic light in a most... Read morePublished 24 days ago by Lucy Frankenton
Ruby, Cynthia Bond
$25, 333 pgs
"Ruby Bell was a constant reminder of what could befall a woman whose shoe heels were too... Read more