How did Little Hot Mama, your book co-written with Flossie Turner Lewis come about?
At the literacy conference, we exchanged business cards and I told Flossie if she wanted to work together to write her memoir, I would be happy to do so. When the conference was over, I went back home to Syracuse and got busy with other projects. Several months later, I found her card in a desk drawer and decided to give her a call. She told me other writers had offered to work with her to tell her story. She said she had to pray about me to see if I was the one she should work with and she’d let me know. A few days later, she called me back and said the answer was yes.
Who’s your target audience?
Flossie’s story is interesting on so many levels that practically anyone would find it a great read. Literacy students, tutors, people interested in African American, black entertainment, and women’s history would all be especially enthralled.
What would you like readers to get out of the book?
Most of all, I would like people to be entertained. That is the basis of everything Flossie did in her show business life — for the Turner Family, despite poverty, hunger, and her father’s gambling addiction, the show really did have to go on. I hope readers will be as deeply moved as I am by her story.
What makes this woman’s story so special?
Flossie’s story is the inspiring tale of one woman’s struggle to make a successful life for herself and her children, despite the roadblocks of racism and illiteracy. Her first-person accounts of life on the minstrel show and chitlin circuit are a part of American history that perhaps no other living person can tell.
Flossie is an astoundingly strong woman who refused to be defeated by circumstance. She met everything life threw at her and overcame it all. The book has moments of intense pain and anguish — such as Flossie’s experience of being a poor, black single mother with a brain-damaged child, as well as the night when Flossie’s beloved mother died in her arms. But there are also parts where readers will literally laugh out loud — many of the hilarious plot shows that the Turner Family was famous for are described in detail. There are 35 pages of photos of Flossie, her family, and the entertainers they worked with.
Tell us about the actual writing process of this book. What was it like working with Flossie?