Julia Sedlack / Staff Writer
Samford’s Department of English will host critically acclaimed novelist Natashia Deón on Sept. 30 at 7 p.m. in Robinson Hall, as part of the “Birmingham Area Consortium for Higher Education’s Visiting Writers’ Series.”
Deón boasts a prolific, multi-faceted career as an attorney, law professor and creative writer. She is an NAACP Image Award Nominee, Pamela Krasney Moral Courage Fellow and Creative Writing Professor at UCLA.
She will present a reading of her novel “Grace,” which won the 2017 American Library Association’s Black Caucus Award for Best Debut Fiction.
Set in Alabama and Georgia just before the Civil War, “Grace” tells the story of an escaped slave-girl, Naomi, who trades the suffocating constraints of the plantation for the raucous realities of a brothel.
Her daughter, Josey, is born out of an affair with a white man named Jeremy. Though Naomi is brutally murdered immediately following Josey’s birth, her spirit continues to narrate her daughter’s life throughout the book.
As an author, Deón speaks life into characters whose stories read as true and living testimonies to very present pain.
“Creative writing is advocacy,” she said in an interview, “It’s advocating for your characters, to make them as real as possible for readers…you are proving their existence and that they deserve to be on the page.”
Deón’s work as a practicing attorney also informs her writing.
“The most difficult scene for me to write in ‘Grace’ was a rape scene,” she said. “It was literally pulled from a case…the facts from the reports still haunt me… People still ask me how I can imagine such violence and I’ll say, ‘I didn’t need to.’”
Deón’s storytelling is at once piercingly personal and resoundingly universal. While “Grace” depicts the particular atrocities of the transatlantic slave trade, it truly harnesses the communicative potential of the word, allowing the reader to truly empathize and “carry another’s burden.”
“I’m blessed to help other people carry their burdens in some of their worst moments,” Deón said about being an activist and advocate, “I want to help the hurting the way I’ve been helped…that comes from my faith.”