Many thanks to Authors’ Lounge for the opportunity to talk about my book, Atlanta Stories: Reconstruction. I consider it one of the best works I’ve written to date and am pleased for the chance to introduce it to a wider audience.
Reconstruction consists of nine interconnected narratives about a diverse group of people living in Atlanta, Georgia in the early part of the 21st century. These individuals are dealing with changes in their lives which causes them to reevaluate their values and priorities. They must come to terms with their past actions and confront the obstacles before them to rise from the ashes and move on with their lives. The themes of family and reconciliation predominate the work, as characters search for redemption and renewal. The way forward may not be easy, but the journey is necessary to achieve personal growth.
The characters are drawn from my previous works, a story collection, Fables of the New South, a novel, Rebecca, Too, and my full-length play, Another Mother. Fables of the New South and Reconstruction constitute two volumes in a planned three-volume set of Atlanta Stories. These works are part of what I call my Expanded Universe of Fictional Atlanta. I call the genre Southern Neorealism — complex stories told in simple, straight-forward language, with well-defined characters undergoing personal transformation. These were inspired by my own background growing up in Atlanta.
The book is targeted toward anyone who enjoys stories featuring strong characters making bold choices about their lives and living with the consequences of those choices. Anyone who enjoys family narratives with a strong sense of community should also find themselves in familiar territory. Reconstruction contains many types of families, those to whom one is born and those one forges in life as circumstances dictate. It explores the many complications inherent in family dynamics, expectations, misconceptions, and misunderstandings, ultimately finding that any situation can be overcome with the proper understanding and respect for each individual. The characters, in some cases, are forced to confront their deepest fears and anxieties in pursuit of respite and redemption.
It is my hope that readers will connect with the characters and identify with the situations to gain new insight into the role that family and community plays in influencing a person’s course in life and the decisions made. In my work, no one is exclusively “heroes” or “villains” but complex individuals with many motivations behind their actions. The reader may not always agree with the choices a character makes, but it is hoped that, at least, the reader will understand the circumstances that underlie a character’s actions, to better understand what led the character in the course he or she has followed. My plan is to expand on the themes in this work in a follow-up volume, tentatively entitled Terminus.
The stories in Reconstruction have a particular relevance for me, as I am a native of Atlanta, where I’ve always had a rather dysfunctional relationship with my hometown. Writing about it seems a logical way to deal with some of my own demons. Attempting to come to terms with this relationship led me to leave my lifelong home and move to Middle Georgia, near where my father’s family lived nearly two hundred years ago, in 2019. I’m also a playwright, and my aforementioned play, Another Mother, won The Essential Theatre’s play writing award in 2017 and received a full production in my home neighborhood of West End, in the building that once housed the library where I learned to read as a child. In the 1990s, I was president of the Atlanta Junior Chamber of Commerce (Jaycees) and was voted one of the top presidents in the state by the Georgia Jaycees. Graduating college from Georgia State University, my time in the Jaycees, and having my full-length play produced by The Essential Theatre in my home neighborhood are among my proudest accomplishments. To those, I now add publication of Atlanta Stories: Reconstruction.