By Carole Eglash-Kosoff
The racially charged love and conflict of the critically acclaimed When Stars Alignbecome more entrenched after the Civil War and Reconstruction. Amy had taken her daughter, nephew, and a son she’d had never been able to acknowledge, born from her love with Thaddeus, her colored lover, to San Francisco, as a refuge from the intense racial scrutiny of the South.
They are forced to return to their old home, Moss Grove, a successful Mississippi River cotton plantation, as young adults. They discover facts about themselves that refute everything they believed regarding both their parents and their racial background. It changes the lives of each of them. Bess and Stephen’s love is thwarted. Josiah struggles with echoes of his past.
It is a tumultuous time in American history that includes the inventions of airplanes, automobiles, telephones and movies midst decades of lynchings and economic turmoil. It is the Spanish-American War and World War I. Racial biases complicate lives and relationships as newly arrived immigrants vie with white and Negro workers all trying to gain a piece of the American dream. Winds of Change is a soaring historic fiction novel that stands alone but follows the next generation from those we came to know in When Stars Align into the 20th century. It is a socially relevant, historically accurate, saga of decades often overlooked in American history.
My earlier novel, When Stars Align, dealt with the love between a young colored boy and a white girl, set before the Civil War and after on a cotton plantation in Louisiana. The story carried through Reconstruction. Children were born from various relationships established in the book. The new book carries those children through the tumultuous decades that ended the 19th century and began the 20th…decades that saw the inventions of automobiles, airplanes, electric lights and movies…decades that saw the Spanish American War and WW I…decades that saw the San Francisco earthquake and the Panics of 1873 and 1893. Because most of the characters are mixed race the story carries extra weight. Here is the prologue:
There is a dance that accompanies the rhythm of our lives. It has a logic…a pattern…a beat. Different sections of the orchestra blending into a single melody that defines who we are. I’m a man; you’re a woman. I’m white. I’m tall. I’m a Christian. And then…wait a minute. It seems I’m not white. I have some Negro blood coursing through my veins that I’d never known about. The beat of the music suddenly changes as one section, maybe the woodwinds, puts their instruments away. The new rhythm is discordant…a rhythm with which I’m unfamiliar. It’s a different tune, a genre I don’t know how to play. I’ve lost the beat. The other orchestra members are staring at me in a different way.
I’m not sure what it all means. This isn’t the South. It’s already 1883. Slavery’s been gone for nearly twenty years and the country has moved forward. I had a baby sister who was born colored. I’d never known and it’s interesting, but it happened too long ago for me to feel sad. She died, my parents are both dead, and I’m still me. But that’s the problem. In my head I suddenly feel like a different me.
My name is Josiah Rogers. My father and two generations before him grew cotton and got quite wealthy off the back-breaking work of the slaves they owned. Apparently my grandmother, my father’s mother, had a black parent and no one knew it until a sister of mine, who I’d never been told about, was born chocolate brown. Amy, my aunt, and the woman who raised me after my parents died, understood that I could spawn such a child and I deserved to know that I had black blood in me. I had so many questions that evening she told me and yet there was nothing I could ask. I kissed her on the cheek, grabbed my jacket and my trumpet, and walked out of the apartment. Nothing was very clear those next hours. I remember sitting on the wharf and watching the last of the sun fall into the Pacific and a few remaining fishing boats pull into San Francisco’s harbor. I remember walking through a cloak of evening fog, seeing buildings and people come into view like unearthly spirits and then vanish again. I found an array of tiny North Beach bars, picked one at random, and took a seat with a few tired musicians still blowing their horns. I pulled out my trumpet. I have no idea what I played or where I was.
We were a family of four. Amy held us together. Her daughter, Bess, was a few years younger than me. She had her mother’s beautiful red hair and a face full of freckles set atop two deep dimples. Bess’ father had been a career Union Army officer until he was killed in some battle with rebellious Indians. She had her father’s height and gentle nature, which was good, because Amy was definitely not a laid back soul.
The last of our quartet was Stephen, my sort-of brother. He was the son of Amy’s closest friends, the Carmodys, from when she lived near Baton Rouge. They had been slaughtered by Klan members in the same race riot that killed my father. Stephen and I are the same age. He’s colored…really light-skinned, handsome, with blue-green eyes that always sparkle, but definitely colored. Girls, white and black, hover around him like lemmings. His color never made any difference to us but he occasionally felt the sting of some ignorant bigot and I know their slurs hurt him. He and Bess are in love. We all know it. Amy knows it as well and while she never speaks against it, it’s clear that the intensity of their feelings make her very nervous. She does everything reasonable, and sometimes unreasonable, to keep them apart. Her efforts have only succeeded in bringing them closer together. Their young raging hormones have not only connected, they’ve intertwined.
We received a phone call from San Francisco General, the hospital where Amy worked as a nurse. She was dead. She had caught an infection from one of her patients and before anyone even knew she was ill, she was gone.
Our anchor, the glue that held us together, had died.
Carole Eglash-Kosoff lives and writes in Valley Village, California. She graduated from UCLA and spent her career in business, teaching, and traveling. She has visited more than seventy countries. An avid student of history, she researched the decades preceding and following the Civil War for nearly three years, including time in Louisiana, the setting for Winds of Change and her earlier novel, When Stars Align. It is a story of bi-racial love. It is a story of war, reconstruction, and racism, but primarily, it is a story of hope.
This is her third book. In 2006, following the death of her husband, she volunteered to teach in South Africa. Her first book, The Human Spirit – Apartheid’s Unheralded Heroes, tells the true life stories of an amazing array of men and women who have devoted their lives during the worst years of apartheid to help the children, the elderly, and the disabled of the townships. These people cared when no one else did and their efforts continue to this day.
Her second book, When Stars Align, chronicles the Civil War and Reconstruction through the love affair of Amy, a white girl, and Thaddeus, a colored man born of the rape of an eleven year old slave girl and the teen heir to Moss Grove.