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After The Garden by Doris Jean Austin. New York. 1987. New American Library. hardcover. 324 pages. July 1987.  Jacket illustration by Jacqueline Schuman. 1st Novel. 0453005381.

 

 

0453005381FROM THE PUBLISHER -

 

   This brilliantly imagined, achingly alive novel about the pain and joy of a black woman’s life captures the textures and tensions, love and rage, of the black experience in America. The urban North is the setting of AFTER THE GARDEN: jersey City, New Jersey, where the beautiful but inwardly divided heroine, Elzina Tompkins, learns the lessons of life and love in 1940s and ‘50s. Elzina’s search for happiness and fulfillment is a journey on a tightrope stretched to the breaking point between two opposing poles. One is that of the woman who has raised her, her grandmother Rosalie, strong, proud, fiercely righteous, for whom any weakness is an unpardonable sin. The other is that of the exquisitely graceful, handsome, and free-spirited high school athlete, Jesse James, who becomes Elzina’s husband and great love. Elzina, loving her husband for the very qualities she has been taught to condemn, is a superbly complex, heartbreakingly real creation. Unforgettable too, is Jesse, who, wild as his namesake, cannot understand the core of resistance in Elzina that his charm and passion cannot melt. As Elzina and Jesse struggle to balance the strength of their love against the weight of their differences, their emotional fallout reaches an explosive intensity in their son, Charles. Finally only Elzina can heal the wounds of her family as she overcomes conflict, abandonment, heartbreak, and near-madness to emerge into stunning and triumphant womanhood. Probing relationships seared and ignited by love and sacrifice, joy and despair, this emotionally charged novel brings to life a cast of wonderful characters whose individuality and strength give them a special, tough beauty. Doris Jean Austin, prize-winning writer, tells us a fascinating story that vibrates with power and daring.

 

 

Austin Doris Jean  DORIS JEAN AUSTIN (1949 – September 1994), American author and journalist,, was born in 1949 in Mobile, Alabama, in the United States. She was raised by her mother and grandmother. When she was six years old, Austin moved with her family to Jersey City, New Jersey, where she attended Lincoln High School. She was influenced to become a writer by her high school English teacher Reverend Ercell F. Webb. She was raised in a strict Baptist household, which would also serve as an inspiration for her work. She died in 1994 of liver cancer. Austin was a former Colony fellow and in 1984 received the DeWitt Wallace/Reader’s Digest Award for Literary Excellence. From 1989 until 1994, Austin taught workshops about fiction at Columbia University and at the Frederick Douglass Creative Arts Center. She co-founded the Harlem Writers Guild. She left the guild in 1994 and co-founded The New Renaissance Guild. The group was inspired by writers groups during the Harlem Renaissance. Arthur Flowers and Terry McMillan were involved in the group. For a time she was a reporter for NBC Radio. Her articles have appeared in Essence magazine, Amsterdam News, and the New York Times. Austin wrote one novel, After the Garden (1987). The novel pulls inspiration from people that attended the Baptist church Austin attended when young. The book is about "idealism and tainted relationships." One of her notable short stories, ‘Rosalie Tompkins’, was featured in the recent Mentor anthology BLACK SOUTHERN VOICES. Her short story, "Heirs and Orphans," based on a character in After the Garden, was alao featured in that anthology. She had additional short stories appear in Street Lights: Illuminating Tales of the Urban Black Experience, which she co-edited. Austin was best friends with Terry McMillan. In McMillan's book, How Stella Got Her Groove Back, the character Delilah was based on Austin. Writer Carolyn Ferrell credits Austin as a mentor. She was a member of the New Renaissance Writers Guild and a former member of the Harlem Writers Guild. Originally from Alabama, she lived and wrote in New York City.

 

 

 

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