Debut novel unites voices, sparks conversations
By GINNY COOPER/Staff Writer
MONTEVALLO—Margaret Wrinkle was born in Birmingham during July of 1963, just months before the Sixteenth Street Baptist church bombings, during a very racially charged time for the city.
“A lot of my early bonds were with the people being paid to take care of me,” Wrinkle said, and it was this dichotomy, which spurred the idea for her debut novel “Wash.”
Wrinkle discussed her inspiration and writing process for the novel during an AAUW event on April 9 at Eclipse Coffee and Books in Montevallo, part of the AAUW’s Adelante Book Group Dialogue series.
“Wash” is the story of Washington, a young slave, who is forced to be a breeding sire by his owner, James Richardson. Wrinkle weaves different voices together in the novel, primarily Wash, Richardson and Pallas, a midwife from a neighboring farm.
Wrinkle first formed the idea for the novel when she discovered that her slave owning ancestors might have been involved in breeding enslaved people.
“Something about this very hard story made me know I had to bring it to light,” Wrinkle said. “I created a fictional world to answer the questions I raised for myself.”
The story was part of a greater conversation that needed to happen, Wrinkle said, and after creating the documentary “broken/ground,” she realized fiction would be a more effective outlet.
“I wanted this to be a catalyst for conversation that needs to happen. That was my goal for this book. It is easier (for people) to talk about a book and fictional characters,” Wrinkle said.
“Wash” has won a plethora of prizes since its release in early 2013, including the Flaherty-Dunnan First Novel Prize from New York City’s Center for Fiction. The novel was also named one of the 10 Best Novels of 20013 by the Wall Street Journal, a New York Times Editor’s Choice and an O Magazine selection for 10 Books to Pick Up Now.
On her most recent book tour, Wrinkle has visited Selma, Birmingham and Nashville promoting the novel, and she has experienced first hand the conversations she wished to start.
“They’re happening,” Wrinkle said. “(Seeing) that has been incredibly gratifying.”