A woman inherits a sugarcane farm. Instead of selling it, she works to make it a successful business. That’s the foundation of Natalie Baszile’s “Queen Sugar.” But the book is quick to reveal its true purpose – to serve as a window into modern African-American life. It’s a window Baszile expertly invites people from all races and creeds to look through.
Baszile is a 2007 MFA Program for Writers at Warren Wilson College graduate. Eight years later, “Queen Sugar” was optioned by Oprah Winfrey and Ava DuVernay, who directed “Selma,” to become a hit television show on OWN, the Oprah Winfrey Network. After achieving the kind of success most first-time novelists only dream about, Baszile is returning to the Swannanoa Valley in September with a new project.
“My personal experience allows me to have a particular point of view about how race operates,” said Baszile. “It’s not that I am only interested in race, but as an African-American author, that’s central to the work. I think I am positioned to be able to talk about these issues in a way that celebrates black life but that can also be welcoming to all people. I am keenly aware that I am standing in this place, and it’s a space I want to explore with the Warren Wilson College and Asheville communities.”
The celebrated author’s appearance is the first in a planned series of talks and readings delivered by women writers. The events will lead up to the inauguration of Warren Wilson College President Lynn Morton. Morton is a former English professor and holds a Ph.D. in Renaissance literature.
“A series of women writers speaks to my academic interests and my position as the first female president of this institution,” said Morton, whose doctoral dissertation focused on Renaissance women writers. “But it also gives the College the chance to welcome back Natalie, who is one of our most distinguished graduates. She has not only written a popular novel, but she has had an impact on culture in this country.
“I recognize the need for people on our campus, in the Asheville community and across this state to connect with someone who has proven she can open a deliberative dialogue about race in this country. Natalie’s return to campus is an important event, and I hope our students and the community take advantage of this incredible opportunity.”
The “Harwood-Cole Memorial Lecture Series” launches Sept. 12 at 7:30 p.m. in the Kittredge Community Arts Center featuring Natalie Baszile. Admission is free, and registration is not required but requested. Please visit https://goo.gl/EyRZFQ to reserve your space.