Love-Songs-of-W.E.B.-DuBois Honoree Fannone Jeffers credit oprahdaily Alice Walkers Garden 2021

The Love Songs of  W.E.B. DuBois by Honoree Fannone Jeffers

©2021 by Alice Walker

It was at the Drugstore rack in Eatonton (Georgia) that I first encountered The Brontes and Thomas Hardy.  I would not have been permitted to sit at the counter to order a coke but no one minded that I bought, with money earned from selling eggs, paperback novels by English writers.  How could I know at thirteen or fourteen or fifteen that the novels were English because the white settlers of Georgia had ancestry from Great Britain: England, Scotland, Ireland, Wales, and that they understood they did?

No people of color were in these novels, but chitterlings, something we ate with gusto, appeared, and maybe even jumping the broom, which was a custom of country English people that black people enslaved by English-speaking settler/occupiers adopted.

Looking back, what I was most struck by was that characters in the novels I read: WUTHERING HEIGHTS, JANE EYRE, FAR FROM THE MADDING CROWD, TESS OF THE D’URBERVILLES, JUDE THE OBSCURE, ETC., seemed to know the specific locations of where they were.  They knew places in the countryside intimately; they knew towns, they knew cities. They were familiar with city and country landmarks. Tess, we recall, falls asleep among the gigantic columns of Stonehenge. Later, reading Virginia Woolf, I marveled at her intimate knowledge of just which park was nearer Charing Cross Road, etc. They had a sense of place.

Something in me has longed for this: to know a specific place, landscape, town, as it was years, even centuries before I was born.  To know not only that I am from a place but that there was a place before I encountered it.

Honoree Fannone Jeffer’s astonishing novel THE LOVE SONGS OF W.E.B. DuBOIS has given me this gift I always wanted, without knowing exactly that I wanted it.  She has given me, all of us really, but specifically Georgians, and black Americans, a definite landscape on which to ponder, admire and explore:  the area, as it happens, within which I was born, Putnam County, Georgia.

I lived in this novel for three weeks.  It is long.  It is a journey. It is something so remarkable I’m not sure we collectively ever even dreamed it.  And yet, how necessary it is for our grounding in this land, so “foreign” we often are made to feel; whose work here, not to mention our Indigenous ancestry, makes us the most intimate of its residents.

Thank you, Daughter, Granddaughter, Great Granddaughter, beloved witness for our people and our land.  Your great work is infused with love and honesty. Truth. Our best, and most reliable medicine for whatever has ailed us, from the beginning.