NATALIE BASZILE / Queen Sugar -- Launch Party
Inspired by debut author Natalie Baszile’s own life and family history, QUEEN SUGAR is a story of reinvention about an African American woman who inherits a sugarcane farm in Louisiana, and the new life and new family it brings together. Offering a rare glimpse into the complicated world of Louisiana sugarcane farming, it's a story of Southern wisdom, unexpected love and second chances.
Baszile conjurs the story of Charley Bordelon, a recently widowed mother of an 11 year old girl struggling to get by in Los Angeles, whose late father leaves her eight hundred acres of prime sugarcane land in Louisiana with the stipulation that she must farm it or lose it. His reasons for doing this are mysterious, but Charley embraces it as an opportunity to start over and grow a new life for her and her daughter on the Gulf coast. But no amount of planning can prepare Charley for a Louisiana that’s mired in the past: Cane farming is very much a white man’s business, and her grandmother, Miss Honey, is far thornier than she remembers. As the sweltering south Louisiana summer unfolds, a troubled brother threatens Charley’s cane operation with violence and theft, and she must struggle to balance the overwhelming challenges of her farm with the demands of a homesick daughter, a judgmental and unpredictable grandmother, and the startling desires of her own heart.
"Gorgeous . . . an exquisitely written book about the joys and sorrows of family, love, endurance, and hard work. I can’t ask much more of any novel.”
-- Peter Orner, author of Last Car Over the Sagamore Bridge
When author Natalie Baszile’s father left Louisiana as a teenager in 1954, he vowed never to return. Everything about the south -- from the brutal segregation to the weeds pushing through cracks in the sidewalk -- repulsed him. He trained his eye on California and never looked back. Years later, his Southern Californian daughter Natalie had a different view and found herself drawn to the warmth of her Louisiana relatives, intrigued by the cast of characters who lived in her grandmother’s tiny town, and stories she’d heard about family secrets, rivalries and feuds. While writing this novel, she questioned her father extensively about her family history and made several trips back to the region, visiting with relatives and helping out during sugarcane harvesting season as part of her research for the book.
Natalie Baszile has an M.A. in Afro-American Studies from UCLA and earned an M.F.A. at the Warren Wilson Program for Writers where she was a Holden Minority Scholar. QUEEN SUGAR won the Hurston/Wright College Writer’s Award and was runner-up in the Faulkner Pirate’s Alley novel-in-progress competition. She lives in San Francisco with her family.