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What Came Before

Degani, Gay

38 ratings by Goodreads
ISBN 10: 0988125781 / ISBN 13: 9780988125780
Published by Every Day Novels, 2014
Used Condition: Very Good
From Better World Books (Mishawaka, IN, U.S.A.)

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Bibliographic Details

Title: What Came Before

Publisher: Every Day Novels

Publication Date: 2014

Book Condition:Very Good

About this title

Synopsis:

A literary suspense novel sparked by racial tensions and family history: Fed up with being tied down by twenty-five years of domestic bliss and everyone's expectations, Abbie Palmer is struggling to assert some independence from her husband Craig and find her creative self. When he tells her, "No man is an island," she flings back, "That's exactly what I want to be, an island. I'm sick of being a whole continent." But breaking away from her mainland isn't so easy, what with cops, Molotov cocktails and Hollywood starlets, lost memories - and maybe an unknown half-sister...

From the Author:

What Came Before was conceived as a comedy with lots of broad humor and exaggerated characters, but as I began to work, I realized I needed to write something I cared about, that there had to be a reason beyond car chases and Twinkies for a piece of work to exist. I rethought the whole thing. Stories--good stories--had to be about something that mattered to me and to others.
 
In the beginning, Abbie's missing half-sister was white, like Abbie and like me, and I kept coming up with the question, "so what?" "Where's the tension?" I reached into my own life, my own experiences, my own childhood for clues. 
 
I grew up in California, but my mom came from a little town in Louisiana and my dad from Iowa.  Since he was a teacher, we used to climb into our old Pontiac as soon as school was out and head east to corn country, then head south to Terrebonne parish.  That's where I ran smack dab into Jim Crow laws.
 
I loved going to the grocery store with my grandpa.  He was a sunburned Santa Claus smelling of figs and cigars who liked to load up on rolls and rolls of toilet paper, paper towels, cans of tomato sauce and bottles of soda pop.  I liked to ride on the front of the cart while he pushed down the aisles. Then when I was four or five - I don't really remember exactly - I wandered off to get a drink of water.
 
Two drinking fountains stood against the cluttered back wall of the market. I studied them, wondering which one I wanted. I'd never had a choice before.  Not in California. 
 
The left one was labeled "white" and the other labeled "colored."  

I chose "colored," of course, because to my mind that meant the water would come out red, orange, yellow, green, blue, purple. When no rainbow showed up, I was disappointed. I turned on the white one. The two sprays of water were exactly the same. Clear and boring.

I ran back to my grandpa and told him what happened. He explained that one was for white people, the other for black. When I asked why, he just shrugged. I don't remember, but I think it was my father who to me this kind of fear and hatred existed in the world.
 
I wish I could say I knew instinctively at that young age the whole wrongness of it, but I didn't. It's something I learned as I grew into myself, through reading, through the experiences of the growing up in the fifties and sixties, through knowing people of many races - the different ways human beings exist in a real world. "What Came Before" springs from a desire to show that people are more alike than different, and it is our differences that enrich us. 

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