Twilla selected author, Reshonda Tate Billingsley's novel, A Family Affair, for our first meeting in 2014. The venue, Three Layers Cafe' located in Historic Springfield, was cozy and rustic with exposed brick, lighting and some piping. It was indicative of the early 1900s and lent to the overall charm and character of the era. We had to "pass through" a picturesque outdoor garden (complete with a waterfall, cafe seating, and two very healthy rabbits) to enter the private meeting space. Once we were in the room, we noticed that Twilla had the room decorated with beautiful red and white balloons .
The huge meeting table was set up "Cinderella" style, which allowed us to see each other without difficulty.
Once everyone arrived, Twilla surprised us with the news that Reshonda Tate Billingsley would be joining us via Skype in 30 minutes. We were excited to place our lunch orders from the delicious looking menu, so we would be ready to go!
When the time arrived, Twilla connected the Skype, however Ms. Billingsley informed us that she had an unscheduled conflict, and asked if we would check back with her later in the meeting.
As the questions got underway and the entrees delivered, the meeting "took off!" There were so many analytical questions that evolved from many of the questions that it was a conversation that was both entertaining as well as informative.
The "dreaded" question of "family secrets" has yet again reared its "pretty" head. Should a family secret be kept a secret? Consensus seems to be, it depends upon the secret. So, there you go!
The topic of Bernard's infidelity was not an issue for U.S. G.I.R.L.S., because we all agreed that he did not love his wife; however his greed allowed him to remain in an unhappy marriage. Roz expounded upon the gender factor with Adele by basically saying that in her professional circle, a divorce would have been deemed a failure. Also, she needed him more as a "show piece" (for lack of a better analogy) than anything else.
The questions of investing the $250K that Bernard gave Olivia's mother was discussed in detail. JayBee felt that in light of his net worth; the monetary award should have been much more. After all, the business was on the Forbes list and he was described as a "Tycoon," $250K should have been a "pittance" to him.
Also, Olivia's mother was a domestic worker, and should have had some direction or a referral to a financial advisor to assist her in gaining a return on her asset (ROA) or investment (ROI) that would have allowed her to receive interest on a money market, mutual fund, or dividends on an annuity... Since the original "award" would have taken place in or around 1995 when Olivia was 3, the average ROA/ROI would have been 8.625% (compared to today's avg ROA/ROI of 3.875) resulting in over $98K in accrued simple interest, or well over $182K if she diversified her portfolio to include stocks and bonds. Sorry, I got off track....O.K. enough of the investment banking for today!
Twilla must have known these questions would cause a lot of debate. Sympathy for Alyssa? ...Seriously? Wow, Roz really took this one to task. She explained that she could understand why Alyssa agreed to be Bernard's mistress because she allowed him to be himself, and he lavished her with gifts. He could dress casually, eat greasy food and just "hang out." Not a bad gig for someone who knows and recognizes that she is simply a "quasi" concubine. There was much disagreement as Karen, JayBee, Celeste, and several others indicated that regardless, there is no sympathy and basically, no understanding why someone would sleep with a married man. JayBee finally circled the wagon one more time, and asked Roz if she had SYMPATHY for Adele, and she agreed that she did not.
The themes of religion, faith, hope and foregiveness were quite evident, and appreciated. We agreed that scriptural references were well placed.
Twilla surprised us with an array of dessert bites which were tantalizing. While they were being served, the Skype connectivity to Reshonda Tate Billingsley was successful and she was able to join us.
Twilla began by welcoming her to our meeting, and Reshonda apologized profusely for not being able to participate earlier, but was eager to participate and grateful that she was invited.
Valerie began the series of questions with the FMLA laws and why they weren't taken into consideration when writing the novel. Legally Jerry had the access to family leave when his daughter was ill. She mentioned the unionization factor and how this was investigated and reviewed by her staff; however FMLA is effective as long as the business has five (5) employees or more, so off Skype we discerned this matter may have been grossly overlooked by the editor.
JayBee was up next with her question surrounding the alleged rape of Lorraine. Reshonda admitted just what we'd discussed earlier. In order not to tarnish Lorraine's reputation, Christian beliefs and affirmations; they needed a non-consensual act to take place. JayBee did express how she wished another route had been taken, as this one took her to a "dark" place.
Celeste brought up issues pertaining to shelters and protective services that are available for women in distress or duress and Reshonda commented that we were really a group of well informed readers. That does echo the sentiments of many authors that we have met. U.S. G.I.R.L.S. are not superficial, and we take our literature seriously by dissecting and discussing to the most miniscuile detail.
Celeste also brought up the question of the characters ethnicity and how there was no concrete reference to racial makeup. Reshonda explained that she does not write with ethnicity in mind "per se" but she did envision Adele as possibly Creole or "mixed" lineage....moment of silence...hummmm.
Roz and Karen each made valid comments regarding her previous and current writing style; as well as her commitment to and the future of urban literature.
JayBee (a/ka/ Webmaster) invited Reshonda to peruse our website and send Twilla an email about her experience with U.S. G.I.R.L.S., and any other information for us to load on our website under our author speaks tab.
Before signing off, Reshonda mentioned an upcoming joint venture with Victoria Christopher Murray as well as a movie. Twilla wrapped up the meeting by thanking Reshonda Tate Billingsley for joining us, and answering the "tough" questions.
Thank you, Twilla for bringing U.S. G.I.R.L.S. to our first meeting in Historic Springfield - from its rich history to the impressive architecture we were captivated. Your selection of A Family Affair gave us reason to pause and ask the age ole' question: "Why Do Some Men Cheat?"