It is a glorious Easter weekend, the sun is shining, wind blowing and the humidity is low. The perfect setting to discuss Dwayne Alexander Smith's, debut thriller, Forty Acres.
“Welcome to Forty Acres” is how Valerie “Val” welcomed members and guests into the private Veranda of Jacksonville Golf and Country Club, The tables were set with beautiful spring floral centerpieces and colorful gift bags. There was an adjacent table for desserts (prepared by U.S. G.I.R.L.S.) to be displayed. Val also placed a fruit basket on this table containing the rare "Zantu" apples from a secluded region in west central Africa (wink, wink)
After an inspirational prayer and blessing by Karen, Valerie introduced her guests, Jan, Shryle, Susan and Valerie, then Celeste introduced her daughter Celestial who was attending her 7th meeting.
The venue was ideal for the discussion as we could have been in a parallel universe ~ Here we sat, 16 POWERFUL, professional African-American women. We are Legal Eagles, Health Insurance Industry Directors, Homeland Security Professionals, Financial Industry Vice-Presidents, Instructional Web Designers, Educators, Collegiate Professors and Entrepreneurs. Collectively, we hold Undergraduate, Graduate, Pre-Doctoral and Doctoral Degrees. Yep, there is a lot of power on this veranda, and our discussion went something like this…
The preceding paragraph was provoked by the basic plot of Forty Acres which circles and engulfs the lives of several “powerful” (there’s that word again) professional African-American men, who commit some unfathomable acts, all in the name of retribution and philanthropy, while keeping the women in their lives blinded by the light from the "bling" of shopping and promises of a life in the "lap" of luxury.
Val had the Country Club's chef prepare a lovely plated luncheon which consisted of a garden salad accompanied with a “piping” hot bread basket; followed by the entrée of a glazed chicken breast w/ green beans and risotto. It was simply “delish!”
Val did an excellent job with the 20+ questions presented; she captured many aspects of the book, both obvious and subliminal. She began the book chat component with a question about the initial court case and suspicions that the reader may have had with regards to ulterior motives.
Karen (a legal professional) responded regarding the craftiness of Martin, and how his tactics allowed him to win the case. Everyone seemed to agree that the verdict in the case set the wheels in motion for the plot to develop. Martin’s partner, Glen was a pivotal character because we felt the author needed a character of “non-color” to not only validate that Martin was not a racist, but to show that he was more than a co-worker, he was a true friend…to the end.
The sexual escapades and brutality at Forty Acres were a hot topic: Val wanted to know if we suspected Damon to be..Uh….how should I say, maybe “bi-sexual??” (I have always hated that descriptive, because I look at it like this: You are homosexual or heterosexual – there is no middle of the road), sorry I digressed, now, where was I? Oh yes, many members and guests indicated that Damon’s escapades caught them off guard. JayBee hinted to the lack of interest in his “butt naked” wife after the dinner party when she tried to coax Damon into a little "tryst". Ka Saundra indicated that this was not necessarily a trigger point towards his alternative life style since many professional men handle business throughout the evening.. Roz also “chimed” in that unfortunately (in our new di-society) this is not abnormal behavior among men (including African-American men). JayBee mentioned celebrities such as Eddie Murphy, Hank Baskett, and several others who have "allegedly" been involved in these types of scandals.
We ALL thought the women were a little too complacent when it came to their spouses and their whereabouts. Celeste referred to the wives as "Stepford" wives.
Well, it is 1:00 and time to face time author, Dwayne Alexander Smith.
Val greeted Dwayne by thanking him for making himself available to join our meeting, particularly since it was 10:00 a.m. in California. Karen asked the first question regarding his concept or
inspiration for the book. He mentioned his love for science fiction and how Forty Acres was born with that as the nucleus. He mentioned that his initial thought process was a spaceship landing, and we could actually feel the flavor of his interpretation on paper.
Since JayBee had strong feelings with regards to his characterization or “status” of the women in the book, she was next with the question regarding the treatment of women as 2nd class citizens, or in subservant roles. His response was that we must remember that these were powerful men and they could have any woman that they wanted. So, they knew not to choose a mate that would be “nagging” them all the time regarding their whereabouts. JayBee then mentioned that it was not necessarily nagging, but mutual respect, which should be the foundation of any marriage (can I get a fist pump, ladies??).
Then, we lose connectivity….right when it was getting controversial.
Once Smith calls back in, the connection is clearer and Val mentions that he has “ruffled” some feathers, but we take it all in stride. After all, this is fictional literature and he has artistic license to go in any direction he chooses, and obviously, he went in the right direction because Forty Acres has won numerous awards including the NAACP Image Award for debut fiction novel!
Guest, Shryle asked Dwayne which character he related to most, and he replied “Dr. Kasim of course” and everyone laughed. He then modified his answer to a combination of Dr. Kasim and Martin.
Celeste and Roz, each expressed to Smith how much they enjoyed his novel, and complimented him on his prose and how well-written his novel was. Roz asked the question on everyone’s mind. Are there any other books in the works? He did respond that he is working on two offerings, with one being a sequel to Forty Acres.
Before he signed off, Val asked for any final questions. JayBee announced that she sent Dwayne a copy of Forty Acres for him to personalize for Val and she then presented it to her while he was on screen. She was so excited and Dwayne seemed to be excited as well. Everyone thanked author, Dwayne Alexander Smith for participating and he asked everyone to please complete an amazon review. Valerie, Twilla, Celeste and JayBee indicated that they had already done so.
As appreciative cheers and applause erupted, Val annonunced that it was now time for dessert!!
Roz assisted in plating the homemade desserts prepared by members:
Val: Banana Pudding
Roz: Red Velvet Cupcakes with Sweet Georgia Pecans
JayBee: African Wedding Cookies
Bonnie: Blonde Brownies
Twilla: Apple Pie
Dee: Cream Cheese Pound Cake
I know I’ve said it once, but I will say it again…”U.S. G.I.R.L.S.” can cook!!
In the lovely gift bags, Valerie presented members and guests were “flip flops” hand wipes, and personalized mini tissues (so cute; and handy with allergy season among us)
We all signed Valerie’s autographed book as a keepsake and reminder of a wonderful time that was had by all on the Verandah of Forty Acres (I mean Jacksonville Golf and Country Club) on Easter weekend, 2015