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This beautifully lyrical novel explores the reality of activism as more than just a handful of speeches given at protests, the costs to those who dedicate themselves to activist work, and the passion that drives us ever onward to a better, more just future.
In the small town of Uz, Arkansas, Mandy Anderson wakes up on July 4th, 1963, her mother’s birthday, to the sweltering Southern heat, a pounding headache, and the distinct thumping of her mother, Belle, kneading biscuit dough. In the raw heat, only made worse by Belle’s baking, Mandy questions why the white woman her mother works for wouldn’t want to give Belle the day off for her birthday. So begins Mandy’s journey of questioning the structures that define her world, a path that carries her through tragedy, mystical encounters, and her own spiritual and familial legacy.
Fiction. African & African American Studies. Women's Studies.
”KEEP A’LIVIN’ is the earth-rattling, mind-rearranging story of a young woman named Mandy, her mother Belle, and their racial mix of ancestors. Set in 1960s Arkansas during one of the most difficult periods in our long-winding journey toward racial equity in the U.S., Mandy and Belle’s lives are shaped by “fire and angels” as each matriarchal generation by backstory experiences extreme tragedy, which thrusts them into navigating a changed world. The book is a timely addition to the literary canon, providing a portal through which we are brought to our knees by what is so clearly wrong and not-so-clearly right about the story that is America.” — Paula Coomer, author of Dove Creek and Somebody Should Have Scolded the Girl
”Kathya Alexander’s vividly drawn novel-in-verse, KEEP A’LIVIN’, traces an intimate, loving circle within an African American family, church and community, while portraying generational divides as the entire community confronts devastating racism in the rural South during the early ‘60s in the early Civil Rights Movement. Alexander brings us into the girl Mandy’s exile of grief after the loss of her father, and her path to re-entering the world. Her mother faces hard choices without the support of her late husband, and the story unpacks fraught tensions and faith between mother and daughter. Their generational differences underline the dangers and triumphs for Black people in this time and point to how oppressive conditions have lifted or pervade today.
Alexander’s narrative creates a fabric that we can wrap ourselves in—she uses metaphor with blade-like accuracy and tunes into the litanies available in daily speech, sermons, song and joking with a fine-tuned poet’s ear. She knows the life and talk of this time--the whispers, the unspoken, the buried angers and younger generation bursting forth in the rural South of the ‘60s.” – Beatrix Gates, author of The Burning Key, New & Selected Poems (1973-2023)
Kathya Alexander is a writer, playwright, storyteller, and teaching artist. She was a Writer-in-Residence at the prestigious Hedgebrook Women Writer's Retreat and won the Fringe First Award for Black to My Roots: African American Tales from the Head and the Heart at the Edinburgh Festival Fringe for Outstanding New Production and Innovation in Theater in Edinburgh, Scotland. She has also won awards from 4Culture, Seattle's Office of Arts and Culture, Artist Trust, Jack Straw, Seattle Theater Group, Freehold Theater, and Seattle Parks and Recreation. She was a freelance writer for the now defunct award winning Colors NW Magazine and The Initiative, and is a regular contributor to the South Seattle Emerald. She has been published in The Pitkin Review, Arkana Literary Magazine, Pontoon Poetry/Black Lawrence Press, and Native Skin Magazine. She is a proud member of the Creative Advantage Arts Partners Roster, the African American Writers Alliance, and the Seattle Storytellers Guild.