Saturday, February 7, 2009

Figures in Black History #4

Zora Neale Hurston & J. California Cooper

These two women are amazing storytellers.
The first, I believe, wrote about herself
in most if not all of her books;
the latter, writes about others.

I came across Mrs. Cooper in a book store in San Antonio, Texas back in the summer of ’92 after devouring every book written by Zora Neale Hurston they had in the store. “If you like Zora, I think you’ll like this author” the sales lady said as she handed me my first book by J. California Cooper, A Piece of Mine. I flipped through the pages and decided to give her a try. It was a book of short stories, so full of life, anyone’s life, that before the mall closed the next evening I was back to purchase my next books, The Matter is Life and Family (a novel). To make a long story not too long, I have not only purchased and read all of her books but I have read most –if not all- of her books several times. She is an absolutely wonderful author and person, I should know, as I had the pleasure of not only meeting her but sitting with her for a while, once. Let me share the story…picture this… I am at the 2005 Book Club Conference in Atlanta, Georgia, I'm sitting a crowded conference room, everyone is waiting on the guest speaker, J. California Cooper to arrive. I get a little antsy and decide to excuse myself and step out onto the courtyard of the hotel for a breath of fresh air. As I'm sitting there, I notice a mature woman step out, cigarette in hand and ask if the seat next to me was taken, I said no and she sits down. As we begin talking about the conference and what a wonderful idea it was, I look deeper into her face. At the moment that I realize who she was (her book photos are of a much younger woman)I try not to hyperventilate, try not to stutter (I never had before), I ask in the mousiest voice, “are you J California Cooper?” (as I write this I think back and it is hard to contain my excitement, even today) “Yes dear, it is me” she replied and from then on, I floated, as if on a cloud. I had never been one with such luck, but on that day…I was the luckiest person alive. I soon received a call on my cell phone from my mom informing me that breakfast and the conference was about to begin, I explained that I was outside talking with J. California Cooper and would be in shortly. When she was ready to go in...
we walked in together.
Okay, so I went off track just a bit. But, what can I say?
Me meeting her could very easily be compared
to a 16 year old girl in the '80's meeting Michael Jackson!
I love J. California Cooper! her books and you will too!

If you'd like to listen to an interview click the link below
NPR Interview

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