Natalie Baszile

The Novel South | Saturday, May 16, 10:40 - 11:30 Lexington Meeting Room B
The Importance of Place | Saturday, May 16, 2:10 - 3:10, Richland Meeting Room C
Genre(s) Fiction

Natalie Baszile has an MA in Afro American Studies from UCLA and earned an MFA at the Warren Wilson Program for Writers where she was a Holden Minority Scholar.  Queen Sugar won the Hurston/Wright College Writer’s Award and was runner-up in the Faulkner Pirate’s Alley novel-in-progress competition. She lives in San Francisco with her family.

Watch an interview with her on the Penguin website:

Book Title: Queen Sugar

Inspired by debut author Natalie Baszile’s own life and family history, Queen Sugar is a mother-daughter story of reinvention—about an African American woman who inherits a sugarcane farm in Louisiana, and the new life and new family it brings together. Offering a rare glimpse into the little-known and complicated world of sugarcane farming, Queen Sugar is a tale of southern wisdom, unexpected love, and second chances.

Charley Bordelon, a recently widowed mother of an eleven-year-old daughter, is struggling to get by in Los Angeles, when she finds out that her late father left her eight hundred acres of prime sugarcane land in Louisiana—with the stipulation that she must farm it or lose it. Though his reasons for this are unclear, Charley embraces the chance to begin a new life for her and her daughter on the gulf coast, with high hopes and just in time for growing season. But no amount of planning can prepare Charley for a Louisiana that’s mired in the past: cane farming is very much a white man’s business, and her grandmother, Miss Honey, is a far more vexing woman than she remembers. As the sweltering summer unfolds, Charley must balance the overwhelming challenges of her farm with the demands of a homesick daughter, a bitter and threatening brother, and the startling desires of her own heart.

When Baszile’s father left Louisiana as a teenager in 1954, he vowed never to return.  Everything about the south—from the brutal segregation to the weeds pushing through cracks in the sidewalk—repulsed him. He trained his eye on California and never looked back. Years later, his Southern Californian daughter Natalie had a different view and found herself drawn to the warmth of her Louisiana relatives, intrigued by the cast of characters who lived in her grandmother’s tiny town, and the stories she’d heard about family secrets, rivalries, and feuds. As part of the research for this novel, Natalie spoke with her father extensively about her family history and made many trips back to the region—visiting with relatives, harvesting crawfish, Zydeco-dancing at the local watering hole, and of course, planting sugarcane.

Panoramic in its storytelling, rich in its offering of unforgettable characters, and intimate in its exploration of the complexities of contemporary southern life, Queen Sugar is a story of endurance and hope and of one family flourishing against all odds.