To celebrate the publication of Charity by Paulette Callen, we’ll be giving away three e-book copies and three paperbacks of this special book.
Paulette Callen wrote a few words about Charity that we want to share first:
A Question of Character
In high school freshman English class, I read my first Shakespeare play. Julius Caesar. Our assignment was an essay, defending our opinion of who was the main character, Caesar or Brutus. I picked Caesar. After all, his name was the title. Duane Ohnsted picked Brutus. After all, he had the most lines. I was wrong; Duane was right.
Recently, someone asked me: Who is the main character of the Charity novels? Gustie or Lena?
I don’t know how much text is devoted to Lena’s point of view and how much to Gustie’s. It doesn’t matter. They share top billing. They are both main characters.
But it didn’t start out that way.
My grandmother Lena was a storyteller. She didn’t tell me the how and the why behind her stories. I had to weave that from my imagination. But my main character was Lena, based on my grandmother. I placed her roughly a generation earlier than she actually lived. To my knowledge, she did not have a best friend or confidant. I created one so that my character would have someone to talk to, so that the novel would not be a series of her internal monologues. However, from the moment her shadow fell across Lena’s kitchen floor, the character of Gustie sprouted her own wings and took flight.
I read everything I could find on that period of history in the northeast corner of South Dakota. This was before the Internet, and it wasn’t that easy to find materials. I managed, with help from South Dakota State Historical Society, a professor friend at the University of Wisconsin who sent me books (which I returned) from the university library, and some highly informative local publications, which I found in a lot of surprising places (including my hometown drug store). I discovered numerous accounts of two brothers or two bachelors homesteading together, or two sisters or spinsters doing the same thing. I thought, What are the odds? Some of these couples had to be COUPLES. I wondered: What was it like for a gay person, back here, back then? So Gustie came with her secret, but in order for her to be open to a friendship with someone as feisty and edgy as Lena, I reasoned she would have to be alone; I ruthlessly killed off her love before they even arrived in Charity.
However, fate or my muse decreed that Gustie should not be alone. So just a note about how Jordis came to be in my novel. I grew up twelve miles from a Dakotah Sioux reservation. Throughout my childhood, I saw only a few Dakotah people. (Segregation was alive and well in more places than just the deep South.) But they were there, and they were especially there back in the time I was writing about, even though they were not much mentioned in my research materials. So, I embarked on a new field of research about the Dakotah. A lot has been written about the Lakota, the branch of the Sioux west of the Missouri River. They are the people who fought the United States Army and never lost a battle. They are the people of Crazy Horse, Red Cloud, and Sitting Bull. But the Dakotah, east of the river, had a less headline-grabbing history. I tried to stick with books and articles written by men and women of Native American heritage, not books about them written by white historians. Much information is available now, but this was more than 20 years ago. Still, (again, before the Internet) I found materials and made the decision to land Gustie first on the rez, just east of Charity. But still no partner for Gustie. Then, as part of my general research into Native American culture, I attended Pow Wows in the Midwest during my summer vacations. At one such event, I saw the face that launched the character of Jordis—a young dancer whose profile was right out of Native mythology, so striking, so perfectly chiseled with very dark and luminous skin. She has to be in my book. And so she is.
Lena and Gustie are both main characters. Charity is the story of their friendship. You can’t have one without the other.
Interested in reading Charity? Well, participate in the book giveaway. Anyone can participate. Just leave a comment below or send an e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org and let us know if you would like to win an e-book or the paperback. The deadline for the giveaway is Monday 11.59 p.m. EST, which means 6 a.m. on Tuesday in Germany.
We’ll do the drawing on Tuesday evening and will announce the winners on Wednesday here on the blog. Recourse to the courts is excluded.
Good luck to you all
The Ylva team