Wednesday, October 2, 2019

"Call Your Daughter Home"

Deborah Spera is a two-time nominee and finalist for the Kirkwood literary prize as well as The Montana Prize in Fiction. She has been published in Garden and Gun, Sixfold, The Wascana Review, Pennsylvania English and L.A. Yoga Journal. She’s the co-author of a play produced by Actors Theater Of Louisville, and has held residency at Hedgebrook, a writer’s retreat for women.

Born and raised in Kentucky, she now resides in Los Angeles where she owns her own television company, One-Two Punch Productions. She has executive produced Criminal Minds, Army Wives and Reaper.

Spera applied the Page 69 Test to Call Your Daughter Home, her first novel, and reported the following:
From page 69:
I know he likes that, so he’s lookin’ to give her everything she wants, including one of my girls to order around.

When Alvin’s daddy catches sight of me, he turns his head away and hollers over his shoulder, “Go fetch your good-for-nothing husband.”

He stands at the edge of the yard, his back to me, looking over the property like he’s a plantation owner surveying his slave’s house.

He jumps when I say, “He ain’t here.”

He didn’t expect me to talk back, but he still won’t turn to face me, and I realize this man ain’t never looked me in the face, ain’t never called me by my given name. Not once in all the time I’ve known him, like I was less than a dog in the yard. If he looked now, he’d know. If he stepped inside my screen door he’d see I’ve scrubbed his son from this place. Even so, I cannot hide what I done. My rage is such that I don’t want to anymore.

Alvin’s daddy turns toward the house and looks around like he can’t make sense of what I said. “Where is he at then?”

“Don’t reckon to know. Never came home from work on Friday.”

The quiet causes him to still. He cocks his head to one side like he’s just come to his senses and looks around like maybe somebody is playing a joke and will pop out from behind a tree. There ain’t no joke here.

“Where’s your brats?”

“With my brother. I took them on Friday. We got nothin’ to eat here, Otto. Nothin’.”

Otto is his name, but I never before called him by it. I was always too scared. He knew my daddy. Heard him tell a man down at the sawmill once about how he knew Mama was sick—that he and Alvin did the Christian thing and took me off my daddy’s hands. I’ve come to hope maybe Daddy was thinking he was the one doing Otto the favor by helping a wayward son with a daughter not afraid of hard work. Why else would Daddy
I love this test! Page 69 of Call Your Daughter Home speaks to the heart and soul of this book. Set in 1924, rural South Carolina a young mother must make the unconscionable decision to either save her daughters from starvation or die at the hands of an abusive husband. She makes the decision at her own peril.

On page 69, Gertrude realizes Otto, her father in law, in all the years she has known him, has never looked at her. She has never once been seen by this man, never once met his eye. That single revelation gives Gertrude power – it ignites her. What does it mean to be an unseen woman? Gertrude comes to learn what this means and from this revelation, finds her strength at every turn of this story. If she is unseen, what can she do for herself? What risks can she take? To be unseen can be a path to freedom as well as a great burden, but to be seen, to step into the woman you are meant to be, takes great courage. You must risk being seen and step into the power of your own worth and ability. This task is the very heart of this book for all three of our female protagonists, Gertrude, Retta and Annie.

Page 69! Who knew?!
Visit Deb Spera's website.

--Marshal Zeringue