Manassas native J. M. Duke will introduce her new segregation-era historical novel Yes’m’ during a Manassas Museum Book Talk on Dec. 2.
Although the work is fictional, Duke describes a 1950s inter-racial relationship that may have been inspired by her experiences growing up in the Manassas area.
Yes’m’ takes readers to a small segregated town in Virginia during the 1950s. The main characters are Pearl, the black hired help for an upper middle class white family and her charge, young Samantha Lee. Samantha chronicles, in first person narrative, the early years and experiences she and Pearl share in a town racially divided by both railroad tracks and philosophy.
As Sammie matures through the tumultuous 1960s, she continues to record the challenges, influences and local impact she and Pearl witness when the state enforces the integration of public schools and the nation struggles to achieve civil and women’s rights. By 1969, having lived through two decades and diverse experiences, Sammie and Pearl find themselves still in the same small town, but in a very different place from where their epic began.
Duke says her desire in writing the book was to capture a time familiar to many who lived in the south at that time. “Yes’m’ records a period of time and a way of life that has been overlooked,” Duke says. “It is a different take on the struggle for equal rights.”
Duke was also one of the authors of the recent book, Manassas, The Times They Were a Changin', a "collective memoir" authored by members of the Osbourn High School class of 1969. The book was compiled to preserve and present a small part of one generation in Manassas from 1950 through 1969.
The Dec. 2 Book Talk at the Manassas Museum is free and begins at 2 p.m. Both Yes’m’ and The Times They Were a Changin' are available at Echoes, The Manassas Museum Store.