"It has not rained in months, but the tulips continue to bloom without rain. It is the memory of rain, I suppose, they rise towards. Like the Negro, the flowers find ways of being brave when their roots are denied water, and even more, their own thirst…".
This is an excerpt of the beautifully written Tulips for Evening scripted by Jovelyn D. Richards. This narrative set in post-Civil War Springfield, Arkansas conveys a tale of survival for five free black women, the white man protecting them, a nun who visits and in her possession – a death bed confession from one of the men who stole the land from its original owners – the parents of a woman named Evening.
Jovelyn, in intricate and poetic detail, describes the tension between the white folks bitter about Emancipation and the Negroes left to their own vices, thriving and living well. For the entitled white clans, crops aren’t growing and supplies are scarce. Feeling as though all is lost, they believe fault should land square on the free Negroes living in an old plantation house named Culver Tusk.
Fulling believing the women at Culver Tusk have cursed them, they are out for blood. And there will be blood. Sickness. Murder. Suicide. Betrayal. An era of freedom for all men has created a deeper chasm of inequality that can only be filled with revenge. Families, both black and white, huddled together clinging to life slipping from their grasp. It’s the Grove family, the former slave owning residents of Culver Tusk, which has been torn apart. The evil deeds of the Grove’s and their employees eventually come to a head.
Lena, Claire, Sylvie, the twins – Isabel and Izabal, and Evening live among the trees, eat from the land, and are mindful of the terror that accompanies being free from slavery. Death has enveloped them with the exception of a song coming from the Ozark Mountains. The sound is actually anguish and grief from a mother who lost her child, another former slave whose residence was once Culver Tusk. Everyone can hear it. For some it’s melodic and for others it’s evidence of a ghost.
Are there really spirits hovering over Culver Tusk? The dirt poor white families seem to think so when the men they try to ambush the Negro women only for the trees and the brush surrounding the land appears... disappears... and reappears right before their eyes.
Jovelyn D. Richards has described a time text books gloss over – after amendments were enacted to set colored men free only to be replaced with Jim Crow Law. A proclamation from the government did’t change minds and hearts of men feeling as though their public officials have abandoned them and their white privilege has been stripped from them. Still, five black women found themselves bound together in a collective spirit that kept love in and hate out of a home where they were once slaves.
Reading this book was like turning back the hands of time and seeing very little has changed. We are still arming ourselves for an impending invasion from those who believe denying Black people equity and equality is right and not wrong. Jovelyn D. Richards made reliving history bearable with her depiction of strength the characters possessed.
If you have read any historical fiction books that left an impression as Tulips for Evening has left for me, share the book and the author below!