Dublin Reads is now in its third year and we are preparing to offer another wonderful book for the community to read together.  This year’s book is When We Were Colored by Eva Rutland.  This is a powerful and important memoir laced with humor, grace and tenacity. when we were colored  Eva  is now 92 years old and lives in Sacramento.   At the time she originally wrote this book, she was a young mother of 4 children.  She is the granddaughter of a former slave,  grew up in Atlanta Georgia, graduated from Spelman College, and married a civilian working with the tuskegee airmen, Bill Rutland.  After being relocated from Georgia to Ohio, the family landed in Sacramento.

Here is a taste of Eva’s voice: “I was born in Atlanta, Georgia, during the olden days when grass was on the lawn, pot was a cooking utensil, webs were for spiders, and civil rights were for white folks.”

This passage is typical of the entire book — vivid, funny, but serious at the same time.  The book started out as a series of magazine articles Eva wrote in thportrait200x200e late 50’s and 60’s that were published in women’s magazines such as Redbook.  Schools were being integrated.  Eva wanted white mothers to know that her children weren’t any different from their own youngsters.  She wrote because she wanted people to be kind to her children. In doing so, she displays in page after page something her own mother passed along to her… a lived belief in the dignity and worth of all people, regardless of race, class or creed. In 1964, these articles were gathered and published under the title The Trouble with Being a Mama.  Much later, after her husband had passed away, daughter Ginger re-published the book under the title When We Were Colored.

Each year, when we plan Dublin Reads  we seek new ways to engage the community with the selected book.  This year we contacted the hosts of Channel 30’s community television book club program, In A Word and suggested that they might like to interview Eva for their show.  Hosts, Jim Ott and Kathy Cordova responded enthusiastically so last Tuesday, Aug. 18 we gathered at Channel 30’s studio in Pleasanton.  When Eva goes out to author visits or for something like an interview she is always accompanied by either her own daughter, Ginger or granddaughter Eva Fields (and sometimes both).  Tuesday it was Ginger Rutland.  Ginger is a journalist with the Sacramento Bee and does radio commentary for the NPR station out of Sacramento.   Ginger is the person who has created a family publishing business, IWP,  Book Publishers in order to publish and distribute her mother’s writings.

Back to my story: Eva you must understand as I mentioned, is now 92 years old.  She is blind and she wears a hearing aid.  As I entered the studio waiting area, Eva and Ginger were already there as were two people Kathy had invited to participate in the book discussion portion of the show, Reggie Duncan and Dublin resident, Eddie Jo Mack. What followed is a mini version of what Dublin Reads is meant to do for the whole community: an immediate camaraderie among strangers over our common experience of knowing this book. 

Reggie declared that he loved the book, and I started telling the group about some of the programs that Dublin Library is planning around it.  We talked about the movie Sweet Old Song shsos-dvd-coverowing at the Library in October, and I said that you are never too old to discover your soul mate; the movie is about musician Howard Armstrong who met the love of his life at age 73.  (And it just so happened she was 30 years younger than him!)  All the while Eva sat and listened to our conversational buzz, her head slightly inclined to the right as if she were listening to something just beyond our radar, a serene smile on her face.  “You remember my mother is blind,” Ginger says to me and I start, because I did not remember!  And Eva is hard of hearing, so I take her hand and lean in to her ear and say it is such a pleasure to meet you and thank you so much for coming all this way from Sacramento to do this interview.  Her voice when she speaks is raspy, but she is so pleased to have been invited.  Reggie is clearly emotional as he talks to her, she reminds him of his beloved mother and he can’t say enough about how the book resonated with him.  Later, when I talk to Eva alone she says to me when she was girl she did not want to live in the neighborhood where her parents raised her in Atlanta– a neighborhood she describes in the book as a “strange mix of races, classes and creeds.” The Jews the middle class whites, the German immigrants, the poorer whites and the poorer still Negroes in that neighborhood were a far cry from the tidier streets across town where richer Negroes lived.  “But I was wrong,” Eva told me.  It was good that I lived in that neighborhood.”  In the book Eva writes that ”somehow I got to think of people as people—not white or black or Jews—and when tragedy came I was able to keep that balance.”

She not only kept it, she passed it along to her own children. 

Please join us this Fall during the months of September and October, in reading When We Were Colored.  Copies of the book will be available at the library and at several community locations including the Senior Center, Heritage Center and Shannon Community Center.  Immersing yourself in the experience of a book is sometimes like holding it up to the light to see what themes are refracted off of it; the programs we have planned are meant to complement and enhance the experience of the book:

See the film Sweet Old Song: at 73 years old African American string band musician, Howard Armstrong meets the love of his life – 43 year old artist, Barbara Ward.  This beautiful film chronicles their courtship & marriage and its impact on their life and art. Filmmaker Leah Mahan will offer commentary. Saturday, October 3, 2:00 pm.

Discuss the book with Mayor Tim Sbranti. Join the Mayor at the Dublin Library for a conversation, Tuesday evening, October 13 at 7:00 p.m.  

Hear Storyteller, Kirk Waller.   kirkKirk has been involved in theater, mime and storytelling for over 20 years.  The Contra Costa Times says “He can move a crowd with laughter or tears with his folk tales and fables of Mexican ants, proud roosters and slavery. As a professional storyteller, Kirk Waller, 42, twists these tales into funny and poignant stories to connect with crowds of all ages.” Saturday, October 10, 2:00 pm.

 

 

 

M748-PK_RUTLAND_BW_port embedded prod_affiliate 4eet the Author:  the Friends of Dublin Library sponsor a reception and author visit with Eva, her daughter Ginger and granddaughter Eva Fields.  Ginger presents a slide show with pictures from her family that date back to the late 1800s. Sunday, October 18, 2:00 p.m.

 

 

 

Look for Eva and Ginger’s interview along with the book discussion with Reggie and Eddie Jo on Channel 30’s “In a Word” airing in September and also available at the show’s website.

Watch this blog for more information as we work on the filling in the details for these programs.  Happy reading!

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