Tuesday, July 8, 2014

Laura Lane McNeal

Laura Lane McNeal grew up in New Orleans, where she lives today with her husband and two sons. She graduated from Southern Methodist University. She also has an MBA from Tulane and ran her own marketing consulting firm in New Orleans.

McNeal's new novel is Dollbaby, her debut.

Recently I asked the author about what she was reading. Her reply:
I don’t know about you, but I have several dozen books stacked in neat piles on the floor next to my bed, waiting for me to finish the other dozen that have actually made it onto the top of my bedside table. Yet none of these are what I picked up to read next. As with everything else in my life, I’m kind of a spur of the moment person – if I walk out of the door and see weeds in the garden, I start weeding. So one fine day a few weeks ago, I stopped by my mother’s house to drop a book off for her, and out of the corner of my eye, spotted a copy of Twelve Years a Slave by Solomon Northup among the books in her bookshelf. All the hype about the movie made me recognize the title. That was your grandmother’s, my mother offered as she watched me flipping through the yellowed pages. Intrigued as to why my parents kept it after my grandmother died some twenty-five years ago, I borrowed it. It never made it upstairs, to the book pile. Instead, I parlayed all my afternoon activities to the ‘do tomorrow’ list and sat down and began reading. Once I started, I couldn’t put it down.

Since Hurricane Katrina in 2005, when our city and my home were destroyed, I have devoured books about New Orleans history. (Also the impetus for me writing Dollbaby, by the way.) Twelve Years A Slave chronicles the real-life journey of Solomon Northup, a free man of color, who was abducted and brought to New Orleans, where he was sold into slavery. Most of the story takes place on the bayous of the Red River, not far from New Orleans. What captured my attention was the absolutely beautiful prose, free of vitriol, but full of lush descriptions of his incredible, yet heartbreaking journey. I had expected something different from a man who’d been yanked away from his family, whose freedom had been taken away, as far as he knew, forever. Yet his faith in mankind shows through in his writing. It is uplifting and poignant. He describes it best himself, in the last paragraphs of his book:
My narrative is at an end. I have no comments to make upon the subject of Slavery. Those who read this book may form their own opinions of the “peculiar institution.” What it may be in other states, I do not profess to know; what is in the region of the Red River, is truly and faithfully delineated in these page. This is no fiction, no exaggeration. If I have failed anything, it has been in presenting to the reader too prominently the bright side of the picture. I doubt not hundreds have been as fortunate as myself; that hundreds of free citizens have been kidnapped and sold into slavery, and are at this moment wearing out their lives on plantations in Texas and Louisiana. But I forbear. Chastened and subdued in spirit by the suffering I have borne, and thankful to that good Being through whose mercy I have been restored to happiness and liberty, I hope henceforward to lead an upright though lowly life, and rest at last in the church yard where my father sleeps.
Thank you Solomon Northup, for sharing your incredible story and showing by example what a man of courage truly is.
Visit Laura Lane McNeal's website.

My Book, The Movie: Dollbaby.

--Marshal Zeringue