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Writing Goldsboro

Updated: Nov 21, 2021

When I was in junior high school, I started reading Harlequin and Silhouette romances. I’d get my $20 weekly allowance and purchase those thin novels featuring a cold, distant male lover who fell in love with a warm-hearted female beauty. The men were golden gods or swarthy Mediterraneans, but the women were always, always white. At thirteen-years-old, I never questioned or challenged the lack of diversity in these novels. I didn’t think of white women being the standard of beauty or connected this depiction of love and attraction to my own struggles with Black concepts of beauty and identity. Even though romances were centered around white identity and culture, I devoured these books within my role as the marginalized reader.


Now, don’t misunderstand me. I didn’t want white female authors writing about Black characters. Honestly, I didn’t even think about that as a possibility. I had no problem reading my Johanna Lindseys and Nora Roberts and Sandra Browns. I continued reading my romance novels in high school, although my love for horror (specifically Stephen King) developed alongside my obsession with romance. I had this fascination with love stories and the supernatural that existed in two exclusive genres.


When I was in college, one of my acquaintances told me that I would outgrow romances, especially when I started having more romances of my own (I was a late bloomer). But she was wrong. I never outgrew romance; in fact, romance evolved into subgenres that finally spoke to my eclectic taste. When urban fantasy was born—female heroes who were vampire slayers and witches and fairies—I finally found my niche. This was the world I’d been searching for through my love of romance and horror. I wanted novels that crossed genres.


But my growth as a writer was still in its early stages. While I loved urban fantasy, it was a field dominated by white women writers and white female protagonists. Even books by Patricia Briggs with her part-Native American female lead still had an emphasis on European culture. I’d found my niche, but there was still something missing. So I turned back to my last years at University of Florida when my linguistic anthropology professor introduced me to Octavia Butler.


Now, I’ll be revealing my age here, but at the time, many of Butler’s books were out of print. We read the Xenogenesis Series: Dawn, Imago, and Adulthood Rites, but it was not until I read Wild Seed and Kindred that I fell in love with Octavia Butler. At that time, I was in a science-fiction stage so I was reading Isaac Asimov and Piers Anthony, but Butler absolutely blew my mind. She showed me that not only could Black people be a part of science-fiction, but Black women could lead. She made African-American history a part of a male-dominated field in a way that was beautifully and intelligently done. She rewrote what science-fiction could be.


Now, Octavia Butler has enjoyed a Black sci-fi Renaissance, but in the early 1990’s, she wasn’t widely read. I remember hunting for her books at used book stores and trying to find them through the publisher, but back then, publishers had a great deal of control over the writing world. It amazed me that they could simply allow a book to fall out-of-print, and there was nothing to be done. I thought about that over the years, though. Black women writers controlled and voiced through a white-male dominated industry. The tragic end of Zora Neale Hurston and Nella Larsen spoke to me: perseving our history through writing became my “choice of weapons.” (I take that phrase from Black photojournalist Gordon Parks).


It took me twenty years to finally find a balance between African American history and paranormal/fantasy that worked for me. I LOVE LOVE LOVE my history and my people, and I wanted to communicate that love and appreciation through my writing. I’m also intrigued by a world filled with magic and mystery. So I created a bad-ass kick-butt Immortal female warrior who could help me unpack an ancestral legacy of slavery and segregation while I simultaneously explored a rich history of resilience and creativity and innovation. I consider my women ancestors (both of my physical and spiritual blood) as immeasurably powerful, and I wanted Neema to embody that power. The Warrior Slave series represented, for me, the warrior spirit of people, of women, who rose from a slave past. Slavery did not define them, but dammit, it revealed their internal and eternal greatness. I wanted to honor that in my writing.


And that brings me to Goldsboro. Goldsboro continues that theme of Black excellence and beauty and power. I thought about Eatonville, which I’ve driven through on countless occasions on my way to Maitland or back to Orlando. I spent my early twenties occasionally hanging out at the nightclub Mr. B’s (which changed names a few times) in Eatonville, but I never really thought about what the town meant until I read Zora Neale Hurston’s Their Eyes Were Watching God and Dust Tracks on the Road. It still took a few years for my heart and spirit and ancestral memory to align. And then the meaning of those all-Black towns dug deep.


Former slaves left a space that pillaged their culture, buried their descendants, silenced their voices, and tried to destroy their souls and still built motherfreaking Black towns and Black neighborhoods. That is what you call reigning SUPREME. But white politicians and white supremacists felt so threatened by Black potential (just the potential, y’all) that they obliterated whole towns and neighborhoods. Yes, that shows how evil they were, but it also shows how threatened they felt by Black success—Black POTENTIAL. So, I looked at the so-called race riots in the early 1900’s and the cities that were completely destroyed like Rosewood, Florida, and Tulsa, Oklahoma (Greenwood). But I also looked at Black spaces that were undermined or overcome by sanctioned government practices—places like Goldsboro, Florida.


Goldsboro, Florida was an all-Black town, incorporated in 1891, but that didn’t stop nearby Sanford, Florida from absorbing Goldsboro into its city limits as if the town‘s independence didn’t matter. I was always fascinated by this community. While I didn’t know much about its history when I was young, I knew that I had family in Goldsboro. My mother, who was born and raised in Sanford, Florida, attended the all-Black high school because, of course, Sanford was segregated. I’m sure you can guess that Crooms High School was located in Goldsboro, Florida. And so began my journey toward the prosperous but fictional all-Black town of Goldsboro. This was a space where I could create an entire city that was unapologetically Black.


I know that there are multiple ways and avenues for expressing our Blackness. Being Black is not monolithic, so Goldsboro is not a response to some imagined single Black experience. It is my response, though, to the disappearing of Black enterprise, of towns built on the premise of Black communal wealth. I imagine what these towns might have become if a hate-filled America had not been so determined to destroy them, and I want to immerse myself in that world. And so I created it.


I will admit that Goldsboro is pure escapism. On paper, it is a haven for freed slaves and free Blacks who wanted a safe place. But it is also a space unencumbered by the heartache and horrors of being Black in America. I wanted a town where being Black wasn’t criminalized, where there was no need to “educate” white allies and enemies, where no one had to find a place of belonging within white spaces. Goldsboro represents a place minus the daily physical and psychological trauma of white supremacy. This is why Goldsboro will never be a response to white anything; it is all about Blackness.


My prayer is that readers will feel the same sense of pride and empowerment that I feel when I look into our past and see stories of strength and success despite America’s plan for us. Every chance I get, I will tell the stories of our past because who we were matters just as much as who we become. And that is why I created Goldsboro.

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I found Home in Goldsboro. You have quickly become my favorite writer, and I have fallen in love with every book that you have penned; but the town of Goldsboro enthralled me with awe and wonder and rightness that I could never quantify. It soothed me in places I didn't realize ached. It was a mix of Hallmark and Hillman that I didn't even know I craved. Your books created a space and fed a need to see my reflection in the fanciful. Your characters are real and relatable. I wanted to pack my bags and move to the town touched by the watas. You have not only written a live story to the ancestors and to me as we…


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Erica J
Erica J
Apr 17, 2022

I am reading Book 5: Black Gods right now and I am just so in love with the rich storytelling and Black history interwoven in your books. The entire Warrior Slave novels is refreshing and I can see it on the big screen. Even if not on the big screen, they are such important books to me which is why I review and promote your work. I went ahead and ordered the whole Goldsboro series as well. Thank you for all you do!😀

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I love your novels, blending of history, romance, and horror. I had the honor of meeting Octavia Butler at book meeting, and friends of the author. I discover Miss Butler works when I was ten year of age. Folio Society has a beautiful copy of Kindred on their site for purchase. Thank you Bain

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