Book tour: first night out
2006-09-27
Politics & Prose Bookstore, Washington, D.C.

“Two people stopped by the desk on the way in,” says famous bookseller Carla Cohen in her warm-hearted and generous introduction, “to tell me that Melissa Fay Greene is their favorite author.”

She sits down, crosses her arms, and beams at me and at the audience as I get up to speak.

So I begin: “I’d like to thank my mother-in-law, Ruth Samuel and my brother-in-law, Bill Samuel, for telling Carla Cohen on the way in that I’m their favorite author.”

The audience includes, I later learn, a woman who knew my grandmother (Mary Pollock, 1890-1981) in Macon, Georgia in the 1950s and ’60s.

It includes a man whose late mother was a close friend of my late mother; their gravesites lie near one another in the Jewish cemetery in Dayton, Ohio.

It includes my friend Tema’s mother, sister, and brother-in-law; and my mother-in-law’s close friends; and my brother-in-law’s mother-in-law; and a close colleague of the man whose mother is buried near my mother.

It includes a woman named Judith who is the first-cousin of my friend in Atlanta named Judith, and a woman known to one of the Judiths, I forget which.

The woman who knew my grandmother in Macon, Georgia, in the 1950s and 60s doesn’t seem to have brought anyone.

The audience includes a man (he tells me after the event) whose wife’s cousin was necking in a convertible in the parking lot of The Temple in Atlanta on the night of October 23, 1958. Later that night, in one of the first salvos of the massive white resistance to desegregation, The Temple was bombed. In 1996, I published a book about it, called, predictably, THE TEMPLE BOMBING.

The man’s wife’s cousin never told her parents and never told the police that she had been necking in the parking lot a few hours before the clandestine visit by domestic terrorists. Now elderly, she had confided in these younger relatives only recently.

“He wasn’t Jewish?” I ask, “the man she was with?”

“No, he was Jewish all right,” says the wife, “but he was a lot older than she was and her parents wouldn’t have approved.”

Other than the mothers-in-law and the brothers-in-law and the relatives of friends and the friends of relatives and people who come from or have been to Ethiopia and people whose relatives were almost eye-witnesses to dramatic historic events about which I have written major works of nonfiction, there were also… there must have been… if I counted correctly…. somewhere, the two people who told Carla Cohen that I was their favorite author.

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