The son of a prosperous landowner and a former slave, Paul-Edward Logan is unlike any other boy he knows. His white father has acknowledged him and raised him openly-something unusual in post-Civil War Georgia. But as he grows into a man he learns that life for someone like him is not easy. Black people distrust him because he looks white. White people discriminate against him when they learn of his black heritage. Even within his own family he faces betrayal and degradation. So at the age of fourteen, he sets out toward the only dream he has ever had: to find land every bit as good as his father's, and make it his own. Once again inspired by her own history, Ms. Taylor brings truth and power to the newest addition to the award-winning Logan family stories.
Readers...will grab this and be astonished by its powerful story. (Booklist, starred review)
Taylor's gift for combining history and storytelling is as evident here as in her other stories about the Logan family. (Publishers Weekly, starred review)
A note to the reader from Mildred D. Taylor
I have always been fascinated by the stories told about my great-grandfather, who bought the family land in Mississippi, and in writing The Land, I have closely followed many of those stories. Born during slavery to an African-Indian woman and a white plantation owner, my great-grandfather and his sister were brought up by both of their parents. Their father had three sons by a white wife, and he acknowledged all of his children. When my great-grandfather was fourteen, he was asked to ride a stranger’s horse in a race. His father forbade him to ride because he thought the horse was too dangerous. My great-grandfather rode the horse anyway. Fearing a whipping, he and his best friend ran away and eventually settled in Mississippi.
Mississippi is where I was born, and when I was a child, my family would travel yearly from our Ohio home back to Mississippi. There I used to walk the land that my great-grandfather had walked, and I wondered what it would have been like to walk beside him. As I grew older, I tried to envision what it was like to walk in his shoes, and as an adult, in some respects I have walked in his shoes.
It has been a great journey for me from those days of childhood fascination to now, when I have finally put on paper much of my great-grandfather’s life. I hope that those who read The Land, drawn from the family stories told, will find my great-grandfather’s story as fascinating as I.
Do you have any writing rituals, for instance: Where do you write? What time of day
do you get your best ideas? Do you have writing “uniform?” What do you have to have within your reach when you write?
I usually sit very comfortably on my living room sofa which is positioned so that I can easily see horses and deer grazing in the meadow outside my window and I can see as well the mountains beyond. My best ideas come soon after walking and when I can I write throughout the morning. I have no kind of “uniform” unless one calls a shirt, a sweater and jeans a uniform. When I write I must always have coffee within easy reach and music filling my house.
Who do you share your writing with first?
My editor and publisher, Phyllis J. Fogelman.
When did you know you wanted to be a writer?
I knew I wanted to be a writer before I was twelve.
What were you doing when you found out that your first book was accepted for publication?
I was working as a proofreader-editor at a tax firm in Los Angeles when I learned that a story I had written had won first place in a national contest. First prize was a trip to New York and meetings with publishers. Several publishers were interested in the story and it became my first book, Song of the Trees.
What did you treat yourself to when you received your first advance check?
I paid ALL of my bills. It was a treat to be out of debt for a while.
What was the first book you remember reading, or being read to as a child? Did you have a favorite book as a child?
The Bible was the first book I remember. My favorite books were the Laura Ingalls Wilder— all the Little House on the Prairie stories and others she wrote.
Do you read reviews of your own work?
What are you reading right now?
A wonderful unpublished manuscript about horses titled The Year of the Horses.
You've written before about the importance of storytelling, as a form of passing down history, in your family. Why is this so important to you and them?
It has always been stressed in my family that the history of the United States as told in books, in movies, and other media was not a true history of African-Americans in America. This was of course, before the Civil Rights Movement. My great-grandmother believed in passing on family history to each generation and to have pride in that history. The storytelling tradition continues even in the 21st century at family gatherings.
What compelled you to write The Land at this time?
I have always wanted to tell my great-grandparents’ story and I have over the years written many pages about it. The problem was all those pages never had the spirit, warmth, depth and vitality they needed until now. This last try at writing their story began seven years ago.
On one hand, The Land is a work of fiction and on the other it is biographical. What if anything did you have to change to make the story work?
There are of course, some changes, but I prefer to emphasize the aspects that are based on fact and some of the most important facts are that my great-grandfather was born the son of a white plantation owner during slavery that he had three white brothers and his father reared all his children together. I could list many other actual aspects of The Land but then that would be giving away the story.
How is The Land different than other stories in the Logan Family series?
In creating my other boos I took a series of stories, sometimes unrelated, and wove them together. The difficulty was in the weaving of them all to make the plots work. In writing The Land I didn’t have that problem. I simply followed chronologically, a number of events in my great-grandparents’ lives.
In what ways was it harder or easier to tell Paul-Edward's story as than Cassie Logan's story?
It was easier as far as the story line because mainly I just followed a number of events from my great-grandfather’s life. What was more difficult was the time period itself and the initial development of Paul-Edward’s character and his relationship with his family.
Do you have a favorite Logan family story?
My favorite Logan book has always been Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry because of the special connection it has to my father. Now it will have to share favorite status with The Land.
What if anything do you have in store for your fans next? (Are you working on another chapter of the Logan family?)
I hope to write one final book about the Logans that will wake them through World War II to the first stirrings of the Civil Rights Movement. It will be titled Logan. I hope to begin it this year.
Do you have plans to write the story of Paul-Edward's children— Cassie's parents?
I wrote The Well which is a narrated by Cassie’s father, David as a boy. I do not plan to write anymore books about David’s childhood.