Lalita Tademy

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in Berkeley, California, The United States
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LALITA TADEMY left the corporate world to immerse herself in tracing her family's history and writing her first historical novel, CANE RIVER. Her debut was selected by Oprah Winfrey as her summer book group pick in 2001.

Lalita Tademy's second historical novel, RED RIVER is set during Reconstruction-era Louisiana a time period and subject matter often summarily skimmed in our history books. The story of Red River begins in 1873, and follows the ramifications of an incident on Easter Sunday of that year on successive generations of two families involved.

In her latest work, Citizens Creek, Tademy brings us the evocative story of a once-enslaved man who buys his freedom after serving as a translator during the American Indian Wars, and his gran
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Lalita Tademy Thanks Sam.
Every author's research process is different, but mine has been similar for all 3 of my historical novels. First, I zero in on a time…more
Thanks Sam.
Every author's research process is different, but mine has been similar for all 3 of my historical novels. First, I zero in on a time period and geography that interests me, and then I read everything I can get my hands on that describes the events that unfolded there. I read non-fiction, fiction, biographies, cultural analyses, political essays, old newspapers, family genealogies, interviews, period cookbooks, old letters, absolutely anything that will give me an increased sense of time and place. I look for the what, and then began to try to understand the why. What was the mood of the times, the conventions and customs, the tensions at play? How can I, as an author of fiction, capture the big picture, keeping in mind that my individual character may not be aware of much of what I know through research and hindsight.
Only after steeping myself in the times do I begin to weave the narrative, and develop the voices of the characters, at which point the need to create a compelling story arc might (and often is) in conflict with absolute faithfulness to a forest of fact. This is the intricate dance - balancing accuracy with storytelling.
The very first time I played (quite guiltily) with what you're calling historical precedent, is when I moved a yellow fever epidemic in Louisiana to 2 years earlier than it really broke out, but it was a convenience to the plot. I justified this to myself by reasoning that the flavor and possibilities of the times trumped an actual date.
After my story is very developed (at least 5 drafts in), I get very serious about inadvertent historical goofs by having "experts" read the manuscript to uncover those obvious and not-so-obvious breaches that I haven't yet caught. And no matter how bullet-proof I think the historical elements are, the publisher's copyeditor usually catches at least a handful of errors - a rifle that can't shoot as far as I've depicted, a river flowing in the wrong direction, a maritime captain who wouldn't be the one to actually steer a vessel, girls playing a game of stickball despite the fact that only boys were allowed to participate at that time in that culture.
And hopefully, most inaccuracy is caught before publication, because if there is even one wrong fact, the unwritten law is that at least one reader will find it:-)(less)
Lalita Tademy Creating a narrative is like putting together a 1,000 piece jigsaw puzzle. Even though you know the size and shape and colors you're working with,…moreCreating a narrative is like putting together a 1,000 piece jigsaw puzzle. Even though you know the size and shape and colors you're working with, progress is, at times, painfully slow and seemingly endless, and at other times wonderfully satisfying, a series of pieces falling exactly into their place.
The best thing about all of the process, whether tortured or inspired, is that as the author, you are the only one who can follow these particular characters and ideas and bring them to life. That is a great burden and a great joy.
For me, the research always takes me someplace that I didn't know about before, and I get to live in that world as I create it for my characters and my stories.(less)
Average rating: 4.03 · 46,733 ratings · 2,526 reviews · 4 distinct worksSimilar authors
Cane River

4.05 avg rating — 42,903 ratings — published 2001 — 38 editions
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Red River

3.84 avg rating — 2,742 ratings — published 2006 — 27 editions
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Citizens Creek

3.88 avg rating — 996 ratings — published 2014 — 13 editions
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All the Women in My Family ...

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4.36 avg rating — 97 ratings3 editions
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More of Lalita's books…
“You can't tell how heavy somebody else's load is just from looking. The Lord doesn't give us more than we can carry”
Lalita Tademy, Cane River

“Reaching too deep into something not meant for you is full of pain. Figure out what you can have and work on that”
Lalita Tademy, Cane River

“Sometimes while you wait for what you think is better," Philomene said, "what is good enough slips away.”
Lalita Tademy, Cane River

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