Title House of Rougeaux
Author Jenny Jaeckel
Genre Historical Fiction
Publisher Black Rose Writing
House of Rougeaux is a family saga spanning seven generations—from a colonial-era sugar plantation to Civil Rights-era Philadelphia—an intimate portrayal of survival and triumph, love and resilience, with touches of magical realism.
Born in the 1700s and enslaved on the Caribbean Island of Martinique, young Abeje and her brother Adunbi owe their survival to their uncommon abilities and to the kindness of fellow bondsmen. After Adunbi’s daughter is taken away to Canada she becomes emancipated in Quebec City; grandchildren find their way in Montreal, a great-grandchild escapes persecution to Philadelphia, and another risks everything to pursue music in New York City. As each new member of the family takes the spotlight, a fresh piece of the puzzle is illuminated until at last, a homecoming uplifts them all. Following the echoes between generations which defy normal space and time, a multilayered narrative celebrates the Rougeaux family triumphs while exposing the injustices of their trials.
One o’clock on a sunny Sunday afternoon finds Cornelia Montgomery and Azalea Hubbard on their knees, bent over an early flower that has pushed its way up through a crack in the sidewalk. The clack of heels on the pavement and laughing voices surround them. Folks are still trickling out of church, shaking hands and paying respects, after the post-service social hour.
It’s a tiny thing with velvety red petals and an interesting yellow sprout in the middle, made all the more curious that, despite the sun, it is not yet spring. But here comes an adult voice, Cornelia’s mother to be exact, saying Get on up, because they aren’t little girls anymore, and their mothers (who are sisters) didn’t wear out their fingers stitching those Sunday coats and dresses so they could ruin them playing on the ground.
Between them Nelie and Azzie have a passel of brothers and sisters, but none are as close as they. Now they stand brushing off their hands on their skirts, one pink and one mint green, smiling slyly at each other and saying, Yes ma’am. Azzie’s little brother Junior sidles up to them, holding a piece of cake in a napkin. It’s his curse to need eyeglasses, in thick black frames, frequently askew as they are now, having been knocked to the side by a squeezed-past elbow or
handbag. The girls reach out as one to straighten them.
Nelie and Azzie skip to school each morning with their arms linked. They trade dolls and candy and hair ribbons. They whisper secrets, make up rhymes, find the same things funny and suffer the other’s indignities as their own. Azzie is a little bolder, Nelie’s singing voice is a little better and her coloring is lighter and decorated with a few of her father’s freckles. But not much disturbs their harmony. It is said that, like twins, the two share a soul.
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House of Rougeaux (paperback)
House of Rougeaux e-book
Jenny Jaeckel is the award-winning author and illustrator of several books including her novel Boy, Falling--a companion book to House of Rougeaux, a collection of illustrated short fiction entitled For the Love of Meat, and the graphic novel memoir Spot 12: Five Months in the Neonatal ICU. When not writing, Jaeckel works as an editor and translator. She lives in Victoria, British Columbia, with her family.
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