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Addiction in Fiction October 3, 2011

Posted by Carolyn Burns Bass in African-American literature, bestsellers, literary fiction.
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Addition is enslavement to something that exerts such power over a person, he/she loses the ability to resist. Alcohol and narcotics—whether legal or not—ensnare a person physiologically, yet addiction to habits, practices or even people can also smite a person to the point of despair, depression, death. This week in #litchat we’re discussing novels featuring the diverse forms of addition.

Joining us on Friday, October 7, is novelist Martha Southgate, whose fourth novel, The Taste of Salt, was released by Algonquin on September 13. Josie Henderson is an anomaly to everyone around her, even to herself.
From her earliest memories, Josie is drawn to the ocean and marine life. When she becomes a marine biologist, she’s among a small number of females in the profession. Add that she’s black, and the numbers descend to one. Through Josie’s eyes we meet her parents, her mother from the educated middle class, and her father, an autoworker who reads widely and tinkers at novel-writing. Alcohol rears its scaly head in the life of the father, whose novel-writing aspirations turn to vapor in the grip of the beast. A younger brother, Tick, endears and then tears the hearts out of each character as the novel progresses through the cycles of addiction. With visits back and forth in Josie’s past, we see her as the strong one determined to make her own way in a white, male-dominated profession, while addiction of another kind ripples the placid surface of the life she’s worked so hard to maintain.

Martha Southgate is the author of four novels. Her previous novel, Third Girl from the Left, won the Best Novel of the Year award from the Black Caucus of the American Library Association and was shortlisted for the PEN/Beyond Margins Award and the Hurston/Wright Legacy award. Her novel The Fall of Rome received the 2003 Alex Award from the American Library Association and was named one of the best novels of 2002 by Jonathan Yardley of the Washington Post. She is also the author of Another Way to Dance, which won the Coretta Scott King Genesis Award for Best First Novel. She received a 2002 New York Foundation for the Arts grant and has received fellowships from the MacDowell Colony, the Virginia Center for the Creative Arts and the Bread Loaf Writers Conference. Her July 2007 essay from the New York Times Book Review, “Writers Like Me” received considerable notice and appears in the anthology Best African-American Essays 2009. Previous non-fiction articles have appeared in The New York Times Magazine,OPremiere, and Essence.

Follow Martha Southgate on Twitter: @mesouthgate.