Savannah J. Frierson's First Book Love: Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry
Updated: May 12, 2018
Welcome back to our First Book Loves series. First loves are so influential, so we're asking writers: What was your first book love and how did it influence your path as a writer?
Today, we hear from women's fiction and romance author Savannah J. Frierson!
I was always a lover of books. My mother made sure of that. She also made sure I read books either by Black authors or featuring Black characters, with the ultimate goal of the book fulfilling both aims. As I grew older and started making independent book choices, I added another item to the wish list: the protagonist was a Black girl like me. When I discovered Mildred D. Taylor’s Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry, I hit the literary jackpot. From then on, Cassie Logan’s story has been one I have tried to emulate and honor with each story I write, a story of family, of love, of joy, of sorrow, and of growing into one’s own truth despite all the obstacles one faces to keep a person stunted and small.
I love that Cassie Logan is a complex character who is as precocious as she is ignorant, as curious as she is careful, sassy as she is timid. She inhabits an entire range of emotions that make sense during her journey throughout the book. She isn’t the sidekick in anyone’s narrative, the one-note moral foil who enlightens the usually white, usually male protagonist who has something to teach for the protagonist’s sake instead of something to learn for her own. She could be angry and happy and sad and shy and mischievous and caring—she could be. And as someone who became introduced to Cassie Logan while also being around the character’s age, it was like watching a reflection of myself, even if Cassie was “my age” roughly sixty years ago.
I don’t write YA (yet), but that connection and excitement to see myself reflected in prose remain a foundation as I write romance and women’s fiction. Women of all stripes want to see themselves reflected in the stories they consume, and this is especially true for marginalized readers. In a society where anti-Blackness is ever present and Black women face many discouraging statistics about their fates in love, finding romances featuring heroines who look like us is not only a relief, but also crucial. My heroines, all Black women, are as complex as I know I am, which means they’re as strong as they are vulnerable, as smart as they are unwise, as confident as they are unsure. More importantly, these women can be all those things at the same time and still get the love they want and the happily ever after they seek. And as they find their way to loving and being loved, they have the support of family and friends to keep the buoyed during their low moments and to help them soar during their high ones.
I still revisit Cassie Logan’s story in Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry, Let the Circle Be Unbroken, and The Road to Memphis. I still experience those books like it’s the first time. I’m so grateful to Cassie Logan and to Mildred D. Taylor for introducing her to the world. Because of this first love, I know there is an audience of readers for my novels as well, especially for the Black women who desire to see themselves loving and being loved.
More about Savannah:
I am a Charleston-based Black author of women’s fiction and several subgenres of romance, including contemporary, historical, and paranormal/supernatural. I am primarily self-published. Some of my titles include Being Plumville, Manna Tree, Go with Your Heart, Reconstructing Jada Channing, and the City of Sin Series. I also won SORMAG Readers’ Choice Awards for Being Plumville; was nominated for Romance Slam Jam’s Debut Author of the Year in 2008; and was the recipient of the Dorothy Hicks Lee Prize for most outstanding thesis concerning African or African American literatureat Harvard College for my novella Reconstructing Jada Channing. Additionally, Being Plumville and Go with Your Heartwere named Library Journal Self-E Selections in 2016.