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What began as a search for personal family history blossomed into a rich, epic novel; the stories within “Cane River” unfurl amongst the sweltering swamps, marshes and bayous of Louisiana. Author Lalita Tademy reaches readers through the murky haze of the Old South, and reveals the legacy of Tademy’s family, told as a riveting drama.

“Cane River” features a line of strong Black women, whose lives are intersected by slavery, hatred, repression, but also love. Tademy traces the women from their roots in Africa, through the heartache and pain of slavery, to the character based on Tademy’s own grandmother, Emily, whose unusual and unorthodox relationship shaped the family for generations to come. As the generations unfold within the book, the reader gains a deeper understanding of the complex social and cultural hierarchy in Louisiana. We learn why a family may have members whose skins run the gamut from pale cream to coffee black. Within “Cane River”, we recognize the same bitterness and joy that slavery affected upon our own families and kindred. Tademy expresses the unusual flavor of the Louisiana culture, while simultaneously allowing the reader a glimpse into her personal history.

This novel, which has been touted as “brave” and “musical,” is compelling, and demands the reader’s undivided attention, as it twists through a maze of secrets and stunning revelations. “Cane River” has won a score of national awards and honors, and the novel was added to Oprah’s Book Club Reading List in 2001. The book’s author, Tademy, left a successful corporate career to devote her time to researching her family’s complicated history. She says of fantastic her first novel: “Cane River covers 137 years of my family’s history, written as fiction, but deeply rooted in years of research, historical fact, and family lore.” Since completing “Cane River,” Tademy has completed another novel, “Red River,” which focuses on the struggles of freed blacks in Colfax, Louisiana after Reconstruction.

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S. Willis is a native Virginian, author and writing coach. Her first children’s book, “The Little Adventures of Bella and DJ,” is now available for order at

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