Windy City Media Group Frontpage News
Celebrating 30 Years of Gay Lesbian Bisexual and Trans News
home search facebook twitter join
Gay News Sponsor Windy City Times 2017-08-23
DOWNLOAD ISSUE
About WCMG Publications News Index  Entertainment Features Bars & Clubs Calendar Videos Advertisers OUT! Guide    Marriage

Sponsor
Sponsor

  WINDY CITY TIMES

Journey of a Cotton Blossom
Special to the online edition of Windy City Times
by Joe Franco
2017-06-13

facebook twitter pin it google +1 reddit email


By J.C. Villegas, $24.99; Brown Books Publishing Group; 302 pages

J.C. Villegas chose a monumental theme for her debut novel, Journey of a Cotton Blossom.

The story begins in rural Mississippi in the late 1940s with the birth of Joseph Dove to a woman who is still a de facto slave on a large cotton plantation. The story follows three generations of the Dove family through the tumult of the 1950s and integration, through the combustible 1960s and Loving v. Virginia, and lastly through the neoconservative 1980s and the emergence of large, organized LGBTQ and AIDS/HIV-rights groups. In a nutshell, Villegas decided to swallow an elephant whole.

Journey of a Cotton Blossom is an epic—not epic in the way that hipsters misuse the word to describe a new donut shop, but epic in the vein of East of Eden, Native Son or The Goldfinch.

There are always problems with epic novels. It is a precarious balancing act for any writer to figure out which stories are important or which details should be left out. In the words of Allen Ginsberg, one must kill one's darlings if a novel like this is going to succeed without a flaw. However, in Journey of a Cotton Blossom, Villegas has some problems killing her darlings.

Villegas insists on including myriad details, such as what precisely a mint julep is or what LGBT stands for or redundant descriptions of common metaphors and similes. Normally, one might expect that a narrative unfold through the activity of the characters in a book; however, Villegas' characters are more like shadow puppets. At the beginning of chapter 14, we are told that Joseph ( one of three significant protagonists ) has become "like an angry old man." But Villegas chooses to then tell her readers what she thinks an angry old man is like rather than let us enjoy what we might feel or see or hear.

Gone is playful metaphor; rigid proverbs are de rigueur. It is like a movie that way. Lost is the opportunity for play. In chapter 32, Joseph is described as "authoritarian." But again, the reader is robbed of a chance to really feel what is meant by that term. Is it necessarily military-like precision or abruptness? Or is it a sneer and a furrowed, cold brow? We aren't allowed to chose since the author tells us, step-by-step, what her poetry means. Villegas' lack of confidence is strewn throughout her book. She simply cannot bare to have others reimagine her story and she sacrifices the stunning beauty of the world she has created for exactitude.

Villegas, through some three hundred pages, is determined that people hear her story, her ideas—her philosophy: There's the rub. Her voice should be subtle, riding on the story of her rich and varied characters. Journey of a Cotton Blossom seems more a modern treatise on the history of discrimination than a modern work of historic fiction. Villegas should have been given another 200 pages to give us the enjoyment of knowing her characters instead of just passively watching them.

Still—despite the normal minutiae associated with a fledgling writer's first work—the novel remains poignantly and broadly relevant during an era of heightened interest in race, sexuality and the qualities that define one's home. Despite the frustrating literary techniques employed here, this book is still one that should be read by a host of people in today's virulent and increasingly tumultuous world.

If Journey does nothing more than encourage its readers to Google "Mississippi Burning" or "1950s rural Southern plantation life," then it will have been a success. Villegas' work has less to do with story and more to do with substance.

It was a labor of love. She admits in the dedication of her book that she was a bully once but, perhaps like many LGBTQ folks, did so because of her own sexuality rather than as a judgment on another. The novel nags at its readers until they agree to learn something. Journey of a Cotton Blossom stubbornly holds its ground.


facebook twitter pin it google +1 reddit email




Windy City Media Group does not approve or necessarily agree with the views posted below.
Please do not post letters to the editor here. Please also be civil in your dialogue.
If you need to be mean, just know that the longer you stay on this page, the more you help us.


  ARTICLES YOU MIGHT LIKE

Gay News

BOOKS Author explores truth about friend's death 2017-08-23 - In this nonfiction mystery, author Kevin Troxall revisits his hometown is Glasgow, Kentucky, to uncover the truth about the death of his childhood ...


Gay News

'Own voices' panel on LGBTQIA mystery writing Sept. 28 2017-08-23 - Center on Halsted/Mystery Writers of America host a panel of Mystery Writers of America, Midwest Chapter authors who write LGBTQIA-focused novels to raise ...


Gay News

Margaret Atwood, Dave Eggers to be honored with Carl Sandburg awards Oct. 11 2017-08-18 - CHICAGO — The Chicago Public Library Foundation and Chicago Public Library will present the annualCarl Sandburg Literary Awards to best-selling authors Margaret Atwood ...


Gay News

BOOK REVIEW Beast 2017-08-09 - By Brie Spangler. Read by Andrew Eiden, $34.95; Blackstone Audio, Inc.; seven CDs In its most basic description, it's a muscle. ...


Gay News

BOOKS Achy Obejas talks 'The Tower of the Antilles' 2017-08-09 - Achy Obejas' new collection, The Tower of the Antilles, is a definitive introduction to the often poetic Cuban-American writer. Though the stories come ...


Gay News

BOOKS Riki Wilchins discusses trans movement memoir 2017-08-09 - Riki Wilchins founded the first national transgender advocacy group GenderPAC in 1996. She is currently the executive director of the True Child organization, ...


Gay News

BOOKS Lillian Faderman: Trailblazer reflects on her legacy 2017-08-02 - Lillian Faderman, a scholar of LGBTQ history best known for her work on lesbian culture, remembers what inspired her to begin writing about ...


Gay News

BOOK REVIEW The Ada Decades 2017-08-02 - By Paula Martinac. $9.99; Bywater Books; 331 pages As a romance, The Ada Decades fits the "new girl comes to town" ...


Gay News

BOOK REVIEW The Book of Love and Hate 2017-08-02 - By Lauren Sanders, $15.95; Akashic Books; 299 pages After a disappointing end to her Olympic speed-skating career, Jennifer Baron took over ...


Gay News

BOOK REVIEW The Last 2017-08-02 - Place You Look. By Kristen Lepionka. $25.99; Minotaur Books; 321 pages Brad Stockton's life is on the line. After being ...


 



Copyright © 2017 Windy City Media Group. All rights reserved.
Reprint by permission only. PDFs for back issues are downloadable from
our online archives. Single copies of back issues in print form are
available for $4 per issue, older than one month for $6 if available,
by check to the mailing address listed below.

Return postage must accompany all manuscripts, drawings, and
photographs submitted if they are to be returned, and no
responsibility may be assumed for unsolicited materials.
All rights to letters, art and photos sent to Nightspots
(Chicago GLBT Nightlife News) and Windy City Times (a Chicago
Gay and Lesbian News and Feature Publication) will be treated
as unconditionally assigned for publication purposes and as such,
subject to editing and comment. The opinions expressed by the
columnists, cartoonists, letter writers, and commentators are
their own and do not necessarily reflect the position of Nightspots
(Chicago GLBT Nightlife News) and Windy City Times (a Chicago Gay,
Lesbian, Bisexual and Transegender News and Feature Publication).

The appearance of a name, image or photo of a person or group in
Nightspots (Chicago GLBT Nightlife News) and Windy City Times
(a Chicago Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual and Transgender News and Feature
Publication) does not indicate the sexual orientation of such
individuals or groups. While we encourage readers to support the
advertisers who make this newspaper possible, Nightspots (Chicago
GLBT Nightlife News) and Windy City Times (a Chicago Gay, Lesbian
News and Feature Publication) cannot accept responsibility for
any advertising claims or promotions.

 

 

 

TRENDINGBREAKINGPHOTOS

Sponsor
Sponsor
Sponsor


 



Sponsor

About WCMG Publications News Index  Entertainment Features Bars & Clubs Calendar Videos Advertisers OUT! Guide    Marriage


About WCMG      Contact Us      Online Front  Page      Windy City  Times      Nightspots      OUT! Guide     
Identity      BLACKlines      En La Vida      Archives      Subscriptions      Distribution      Windy City Queercast     
Queercast Archives      Advertising  Rates      Deadlines      Advanced Search     
Press  Releases      Event Photos      Join WCMG  Email List      Email Blast     
Upcoming Events      Todays Events      Ongoing Events      Post an Event      Bar Guide      Community Groups      In Memoriam      Outguide Categories      Outguide Advertisers      Search Outguide      Travel      Dining Out      Blogs      Spotlight  Video     
Classifieds      Real Estate      Place a  Classified     

Windy City Media Group produces Windy City Queercast, & publishes Windy City Times,
The Weekly Voice of the Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual and Trans Community,
Nightspots, Out! Resource Guide, and Identity.
5315 N. Clark St. #192, Chicago, IL 60640-2113 • PH (773) 871-7610 • FAX (773) 871-7609.