We point out this terrific award for an alum's book for obvious reasons, I think.
Franklin Alum honored with Benjamin Franklin book award
Book tells real history through fictional characters
By JESSICA LUTON
For author and Franklin alumnus Jonathan Grant, Benjamin Franklin has been a recurring theme. He began his career as an English major (AB, ’76) in the Franklin College of Arts and Sciences and now he is also been a recent recipient of the Independent Book Publishers Association’s 2013 Gold Benjamin Franklin Award for popular fiction for his book “Brambleman.”
The book is described as a “gritty, supernaturally-tinged tale of racism, redemption, and revenge in Forsyth County, Georgia.” But while the book is fictional, it is also based on historical facts. It’s a work of fiction that came about as an outgrowth of his work as coauthor and editor of his late father’s nonfiction book, "The Way It Was in the South: The Black Experience in Georgia."
“There were many compelling stories in that book that I wanted to follow up on,” he said. “One involved the history of Forsyth County, which was the scene of a violent racial purge of more than 1,000 black residents in 1912. Seventy-five years later, when civil rights firebrand Hosea Williams called attention to the community’s lily-white status, he and a small band of marchers were also run out of town. The next week, Williams showed up with more than 20,000 supporters in one of the largest civil rights marches in our nation’s history. Oprah also put Forsyth on the map when she taped one of her most memorable shows in Cumming. All gripping stuff.”
Telling this story, even in fictional form, is meant to broaden the audience that might read it and will hopefully help future generations understand the events that unfolded and how today’s landscape is (or is not) all that different.
“I brought a deep understanding of Georgia history to the work, and I did a considerable amount of research into the events that occurred in Forsyth County, Georgia in 1912,” he said. “My account of that period adheres closely to the accounts of the time, although names have been changed and literary details added.”
Telling a story with historical significance is of great importance.
“So many people don’t understand the significance of historical events or their effect on the present. In the South, as William Faulkner once famously said, “the past isn’t past,” he said.
“Forsyth County and Georgia have grown tremendously in the quarter-century since Hosea Williams’s marches and many people don’t have the slightest idea what happened once upon a time in the not-too-distant past,” he added.
The prestigious Benjamin Franklin award is meant to honor excellence in editorial and design. It is considered among the highest national honors for small presses and independent publishers.
For Franklin students and alumnus pursuing degrees in writing, being an author is a viable career path in this modern digital publishing setting, but it requires some skills that weren’t once required of authors.
“It’s becoming more and more difficult to be noticed, but on the brighter side, there are more avenues of expression open than ever before,” he said. “Anyone who writes has to plan on being a publisher, too. I think an MFA degree in creative writing should be a publishing degree, as well. Having your own blog or website is essential, as is using social networking to build a following.”
“Above all, exercise quality control,” he added. “It’s also important to learn how the world works, so that there’s a strong basis of reality in everything you write. And of course the old adage about not quitting your day job (if you have one) is truer than ever.”
For more information on the book visit www.brambleman.com. Grant is also the author of “Chain Gang Elementary,” a novel.
Thanks, Jessica. Great story, as well as great career advice from a successful alumnus.