Author Alison Mills Newman reveals a rare vision of intersections between the lives of upper middle class African Americans, cutting edge multicultural bi-coastal artists, Pentecostal Christians, and revolutionary black political activists in her second novel, MAGGIE 3. Readers will witness “a rare thing,” as Nobel prize winning author Toni Morrison said of Ms. Newman’s first novel, Francisco, for here is a gifted storyteller who writes “with beauty, power and purity about a woman.”
MAGGIE 3 chronicles the life of the main character Maggie, as she struggles to be sincere and true to the loves of her life and their quests to shape a life consistent with the highest spiritual and moral demands of their times. Moving between Los Angeles, the San Francisco Bay Area, New York City and back to Los Angeles, the author–who has herself lived and worked within all of these worlds–is never less than searingly honest in expressing Maggie’s passions, personal difficulties and even antagonisms with aspects of these life choices.
Through Maggie’s eyes as a young artist who comes of age in the 1960s, the reader can experience the daily life consequences of her evolving commitments–to be the sweetheart and wife of a black Christian evangelical minister and mother to their two children. The novel’s stunning portrayal of this woman’s inner thoughts reveals great joys even while she fights to overcome the harsh realities of life. Similar in style to the author’s debut novel, it is “a novel in the form of a diary (or possibly a diary published as a novel),” as noted in Publishers Weekly.
MAGGIE 3 is published by Ishmael Reed Publishing Company, a small independent press that for over thirty years has published distinguished writing luminaries. The company is proud to utilize the print-on-demand technology of Xlibris to continue to bring more writers to more readers.
All my mom ever talked about was my marrying a rich man, or someone’s new house or new car, or some son or daughter who had passed the bar, or gotten into this college and gone to Europe during the summer. I couldn’t ask my mom about her youth and her feelings, boys, men, sex or Dad. Those were deﬁnitely disrespectful discussions. Parents didn’t talk back then, it just wasn’t done. It was just the way things were.
They didn’t talk about God either, come to think about it. They hardly ever talked about Jesus. Most of the concentration at this middle-class church I attended with my parents and two brothers centered on who was the richest, and drove the best car, and lived in the best neighborhood. Nobody was out feeding the poor or praying for the sick that was for sure. We all got dressed up and heard a sermon on Sunday morning about what I can’t remember. Dad seemed to take a special interest I noticed, quoting the scriptures on the way to church. On the way to a church he didn’t want to go to. He liked those small little storefront churches, where the folks shouted, and sang till the Holy Ghost came down, but Mom wouldn’t hear of it. Mom liked to sit in church in her silk stockings, and alligator shoes and purse, top of the line suit, earrings, and necklace to match, and smile. I couldn’t believe in God. How could I believe?
There was some written law in my heart whispering that this was not what Jesus was about if he was about anything. Somehow I knew that how much money you made wasn’t one of God’s requirements for being justiﬁed. Somehow I knew there were issues a lot more important to God than what kind of car you drove (though He certainly might have cared) it just didn’t make sense that if there was a God, how come He didn’t have the power to impress His believers with those concerns that really mattered to Him? It didn’t make sense for Him to be so powerless. I mean how could there be a God if the people I knew said they believed in God but cared so little about Him in return?
It seemed to me God would energize more activity in a soul than these folks I knew put forth. I was totally disillusioned by what appeared to me to be a vain show. How could there be a God when the Ku Klux Klan said they were followers of Christ? And yes, how come Jesus was blue-eyed and blonde? I mean, where were the religions of my African ancestors? I just didn’t get it. How could there be a God when the white man had used the Bible to control the black man and keep him down? I had too many questions, yeah. I saw God in maybe Martin Luther King, but basically I threw the Bible and God out the window and poetry became my religion and its poets my prophets. I wanted to drop out of school. Well, I couldn’t tell Myisha that. I would have to edit that out.
I found school boring and I felt like I didn’t ﬁt in. The teachers did their best to defeat my pioneering spirit. My English teacher told me I would never write and would never be anything. I was given an F on my ﬁnal essay in History ’cause I wrote that the South got what was coming to them—their land and lives were destroyed ’cause they didn’t have the good sense to execute justice during the right time—and that the black man was right to insurrect and rebel.
Professional actress at the age of 12 years old. She is a songstress, actress and a writer. By the age of 18, she began appearing in pioneering television programs featuring African-American actors and entertainers. Best known for as the original cast member for her role as Carol Deering on the NBC’s sitcom series “Julia” alongside Diahann Carroll. She also co-stars and cast member of CBS’s Leslie Uggams Show in Sugar Hill weekly segments as Henrietta’s younger sister, Lisa.
Get to know Alison:
1. How long have you been writing?
I have been writing since a child. My strongest memories is first writing poetry, love poems. I remember taking piano lessons and somehow just knowing how to write a melody with a beginning middle and end and put lyrics to it. I remember when I was 13, having a crush on an older, adult actor in a acting workshop I and being inspired to write my first love poem/lyric.
I got a mind to make you mine
when I see you coming my way
I got a mind to close my eyes to
keep from looking into your face
but I don’t close my eyes and I don’t pass you by
I stay as near as can without you knowing I’m there.
sometimes I want to say hello
sometimes I want to let you know
that I am loving you so
but I don’t know your name
but just the same
I got a mind to make you mine
but never mind
Just a simple song…from the very beginning it came natural to me, as a gift to always have a twist.
So ever since I can remember, I have been writing something…either a poem, a lyric, a short story, a diary/journal. I have always been a writer.
2. “Francisco” was your very first book published by the great prolific writer Ishmael Reed’s publishing company Reed, Cannon and Johnson debut in 1974. Harryette R. Mullen, a professor at UCLA, speaks of your book debut as “auspicious”. Toni Morrison wrote in a review of “Francisco ” Alison Mills has done the rare thing written with beauty and power and purity about a woman”. Henry Bass of Essence Magazine describes your first book as” defiantly idiosyncratic” and lists it as a classic alongside the works of Toni Cade Barbara, Alice Walker, Gayle Jones. Maggie Three is your second book after so many years of no published works, what happened?
Good question. Life happened. Jesus happened, passions changed.Marriage happened, five children happened. I had a few short stories published and poetry in anthologies…but I think my marriage and my children became my art and passion. Living and witnessing, preaching for Christ became my passion. For as long as I can remember art was the god of my life, suddenly Yeshua,the Son of God became God in my life.
Perhaps so much of my early life was spent in the limelight, that when I gave my life to Christ, I counted Christ my all and all and I enjoyed and contented in my anonymous life in Christ. Somewhere within those twenty or so years of not writing, I was living life—growing in prayer and fasting as a human being. Endeavoring to be that virtuous woman whose husband’s heart can trust in her, you know. doing my husband good, doing my children good—The “old” Alison was dead, there was a new Alison being assembled…maybe
I did art in my home with my kids, I wrote gospel songs, worship songs. I did plays with my kids. I sang in church. I wrote a play titled ” Augustine’s Confessions” and produced it at the community theatre in Perris, California where I lived on 2 1/2 acres of land, with a dog and two horses and five kids.
I was living out that life of being a wife—something not held in high esteem in the world anymore but in God’s eyes being a mother/wife is valued. Also my husband and I recognized that kids needed attention and guidance,somone to be there. There was a lot of black boys getting into gangs, black girls getting pregnant…the feeling it was because things had changed in society,in our homes….I was determined to raise five brilliant black children to be strong and able to thrive with faith and courage in this world and that took precedence.
My focus was learning how to be a godly wife, winning souls, helping the poor, changing diapers, cooking dinner, cleaning the kitchen, washing clothes, having date nights with my husband.Living a dream I didn’t dream. I was living life as a new creature in Christ and my priorities and focus changed in many ways. Not that I didn’t write.
3. So how did you come to write again?
Well, I didn’t stop writing really..I still dabbled in writing, keeping a journal, writing songs, like I said I produced,directed,wrote,starred in a community play “Augustine’s Confessions”. I wrote love songs to Yeshua, poems to Christ, poems to God etc….nothing I sought to publish…just private between me and my God…and then one day when I was living in the country of Perris, California on 21/2 acre and half of land….walking along the country road, just praying and worshipping God, I felt the Holy Spirit just whisper “write a book”. Truth is, after I got my husband off to work in the morning and my five children off to school, I sat at my typewriter and began to answer the call to write a book. It was a call I couldn’t deny. I had to obey and I did.
4. Who were are/were your writing mentors?
As a young child, I was exposed to T. S. Eliot and Emily Dickerson. Then when I was exposed to Langston Hughes and Nikki Giovanni and other great African American poets and writers. I was actually introduced to James Baldwin who read my first book “Francisco” and encouraged me. I had read James Baldwin as a teenager… Ishmael Reed was of course my primary mentor, he is/was an amazing gift of a friend. He gave me wings and encouraged me as he did many other writers. Ishmael Reed has launched the career of many other writers of different nationalities, styles and thoughts. He has been very generous and encouraging to me and others…and I follow that example of always encouraging anyone who ever feels the call to write, to answer the call…write I say…write a little every day. Just write…
5. Ishmael Reed also published Maggie Three. How did that come to be?
For years off and on we talked on the phone. He would ask me if I was writing. So of course when I finished writing Maggie Three, I let him know yes…I finished a book….He was there for me. His daughter who is also a writer edited the book.
6. How did you get the story?
I wrote Maggie Three everyday sitting down for an hour or so in my house in the country and writing down what I heard. The story, the images, the twists and turns unfolded to me as I listened. It turned into a book about a young African American teenager from an upper middle-class family who runs away from home to San Francisco to pursue her dream of poetry and ends up in New York, successful and hooked on heroin, lost and in sin. It takes place during the turbulent and also inspiring times of the late 70’s, 80’s, 90’s.The time when black people were aware of loving themselves, our color, our hair, our big noses…. you know even James Brown had an Afro. Maggie,the adventuresome,courageous and somewhat innocent, self destructive teenager transforms into a woman who finds true love by the mercies of God.
7. What does Maggie Three mean? Why Maggie Three?
“Three” stands for three decades…. from the 70,80,90’s of Maggie’s life. The story reveals the transformations that take place in the inner being, in the character of Maggie over a period of thirty years. The story unfolds three decades of her life and how what she started out looking for as a teenager, guided her to discovering what she didn’t know she was really looking for real. Sometimes what we want is only what society has conditioned us to believe we want…we may get it and find out it really isn’t what we needed. Her life is a surprise. The book takes place in one day. In one day three decades of her life is revealed through the memories that unfold on the pages of the book. The novel reveals how so many times our plans are not God’s plans and how great and wonderful that is—-if we stick with God and allow him to be the potter and understand that we are the clay—He will mold us into the heart that He created us to be… the world may never give us prestigious accolades, but our name is written in the lamb’s book of life. Maggie Three is a love story between God and man.
8. Who did you write Maggie Three for? Demographics, Age group, etc.?
Maggie Three is for everybody, every age, every color, every faith, everyone who has ever searched for love. The story is evolutionary and transformative and just like life filled with surprises, twists and turns, the unexpected. Even when you come to my movies the stories are always inclusive and universal. In the case of Maggie Three it is deeply nuanced with the fabric of an individual African American experience.
I would love to make it into a beautiful tv movie or for the big screen to expand the demographics, you know.Love for Michelle Obama or her two daughters to read it. Love for it to be read in high schools and colleges. I would love for it to do whatever to remind us as black people that it is faith in God that has brought us through much opposition and oppression and we as a people need to return to walking close to God. I would like it to be a part of a revival of young people putting their trust in Jesus and really seeing through the media madness of keeping up with some reality tv star or wearing their clothes or copying them…I would like Maggie Three to help us want to copy Jesus again to love God, and our neighbor as ourselves. For people of all nationalities to know that we are all people… people are people… we are all beautiful and humanity needs to get to know one another.
What I’ve learned? I think the most important thing I’ve learned is God is real and alive and He sent His Son to die on the cross for our sins and give us eternal life…and that abiding in God’s word will strengthen us… faith, love and prayer… much prayer, much power, little prayer,little power.
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