PATHS OF PROMISE by Donna J. Grisanti
Like the Old Testament heroine who inspired her name, Ruth Yuell faced a life of disadvantages. As a Negro born in St. Louis, 1939, Ruth entered a world dominated by segregation and racism. As a young woman who fought for her people through nonviolence, Ruth encountered brutality from powerful whites and ridicule from militant blacks. She also weathered terrible storms of scandal and betrayal. Like her biblical namesake, Ruth overcame her hardships through hard work, determination, piety, and courage.
PATHS OF PROMISE (Phoenix Publishing Group; October 2012; ISBN: 978-0970886019) tells the story of Ruth Yuell—a woman of conviction and honor who made remarkable sacrifices for her family, her community, and her faith looking toward a brighter future for all Americans. Within a novel covering a turbulent span of history, from Jim Crow through the Civil Rights movement, author Donna J. Grisanti traces one black woman’s struggle for equality and justice, for validation and respect, and for love.
Ruth’s story opens and concludes in Chicago, 1967—in an emergency room. During a peaceful demonstration for fair housing rights, Ruth gets swept up and injured in the crowd’s reaction to overzealous police officers. While waiting for medical attention, she seizes on a visit from a successful white journalist—who happens to be one of her closest friends from college—as an opportunity to share her life story. “I want to tell everyone what you can go through and get through,” Ruth declares to her dear friend Norma, “and still stay true to yourself and what you believe.”
In flashbacks, PATHS OF PROMISE recounts Ruth’s story from its start, with her birth at home on Archer Street. Despite his status as a newly minted Doctor of Medicine, her father could not afford to send his wife to the hospital as he had when the three year old twins were born. With the help of Mother Jones, the midwife, Ruth safely arrived to join her family in a tight-knit black community centered on the church. She was raised to respect authority, mind her manners, control her tongue, and strive to be a model of industry, dignity, and accomplishment. Even as a tiny girl, Ruth was aware of the responsibility of representing her race, as well as the risks that came with getting on the wrong side of the law or a white citizen.
In a time of great hope and grave peril for black Americans, Ruth fulfilled her high expectations. She gained admission into a newly integrated college in Chicago, where, after recovering from the shock of being one of only three Negro students, she excelled in her studies and forged strong friendships. Ruth caught the romantic interest of an up-and-coming lawyer from a prominent Negro family. Ruth’s dream of having it all—a fulfilling career as a nurse, the perfect marriage, and the respect of her community and the white establishment—seemed within reach. Until Christmas break of 1958, when a horrific crime ripped her world apart and abruptly turned her from a victim into a villainess capable of murder.
With gripping drama, PATHS OF PROMISE unfolds: FACEBOOK page is Donna Grisanti
How, during her teenage years, an innocent stop to change a flat tire flared into a terrifying incident with a white sheriff officer’s racist actions and culminated in the tragic death of a young pregnant woman and her baby—which comes backs to haunt her;
How Ruth’s brave stand to defend the reputation of her fiancé’s sister against an evil man escalates into an unspeakable act of violence jeopardizing her reputation, he college scholarship, and her freedom—and costs her the man she loves;
How Ruth’s resilience and perseverance earns her a college degree, after a leave of absence to brave danger as an activist for black citizens’ voting rights in Birmingham, Alabama; and
How, after surviving another heartbreaking betrayal and through a sudden, unexpected turn of circumstances, Ruth at last finds her true calling, true love, and peace of mind.
Anchored in landmark events such as Brown v. Board of Education, the Little Rock desegregation and the long, dangerous roads fighting for equal rights, PATHS OF PROMISE tells the story of a fictional woman with a firm, proud place in history. Through her courage and unshakable character, Ruth Yuell proves her father’s belief: “One person could make change happen.”
About the Author
DONNA J. GRISANTI made her debut as a published novelist in 2006 with Wandering Hearts. A former senior nursing administrator, she now divides her time between writing, family, and church. She lives in Tucson, Arizona.
An Interview with Donna Grisanti, author of
PATHS OF PROMISE
1. Your novel is written from the perspective of an African-American woman who tells her story of overcoming obstacles during the Jim Crow era. As a white author, was it difficult to write from your character’s perspective? Were you concerned you wouldn’t get the emotions and struggles right?
Yes, I was concerned about the necessary hurdles of accuracy and authenticity – I always am in anything I write. But I research things exhaustively. Secondly, I had positive reviews and literary compliments regarding my multicultural efforts and portrayals in my first novel “Wandering Hearts”; in crafting and molding the characters and setting regarding the obstacles, emotions and struggles for African-American and Chinese-American characters. Might I also quote from a recent WSJ article, “No Shades of Gray” (Saturday/Sunday August 25-26, 2012, page C5) regarding white authors accurately portraying black culture. In an earlier Huffington Post article, Henry Louis Gates Jr. said that “anyone has the right to write about anything available to be written about” but I would hold myself to a higher standard of what the article says is a higher hurdle – how to do it well. I wanted to do it well.
2. Ruth, the main character of your book, is dedicated to eradicating racial discrimination through nonviolence. Yet at some points she struggles to contain her anger against the stunning brutality and abuse she encounters. Is violence ever justifiable in your opinion?
No, only in self-defense. Ruth quells her immediate anger, and in the long run, works toward socially-acceptable, positive change despite her hardships and personal feelings – in the context of an ever-supportive family. Philosophically, Ruth is also aided by her religious beliefs, which also give her strength and guidance.
3. Your book spans the era of Jim Crow through the Civil Rights movement. Was it easier to write the chapters that deal with the advancement of civil rights rather than the chapters that deal with the discrimination African-Americans faced?
Both areas were challenging. I needed to successfully express the broken promises, back-sliding and oppressive nature of the Jim Crow era on African-Americans as well as the rock-solid commitment of the civil rights organizers and their followers to work toward equality. I also wanted to effectively illustrate the slow and painstaking nature of their quest: the battles in the courts, the dangerous nature of holding demonstrations in hostile environments using only non-violent techniques, the razor’s edge of dealing with the ever-present threats and the sometimes deadly aftermath in retribution for these efforts.
4. Religion plays a big role in Ruth’s life. Is there a biblical character that inspired you to create the character of Ruth?
The modern civil rights movement was birthed on the principles of equality, honor, faith, courage and strength embodied in the African-American churches which served as the institutional, communication and training facilities for the effort, especially on the local level. At that time, Ruth and her peers would have sat every Sunday morning…