Lalita Tademy

Citizens CreekLalita Tademy is the New York Times Bestselling author of two historical novels. Her debut, Cane River, was Oprah’s summer Book Pick in 2001 and was translated into 11 languages, and her second novel, Red River, was selected as San Francisco’s One City, One Book in 2007. Her third novel is Citizens Creek, which was published this month and was chosen by Southern independent bookstores as their "One Book One South" choice for 2014. Lalita Tademy will be participating in a live Q&A Facebook on November 20th at 8 pm EST as part of the One Book One South southern-wide discussion of the book.

LB: How did this story find you?

LT: Historically based, multi-generation stories intrigue me, and I stumbled across my incredible characters in an out-of-print biography written about a black oilman, Jake Simmons Jr. in Oklahoma who made his fortune in the early to mid 1900’s.   Staking a Claim, the Making of a Black Oil Dynasty, by Jonathan Greenburg was instrumental in connecting me to the energy of Cow Tom and Rose. As interesting as Jake Simmons was, what gripped me were the few pages devoted to his mother and his great-grandfather. Cow Tom, a former slave of a Creek Indian chief, rose in the tribe to become an African Creek chief himself. His granddaughter Rose was a fierce woman with a pioneer spirit who raised fourteen children and built her own ranch in Oklahoma. Who could resist these people?

LB: What was the most surprising thing you learned?

LT: I was shocked at how little I knew about Native Americans, and the intersection of blacks and Indians. (By the way, as politically incorrect as it may be to say Indian, between the years of research where all the documentation calls out Indian and living in the 1800s in my head, I’m going to say Indian and not Native American. I hope I’m not offending anyone). I didn’t know that Indians owned slaves in the south before they were Removed along the Trail of Tears to Oklahoma with their slave property. I didn’t know that some slaves were able to use their multilingualism (speaking English as well as several Indian dialects, including Muskoke and Hitchiti) to serve as interpreters and negotiators between the tribes and the U.S. government, earning money to buy their freedom and ascend within the tribe.

Read more: Her ladyship, the editor, speaks with Lalita Tademy