Hardy, McConaughey, Buscemi & Boseman in Rookie Novelist’s Dream Team

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Something that some authors think about is who would they cast in a movie of their book. Right from the start, I had my dream team selected. For the slick cockney accented Londoner Tiker, and the lead I couldn’t go past Mr. Tom Hardy. Even when he’s a lousy bugger you love Hardy. Matthew McConaughey a true-blue southerner gets to play villain Confederate, General Hatann Rebddof Retorfs. Steve Buscemi is Botham, the man with many hats. ‎Chadwick Boseman is York who is the star of volume 2 the next book “York’s Story.” Only 10-year-old Sovrin hasn’t been cast in my mind, due to my limited knowledge of today’s child stars. Now, I’m acutely aware that such a cast is probably unrealistic, but who cares. Once or twice during the writing, I wondered what Hardy would say in this situation…

Sovrin’s Star at Amazon: http://a.co/6z7NBnf

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Gratitude Vicariously

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Sovrin’s Star by John Reyer Afamasaga takes place in the South at the end of the American Civil War. It doesn’t set out to teach a lesson. However, the awakenings experienced by the characters are nothing less than life-changing. In one scene, disabled child Sovrin; orphaned during the war experiences the meaning of gratitude when he comes up with the most inventive and creative way to thank Tiker a con-artist from London for rescuing him. This is not a self-help book, but it manages to effortlessly explore ethics and guilt through the eyes of ten-year-old Sovrin and Tiker who is a spy.

Amazon: http://a.co/ctrNwA2

Comparable Suffering?

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Sovrin’s Star by John Reyer Afamasaga is a powerful, yet tender story of comparable suffering. Set in the South at the end of the American Civil War, life is hellish for everyone. Sovrin, an orphaned boy with spina bifida. Tiker, a street fighter and con artist from the streets of Cheapside London was also an orphan. York, a slave all his life. Botham, a Jew whose parents fled Poland earlier in the century. The characters are woven meticulously into a pool of pity in which antagonist Confederate General Hatann Rebddof Retorfs stomps; splashing not only tears but feelings that stay with the reader long after they place this enthralling story down.

—John Reyer Afamasaga

Redemption Played Out in Old South Between Englishman and Disabled Boy in New Novella

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Tyler Tichelaar reviewed Sovrin’s Star — 5 stars!
July 20, 2018

Sovrin’s Star:
Mississippi Connection, Volume One
John Reyer Afamasaga
Three Times Dot Org LLC (2018)
ISBN: 978-1-62501-204-3

Sovrin’s Star by John Reyer Afamasaga is the first book in the new Mississippi Connection Trilogy.

It opens with an atmospheric scene set in the Old South just as the Civil War has ended. People are trying to get over the border from Mississippi to Tennessee. Standing in line is a young boy named Sovrin. Immediately, Afamasaga pulls us into Sovrin’s world and makes us forget our own:
“A rope tied around a signpost ran along the ground to the other side of the road, demarcating the land. Men in Confederate gray lined up with their families alongside poor farmers and freedmen in a queue that stretched into the distance. Sovrin wasn’t sure what they were standing in line for. But he sensed that it was in the hope of something better—something of great value, worth the great risk. There was permanency in how they carried possessions with them, and in how antsy the women were as they cradled their young, while the men maintained stoic stone faces. Everyone was determined to get across the rope on the ground.”

At first, nothing seems strange or unusual about Sovrin other than that he is alone. But then when the line moves forward, it becomes clear that he is disabled and has to pivot to push himself forward as he walks. This awkward movement results in some rude laughter from the bystanders and the opening of one confidence man’s heart.
Just as Afamasaga brings us into the setting, he brings the characters to life with his descriptions of them. He describes the confidence man, Tiker, as: “In his top hat, Tiker looked like the ringmaster of the forsaken roadside circus in which Sovrin was the entertainment.” Meanwhile, Sovrin dresses in old sacks that hide the details of his body and make him look healthier than he is. At first, Tiker isn’t even sure if Sovrin is a boy or girl, but once he sees how Sovrin struggles to walk, his insides begin to melt and he feels torn to help.

Tiker is a former prizefighter from England. He came to the United States to make a new life and get rich quick. He is now working for the Confederacy as an agent provocateur and selling fake travel insurance policies. The last thing he expected was a crippled, orphaned boy to change his destiny, and yet that’s exactly what Sovrin does.
Besides his disability, Sovrin has the disadvantage of being an orphan. When forced to walk, the only way he can propel himself forward is by focusing on his happy memories of his parents. He also has some repressed memories. He cannot remember why he is alone or what happened to his parents, though by the end of the novella, he will remember.

To tell what happens next would be to give away too much, but let me say that Afamasaga has created a world where the Old South comes to life in surprising ways. Readers will definitely enjoy Tiker’s ingenuity in righting wrongs.
Several questions about Tiker’s past are left unanswered by the end of the novella, including how he got a velvet vest that he claims was gifted to him by the Queen of England. Fortunately, Afamasaga has two sequels planned: York’s Story and Queenie, the Queen of England, both about minor characters in Sovrin’s Star. It will be interesting to learn more about all Afamasaga’s characters’ backstories and futures as the series continues.

Anyone who enjoys historical fiction and especially Americana will enjoy Sovrin’s Star—there’s a bit of a Mark Twain flavor here and plenty of atmosphere to make you feel like you’ve stepped back into 1865 and the Reconstruction era. These characters are destined to live with you long after you return to the twenty-first century.
For more information about Sovrin’s Star, the Mississippi Connection series, and John Reyer Afamasaga, visit Amazon

— Tyler R. Tichelaar, PhD and award-winning author of Narrow Lives and When Teddy Came to Town

An Interview with James Meredith & Anthony Bourdain on Oxford

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John Reyer Afamasaga, Geno Lee, James Howard Meredith – 6/4/18

Early last Monday morning I set out for Jackson MS in the hope of interviewing James Howard Meredith, the first African American student to enroll at Ole Miss.

All week I was nervous whether the interview with Mr. Meredith would happen. His words to me on the phone after I cold-called him were, “we’ll see; first, you got to find me.” Or, something to that effect. So, with nothing more than half a plan, I showed up in Jackson. On arrival, I called him the first time, and it went to his message, so I waited for ten minutes. At that point I had no idea where the interview was going to take place, Mr. Meredith told me that he’d come to me. Looking around the carpark, I had indiscriminately stopped at, I spotted a Big Apple Inn, which I’d seen on Anthony Bourdain’s Parts Unknown Mississippi Episode back in New Zealand in 2015. I remembered the owner Geno Lee well and wondered if he’d agree for the interview to take place in his establishment? Long story short, I called Mr. Meredith a second time, and he answered. I offered to book a hotel room, or he could come down to Big Apple Inn. Ten minutes later, he and his wife showed up. Geno wasn’t there, but he let his staff know it was okay for me to film the interview there. Within minutes there was a buzz around Mr. Meredith, locals lined up for photos with a hero, “he paved the way, for us,” one admirer said.

When Geno showed up I blurted out “this guy’s world famous; he’s been on CNN…”

Later that day as I downloaded the footage and sat down to write the narrative, I couldn’t help but drop Anthony Bourdain’s name. Four days later…

This morning I was on the Square here in Oxford filming an interview at sunrise. And as streetlights diminished in daylight and my camera lens found Faulkner on his bench—Bourdain’s words about Oxford—my hometown now, even more profound in the wake of his passing: “It’s a lovely, incongruously eccentric little island, a mutation… a magnet for writers, thinkers, and oddballs.”

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Sunrise, Oxford Square – 6/10/18

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Faulkner statue, Oxford Square – 6/10/18

Door Ajar

WORK IN PROGRESS

Documentary
80 minutes
Release 2019

1950 in segregated Mississippi an art professor installs a black artist as his janitor so that he can teach him.

Over a decade before the first black student—James Meredith—was escorted by U.S Marshalls to class at the University of Mississippi in 1962 amidst rioting that led to two deaths, M.B. Mayfield listens to lectures of Prof. Stuart Purser through a cracked door of a janitor’s closet.

Stories like Purser and Mayfield is how folklores are born. Purser, looking for inspiration on the backroads of Mississippi, discovers Mayfield’s artwork displayed on the roadside in his yard.

When Purser accepts a position as the first Chairman of the Art Department at University of Mississippi (Ole Miss) in 1949, he isn’t aware that he is embarking on a journey of activism and social change in the South. If it were not in the pursuit of knowledge and a kick in the shins of segregation, hiding a twenty-six-year-old man in a janitor’s closet would be inhumane. The personal risk is much higher than the maverick art professor cares to calculate. Such is Purser’s empathy for the black man’s plight in the South that he risks everything, thus becoming responsible for Ole Miss’ best-kept secret.

“Purser and Mayfield” consists of interviews with Mayfield’s niece who was there in the later stage of his life, locals, who interacted with and were inspired by the story of the professor and painter.

Pontotoc County Historian Martha Jo Coleman guides us around Mayfield’s hometown Ecru.

Betty, Charles, and their son Randy who was fourteen at the time reminiscing about the time they made frames for Mayfield’s art.

Purser’s daughter-in-law tasked with finding a home for Purser’s archives considers making the pilgrimage to Ole Miss from Washington state.

Author of “The Education of Mr. Mayfield” David Magee details for us the mood of the day in Oxford based on accounts from his father who knew Purser. Magee creates nuance and depth when he pays homage to agents of change—Albin Krebs, the fearless editor of the student newspaper, The Mississippian. And 1949 Nobel Prize for Literature winner William Faulkner for his anonymous donations for Mayfield’s art supplies and travel.

In the end, Purser and Mayfield is a timely reminder that everyone has the power to affect change in whatever climate or condition.

Sometimes all we need is a crack in the door or a glimmer of hope.

Alternate title: Purser and Mayfield – Door Ajar

#AgentsofChangeMississippi

“A thought-provoking and sensitive exploration”

The Yard documentary film

April 27, 2018

UK Film Review

★★★★
Directed by: John Reyer Afamasaga
Starring: Tim Huebner
Documentary Film Review by: Chris Olson

LINK TO ORIGINAL ARTICLE


A thought-provoking and sensitive exploration of the racially notorious legacy of Southern USA that attempts to topple myth and half truths by honouring the reality of one city member’s real past.

 Filmed in Memphis, The Yard refers to a space that is now a parking lot behind a church but was once a slave market, one that was lucratively owned by Nathan Bedford Forrest. Instead of being listed as so on any of the town’s public markers, they just simply say the man was a General in the Confederate army. One history professor called Tim Huebner, who is also a member of the aforementioned church, and a group of other motivated citizens decide to challenge the fiction which has made its way into the public mindset by proposing a new marker is erected, one which acknowledges the way in which Forrest made his fortunes.

 Any documentary film that tackles the reputation of the Southern States is going to have to do so in a manner which is intelligently crafted and balanced if it hopes to avoid a bombastic array of mudslinging and finger pointing. Director John Reyer Afamasaga brilliantly achieves the correct levels of insight, intrigue, and examination whilst staying respectful of the area’s proud attitudes. It’s also a documentary film that has a largely positive and hopeful approach, not afraid to posit the idea that a more harmonious community could be reached if we free ourselves enough to challenge our own ideas of the past and what it means to us now.

 Whilst the specific details in The Yard are local, the film has universal themes that are hugely compelling. One section explores the place of religion during the slave trade which was utterly fascinating, looking at how a slave could be baptised as a Christian but still not gain their earthly freedom. There are so many other threads which are travelled, mostly split using helpful title cards, and Afamasaga is particularly skilled in his pacing that none of the hour feels sluggish or preachy.

 Huebner is a great presence on screen, passionately discussing the issues with Forrest’s legacy whilst bringing in his own emotional standpoint and baggage as a Christian and semi-Southerner. Many of the other figures who appear in the film are equally as stimulating.

 I had two small grievances with The Yard, one was the music. The choices were distracting at times and often ill-suited to the tone and atmosphere. The second was the awkward use of zoom in Huebner’s office. It only happens a couple of times but when it does it felt goofy and reminiscent of The Office. These were only minor though and for the majority of the viewing I was absolutely immersed.

 Viewers interested in history and the racial divide will be in their element with this film, as will audiences looking for an emotionally gripping watch. The tributes paid to the slaves are unforgettable, as is the lasting impact on one’s conscience as we consider the idea of truth in our supposed heroes and how important it is to never stop questioning the “reality” we are presented with.

 

LINK TO ORIGINAL ARTICLE