Who Plays The Old White Man In Coming To America Interview with J. Everett Prewitt, author of "Snake Walkers"

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Interview with J. Everett Prewitt, author of "Snake Walkers"

Reader Views is very pleased to speak with author J. Everett Prewitt, winner of four first place awards for his first novel, “Snake Walkers.” Thanks for sharing your thoughts with us today.

Juanita: J. Everett, please tell us the meaning of the title of your book, “Snake Walkers.”

J. Everett: This chapter is based on the myth of an African tribe that teaches its children from birth how to pass through a nest of poisonous snakes without being bitten.

Juanita: Tell us a little bit about the main character, Anthony Andrews.

J. Everett: Anthony comes from an upper class Black family that was more concerned with preserving culture than seeking justice in the fifties and sixties. Through no fault of his own, he is clever but ignorant of life. Because of his new job, Anthony meets people he respects. They have different ideas about fighting racial injustice and life as a whole, and Anthony’s opinion changes.

Juanita: Is Anthony from anyone you know?

J. Everett: I didn’t have friends like Anthony, but I was in the upper class when I was young because of my mother’s condition as a rule of thumb. I quit after a year. Some of them were as close as I got to someone like Anthony. There are other Anthonys in the world today, so it was not difficult to understand their views on issues like human rights.

Juanita: How does Anthony make peace with the problems of his childhood while trying to solve the mysterious abandonment of the small town, and the disappearance of fourteen white people?

J. Everett: Appreciation of Anthony. He fights his demons head on. He works and runs hoping that somehow this will solve his problem. Although he was a little shy at first, he continues to fight the violence caused by his discovery and ends up becoming a stronger person because of it.

Juanita: “Snake Walkers” is a refreshing new look at the racial conflicts of today’s America. How common was it for ‘white people’ to disappear?

J. Everett: I don’t know how common it was, but as soon as I wrote this article, I started hearing a lot of stories about black people in the south fighting black people. One person told me that his family owned a farm that was attacked by the Klan. His grandfather, when explaining the story, simply said, “He came to the place, but he didn’t leave”. I think there are a few stories like that out there. I hear a lot when I speak all over the country.

Juanita: I think you will continue to hear stories like this as your book reaches more readers. Who do you see as your audience, and what are they saying about “Snake Walkers”?

J. Everett: My audience is as diverse as the characters in this book. I have spoken to all white audiences, black book clubs, library groups and was a keynote speaker at a groundbreaking ceremony. I have received only positive responses to this book so far. Some wondered if there were people like Bobby Joe Byrd, a white man who fought for the rights of black people. I ask them if they remember John Brown. I have met members both black and white who claim to be able to identify what happened in the book. I hope that eventually I can speak to young people, especially young black people.

Juanita: Tell us about the research you did on “Walking Snakes.”

J. Everett: I visited the cities I’ve written about (except Evesville), talked to several people there and others who were from there, read newspaper articles and researched the Internet to find out more about my history. An Arkansas author was very helpful in pointing me to books about Arkansas. The most helpful person however was an old white lady who was in the library at Wynn, researching her parents. He told me more about the area than all my sources combined.

Juanita: How important is the word about this unrecognized side of history?

J. Everett: It’s very important. When showing a minority culture or race, there should be equality. I can find a thousand books on hangings, beatings, executions and so on, but very few of the families who have faced physical abuse and overcome. Without coordination, both insiders and outsiders of a culture or tribe tend to see the group as victims and act in unison.

Juanita: What is/is the main theme of “Snake Walkers”?

J. Everett: There are a few. There is no one who “wins the argument” when it comes to fighting injustice. Your strength comes from within. A strong and supportive family is essential in dealing with unimaginable challenges. Persistence and an open mind are essential to dealing with life’s tricky challenges.

Juanita: You finished high school, you went to Lincoln University, and you were drafted, all through the 60s. What were your experiences of aging in those ancient times, and how has that affected your writing?

J. Everett: From a young age, I felt that I had to fight against the injustices that I faced. Although I was ready, fighting was not physical. However, it required the idea that race does not make a person inferior or superior. In those difficult times, this belief was challenged, but then it was strengthened so often that it was no longer a question. Therefore, my writing is focused on telling the stories of like-minded people that lead to success and success. That’s the life I lived in those days and that’s how my family lived. My father, mother, uncles, aunts and cousins ​​were great mentors in this regard as they repeatedly overcame obstacles and became successful people.

Juanita: What inspired you to write “Snake Walkers?”

J. Everett: I remember when I was young I heard stories about revenge, rebellion and struggle of the black people in the South from various elders, and those stories stuck with me. Mr. Johnson made it clear when he saw that “All did not win and we did not all win.” I also videotaped my father, uncles and aunts about their stories growing up in Arkansas and often wondered why no one had recorded the stories I heard. I thought I would. There is an African proverb that says, “Until lions have their own historians, hunting legends will always honor the hunter”.

Juanita: “Snake Walkers” is amazing, the first book to appear, receiving many awards and recognition. Will you be writing another one soon, and if so can you tell us a little about it?

J. Everett: My next book will be called Two Wolves. It will be the sequel to Snake Walkers. The setting will be Cleveland, Ohio in 1969 after the Glenville riots. Anthony, the protagonist in Snake Walkers is a reporter for a small newspaper and Raymond Williams (the heir appears to be the patriarch of the family) has come home from the Vietnam War. There will be several subplots, but Raymond’s friend, Myra, is missing, and even though he graduated from college, it will take all his street knowledge to find out what happened, and deal with the consequences.

Juanita: Thank you so much for these enlightening questions for J. Everett. Are there any final thoughts you’d like to share with your readers?

J. Everett: I was a little shocked by the response to the book. I started writing to fill a void because, in my opinion, the underrepresentation of strong, resilient black families and the positive outcomes others have experienced when they resisted injustice. I think this has touched a lot of people and I’m happy. I am sorry that my father who died a few years ago at the age of 95 was not able to tell me this.

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