“The Negro race, like all races, is going to be saved by its exceptional men. The problem of education, then, among Negroes must first of all deal with the Talented Tenth; it is the problem of developing the Best of this race that they may guide the Mass away from the contamination and death of the Worst, in their own and other races…we may build bread winning, skill of hand and quickness of brain, with never a fear lest the child and man mistake the means of living for the object of life…”
This notion of the Talented Tenth, first coined by Dr. W.E.B. DuBois, is the very foundation and lifeblood of this novel, The Other Americans. In it, I explore those “other Americans” that mainstream culture seldom talks about—those affluential, old-money black families of the South who’ve been vacationing next to the whites in Nantucket for generations and who, according to DuBois, quietly hold the society of power and weight of the African American race on their shoulders. Set in the contemporary South amongst an affluent and storied African American clan, The Other Americans is a timely and powerful family saga about the abuse suffered at the hands of the privileged and their ambitions. Within these pages, this notion of the Talented Tenth comes to life, examining the modern-day African Americans of affluency and means—and how happiness may come in different shades within that group than what ‘normal folk’ aspire to, how it can hold a different meaning and allude them for different reasons.
The Dessommes family has had their share of troubles—as rival siblings, Vincent and Jillian can attest—but as Vincent prepares to step into his birthright as CEO of The Dessommes Group, the repercussions of this looming shift in power and an unresolved childhood secret risk shattering the careful façade the family has erected to maintain their power…
The impact of the power shift shakes up the lives of Vincent’s wife, Delaney, a would-be social worker who unwittingly gave up her chance at a career for a ritzy marriage she never really wanted; her best friend, Aaliyah, who still believes in the American Dream, even though her trials with corporate climbing make it more and more difficult to put faith in; Nigel, a former classmate of Vincent’s tries to resist the unrelenting pull the extravagant world they live in has on his life; and Jillian, the abdicated social princess of the family who has a little problem with razor blades and haunting memories from her past.
Cutting deep into the fabric of family ties and the scars of their upbringings, the Dessommes family is forced to confront its long-hidden dark history as they learn what happens when class lines clash inside of a crucible of decades-old allegiances and secrets—and of how far we’ll go to harm ourselves…and others. As the characters—deeply divided by class lines and caste systems—collide, often unbeknownst to each of them, their lives weave together and touch each other poignantly as they discover the way that sisterhood can pull us back from the brink of self-destruction…or push us to it. What unfolds is a stunning portrait of the heart and core of an American family in a story that is as page-turning as it is significant.
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Featured Image courtesy of Felice Laverne