An Original Story by Jervey Tervalon!

by Jessica on November 17, 2014

The Bookstore and the Writer
Jervey Tervalon

Soon as I realized books could be bought, I wanted to buy every book, and when the book club order sheet came around in elementary school I was broken hearted not to be able to afford every damn book. I never really changed. When I finally had my own home office my friend noticed that I had turned it into a kind of elementary scho9ol library display of Andrea Norton science fiction works. I loved her covers. Books, books, books. I read in the shower, I read while eating spaghetti sauce… people loaned me books at their own peril. When I sold my first novel it was like being reborn as a new creature that resided on the shelves of bookstores. Some crazy multinational corporation gave me money to do what I’d do for free, but it was all so abstract and heady – the concrete reality didn’t hit me until that day came for my first public reading at Vroman’s and I saw dozens of my first novel, Understand This. I felt for the first time, and probably the last time truly like a real author. People came to see me read, lots of them! Sure, they probably knew that afterward there would be gumbo and other treats if they got an invite to the book party at the house.

For many of who love and live the life of the mad scribbler, Vroman’s is the real bookstore of note in the region. Our careers might go up and down but when we see our titles on Vroman’s shelves it’s reassurance that we exist in the literary world, and unlike some libraries the bathrooms are usually clean.

Some of the most fun I’ve ever had teaching was through the courses Vroman’s offered. Once in a memoir course I had a former airline stewardess a woman in her 70’s, and still very much gorgeous, write the best opening line of a memoir I’ve read in 30 years of teaching,: “I was born in 1938 in Germany to my father’s great happiness, but not because of my gender but because my father would not have to attend Adolf Hitler’s birthday party.” And hers wasn’t the most memorable of the memoir. Another woman wrote about having a Red Cross passport because her dad was a WW II GI and mom, Korean, and somehow she ended up in the American/English Concession in Shanghai raised by nuns. Sadly she gave up on her memoir, stopped because she was worried her children in the US would be embarrassed to learn of her disreputable roots. Once when I was reading from my noel, Dead Above Ground, set in new Orleans about a murder in my family and the Creole community, someone heard two people in the audience discussing my Creoleness. Seemingly I didn’t pass their brown bag test. In their opinion, I belonged to another ethnic group: yep, the tribe of writers.