When My Haley met her late husband, Alex, he had finished only one third of his now famous 1976 book, “Roots.”
My Haley, who will be speaking at Inkwood Books, 216 S. Armenia Ave., at 7 p.m. on Feb. 26, said Alex missed every deadline with his publisher and television producer.
“After working together almost 24 hours a day in Jamaica, 18 months later, I walked that completed manuscript into Doubleday publisher,” said Haley, who collaborated on writing, rewriting, setting schedules, working through dialogue and putting together scenes.
Haley of Las Vegas will discuss her historical novel, “The Treason of Mary Louvestre” at the South Tampa independent bookstore.
“It was enormously exciting to discover a little-known Civil War spy, Mary Louvestre, when working with Alex on another project several decades ago,” said Haley, who has a Ph.D. from Ohio State University. “I wanted to write about a woman of purpose and substance that I personally resonated with. She reminded me of the strong women I grew up with back home in West Virginia.”
Haley said the story she wrote about Louvestre is dramatic, poignant and “full of riveting adventure.”
“That this black Norfolk seamstress copied valuable plans of the CSS Merrimack – a refurbished ironclad ship — now the CSS Virginia, and managed to get those plans to Washington, really sealed it for me,” she said. “I had to write about this courageous woman of American history, a true legend.”
Haley’s visit to Tampa coincides with Black History Month, which she says is a celebration for all Americans.
“It is a time to highlight and focus upon the achievements and contributions of black people in this country,” she said. “It is tantamount to a huge family reunion. We pause and talk about our great notables as well as other blacks who have been an inspiration to us as we go along our life’s journey.”
She said Black History Month reminds people to find out about their roots.
“We take time, if we can, and talk to our elders asking them about their personal stories and in so doing, we learn more about ourselves,” Haley said. “Some of us return to the detective work of family genealogy, further seating ourselves in pride. Taken together, as we know better about who we are and share with others of many races and cultures who are invested in the same task, we find we are all part of the rich, vivid tapestry I like to call the Fabric of America.”
Haley still shares her vivid memories of the 1977 ABC miniseries, a dramatization of Kunta Kinte’s enslavement. When Haley met Alex, he had just gotten to the part where Kunta Kinte came to America.
“Seeing the book into miniseries was astounding,” Haley said. “For example, on the set watching Cicely Tyson holding onto a rough pole in the middle a makeshift shack with Maya Angelou standing by to assist her as midwife – in seconds, disbelief was suspended. Cicely carried everyone away, including me. It was impossible not to believe that right then and there she was giving birth to Kunta Kinte.”
Although her husband passed away in 1992, Haley said she thinks he would be optimistic about what people can achieve.
“He was full of life, humor, drive for his writing craft, with a touch of downright silliness sometimes,” she said. “He’d be working on something special, surely believing in the potential of Americans.”
Paula Stahel of South Tampa is a close friend and editor working with Haley. She said people attending the Feb. 26 event will be treated to Haley’s “entrancing storytelling.”
Stahel said Haley will be available to sign copies of her book.
“My is now at work on her second book about Mary, who went on to serve as a spy during Reconstruction,” said Stahel, who teaches the “Pages of my Life” course at the Life Enrichment Center in Carrollwood.
Stahel said Haley will also be a special guest storyteller at 7 p.m. Feb. 27 for the “Decades of Day Work IV,” presented by Your Real Stories Productions at freeFall Theater, 6099 Central Ave., St. Petersburg. The series mixes music, drama, poetry and spoken word to tell the stories of domestic day workers and their employers.
For more information on Haley’s visit to Inkwood Books, call (813) 253-2638. For more information on the “Decades of Day Work IV,” call (727) 498-5205 or visit the freeFall website.