Review of A Long Way Back by Reader Views

A Long Way Back  by J. Everett Prewitt is an excellent read that follows a post reporter who is sent to Vietnam to report on the war effort. What he uncovers is the disgusting truth about race in the military and a cover-up designed to protect those in power, while ensuring those who were betrayed are never allowed to have a voice. The story is gripping and it is hard to imagine a time when soldiers would be willing to betray their own. A Long Way Back  simultaneously covers the issue of race, while also subtly taking a look at combat-related post-traumatic stress disorder. The book’s ability to fairly, and accurately tackle both issues is impressive. J. Everett Prewitt is an excellent writer and his writing style is realistic, intense, and seems to accurately capture the time period and military life. Prewitt writes from both the perspective of the post reporter investigating the case of missing black soldiers in Vietnam, and the perspectives of the missing soldiers. Having both perspectives keeps the story fresh and allows the author to cover multiple points of view. Prewitt does an excellent job creating memorable and believable characters the reader cares about.

This book does everything well including pacing, character development, and the storyline itself. It is clear that Prewitt is a good author who is well within his wheelhouse on this one. The only issue I have with the story is that in the second half of the book some of the chapters are told from the perspective of one of the Viet Cong leaders as she stalks the missing soldiers across the jungle. These chapters are short and feel forced, like commercial breaks from the story. I personally feel that they were unnecessary and detracted from the actual story. Given how late in the story these chapters appear and my attachment to the other characters, I just could not find myself caring about the enemy’s perspective and so I hurried through these chapters to get back to the actual story.

Aside from those few chapters on the Viet Cong’s perspective, the book never misses a beat, and the attention to detail within the story is impressive. I have no idea if the story is actually based on true events but it is written well enough that I would not be surprised if that were the case. Prewitt has created a powerfully moving novel with A Long Way Back. It is not a story for the faint of heart, or those looking for an uplifting read, but for those who are interested in a realistic take on race, Vietnam, and post-traumatic stress; A Long Way Back by J. Everett Prewitt delivers a read that will not soon be forgotten.

(Author’s Note)  Hopefully, readers will care about the Viet Cong perspective once they read Something About Ann.  The novella continues the story of a black Viet Nam veteran and a Vietnamese woman who fall in love not knowing they had already crossed paths in Vietnam.  To be published in March 2016.

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Literary Classics Seal of Approval

For Immediate Release

Literary Classics

pr@clcawards.org

Literary Classics Seal of Approval Smaller

Literary Classics is pleased to announce that the book, A Long Way Back, by J. Everett Prewitt, has been selected to receive the Literary Classics Seal of Approval.  The CLC Seal of Approval is a designation reserved for those books which uphold the rigorous criteria set forth by the Literary Classics review committee, a team comprised of individuals with backgrounds in publishing, editing, writing, illustration and graphic design.

A Long Way Back is the gripping tale of a group of Black American soldiers and one young man determined to bring their story to light.  When Anthony, a Washington Post news reporter sent to cover the war in Vietnam, witnesses the return of seven soldiers from a mission he senses a story.  The soldiers, bedraggled and severely shell-shocked, are met with stunned silence.  It seems the other men at base camp seem shocked to learn the men made it back alive.  Anthony feels certain this is a story the Post would want him to cover, but he is refused the opportunity to speak to anyone. He hears hushed rumors of the men having been sent on an illegal mission to Cambodia; but under threat of court-martial, no one will divulge any information about the mission, or the fate of the others who never returned.

Author, J. Everett Prewitt’s vivid depiction of the horrors of war are compounded when intertwined with the racial injustices perpetrated upon the men whose story Anthony hopes to reveal.  A Long Way Back is a powerful and compelling novel.  Recommended for home and school libraries, this book has earned the Literary Classics Seal of Approval.

 Literary Classics, an organization dedicated to furthering excellence in literature for young readers, takes great pride in its role to help promote classic literature which appeals to youth while educating and encouraging positive values in the impressionable young minds of future generations.   To learn more about Literary Classics, you may visit their website at http://www.clcawards.org or http://www.childrensliteraryclassics.com

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Chrissy the Greek

I enjoyed the match between Serena Williams and Maria Sharapova at the Australian Open, but, alas, I had to be subjected to Chris Evert’s snide commentary.  Evert concedes Serena is probably the best who’s played the game, but can’t seem to get past Serena’s athleticism.  In fact, according to Evert, it’s all Serena has or has ever needed to win.  If I, an average tennis player, can see how Serena sets up a point, varies her pattern of play, and changes her shot selection when necessary, I’m sure Evert, the former pro, does too.

But yesterday, Evert made the statement, one she’s proffered before, that the only difference between Serena and Maria is Serena’s athleticism.  Really? It reminds me of assertions sports commentators have made in the past about black athletes, alluding they were all brawn and no brains.  Jimmy the Greek, Al Campanis and a few others I recall got called on it.

In no sport does the best player win on just athleticism, why would Evert think tennis is any different?  On one tennis website that discusses what’s necessary to win constantly, they state: “Tennis players who consistently win their matches bring more to the court than a killer forehand or serve. Winning is an art that involves the ability to observe your opponent and act on what you see. It also takes mental fortitude and an ability to protect, and even mask, your own weaknesses.”

Mental fortitude! You will never hear that from Evert. Here’s my take on Evert, giving her the benefit of a doubt she’s not merely a hater.  The game has passed her by.  Evert can’t conceive of a female player who has combined the characteristics of mental toughness, intelligence, self-confidence, focus, determination, and yes, athleticism, to dominate for so long.

But I’m not taking the hater label off the table entirely.  Evert then comments that Sharapova makes more money than Serena through endorsements and knows it irritates Serena. It’s like some schoolyard kid who watches their friend lose a foot race and says, “Yeah, well, the other guy’s dad drives a beat-up car.”

Okay, my mother always told me to be nice, so I won’t call Evert a hater.  But , I can’t call her uninformed either.  So, I’ll let the reader come to their own conclusion.

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The Fisherman

I used to call my father-in-law an “expert fisherman.”   Emery loved to start a “lively discussion” at family dinners or whenever the time was convenient to him.  He would toss the bait out—usually current politics—and slowly reel his line in.  He was very patient; sometimes he would just let the bait sit out there.  Cast and reel in women’s rights, cast and reel in the current economy, cast and reel Kent State, cast and reel Viet Nam. Wham!  Someone would grab the bait, he lands a beauty—and there is no escape or retreat.  A doomed argument ensued, and Emery would get this sly grin knowing that he got ya.

I married my wife, Barbara, 39 years ago.  And so began my warm relationship with my in-laws.  We went over for Sunday dinners of pot roast, carrots and potatoes, and pies.  There was always a pie cooling in the kitchen.  I was in heaven.  Emery was a very conservative-thinking individual, and after dinner on Sunday, he would read the paper and the fishing would begin.  All it took was an article that rankled him.  His comments would bait the hook, and we were off and running with the damned discussion.  I would mentally smack myself in the head and curse the fact he got me or my wife again.

However, he was the father I never had; he took me under his wing when I married his daughter, and I learned a lot from him.  He was always patient and methodical when he was explaining a project.  I soon learned to have a mechanical problem or a gardening problem on hand when my wife and I would visit, because that would sidetrack his urge to fish for “lively discussion” topics.  After a respectable time passed, and I knew the “fishing gear” was about to come out, I would toss out my current issue.  Emery was very geared to mechanical problems, and once he caught the gist of my problem he became intent on solving it.  Then I was the one with the sly grin.

He was a person with a great sense of humor, too.  The family owned about 8 acres, and Emery’s dream was to be a small farmer.  While still working as a project engineer for a company that manufactured rubber products, Emery was set on clearing some of his property for growing cukes for pickling, red raspberries, and to fulfill the wish of his wife—an extended pasture for raising Arabian horses.  That is, however, another story.

This project involved cutting trees down, clearing brush, etc.  Emery was the person who handled the chainsaw.  He paid little attention to where his help might be and would just cut away.  It was up to us to duck and run, and if one of us yelled when he was dropping a limb too close to where we were standing, he would just grin and ask, “What were you doing standing there?”

My mother-in-law was the philosopher of the family.  I had many discussions with her over the years and she, too, was getting a little tired of the “fishing excursions.”  Over the years, Emery had become involved with making wine and beer, and she liked the idea my wife proposed about learning the craft.  It would be good for him to pass his knowledge on.  After all, Emery had learned the process of wine making from his father, so it was time to hand it down.

This was the best move ever.  When were together, our concentration was on brewing beer or wine.  We discussed specific gravity, malts, hops, wine chemistry, grapes, and it was a magic process when we were brewing.  No politics, no arguments, just the sound of the bubbling coming from the airlocks that kept the outside world from contaminating the brewing wort (beer) or must (wine).

Emery died in 1995 from cancer.  During his last six months of life, he endured a great amount of pain.  But, even during this time, he maintained his sense of humor.  Once, my wife and I brought over some huge potatoes we had grown in our garden, and he immediately ordered me to weigh them on the scale he had in the basement.  I obliged, and the one was almost 2 pounds; his comment was, “That was some Joner!”  He was also amazed at our raspberries that we grew without spraying or fussing over.  My wife would bring fresh-picked berries to their house, and they never made it past Emery.  She would give them to him and he would just shake his head because they were so good.

When he was close to death, he died after he was certain that all the family was present and he had spoken to them.  He was making sure that all were well.  No more “fishing expeditions.”  This November marks the 20th year since his passing.  I still miss him.

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Song For My Father

My father’s birthday was December 8.  Every year I celebrate my mother and father’s entrance on earth.  This year I found the eulogy I gave at my dad’s funeral.  There’s an African saying that “If you’re a good person, even after death your grave is loved.”  My father’s grave is loved.

SELMER EVERETT PREWITT  (1908-2004)

August 25, 2004

First, I would like to give thanks to our ancestors whose efforts allowed us to be here today.  I would like to acknowledge the last of the children of James and Virginia Prewitt, my aunt, Denotra Prewitt Rucker.  I would also like to recognize my mother and my father’s wife for sixty-three years, Margaret Anne Prewitt, and my sister, Marcia Prewitt Spiller.

My sister and I agree with no discussion that we were blessed to have been born into this family where our role models and ultimately our heroes—once we were mature enough to know the difference— sat across from us each evening for dinner.

Our father wasn’t a very talkative man.  Sometimes he would come home from work, sit at the table, maybe ask what we did that day, and he was finished. He hardly ever talked about work unless something funny or strange occurred. At my first dinner over my parent’s house after coming home from Vietnam, my father looked at me, I nodded, he nodded, and that was our conversation about the war.

But when our father did talk, we listened.  I was about fourteen standing in front of the bathroom mirror getting my hair right for school.  Dad walked past, I don’t believe he even looked in, but as he descended the stairs, he said, “Don’t think you will be successful in this world because you think you are pretty.”

A few years later, dad was teaching me how to drive when a car pulled in front of us. I started to blow the horn.  Dad raised his hand and shook his head.  “Let it go, son. It’s not that important.” He looked at me and said, “If you have to blow your horn, you’ve lost control of the situation.”  I assumed he was talking about driving, but later, I found his advice was one of life’s lessons.

My father lived his life in quiet humility, but that doesn’t mean he wouldn’t pull a gun on you if you crashed his daughter’s party and suggest that you go elsewhere if you were looking for trouble, and it doesn’t mean that if you broke into his house, he wouldn’t chase you for almost a block, catch you, knock you down and hold you for the police, even if you were thirty years younger, four inches taller, and twenty pounds heavier.

But as I watched our dad, I learned the most through his daily interactions with people.  Our father respected everyone equally.  You could be a person on the street asking for twenty-five cents; you might be a tenant from a one-room suite in the back of the office coming in to pay your rent; or you could be a congressman, a dignitary, or a president of a company, it didn’t matter.

And our father commanded respect without seeking it. It was just something people did. It was because of our respect that my father, the hunter, who killed and brought home a deer, elk or caribou almost every time he went out, never knew that my sister and I hated the taste of venison until thirty years later.

It was also because of respect that although my father and I worked together for ten years, we never had an argument.  I asked Marcia one day if she ever remembered our parents quarreling. Her answer, “No. I’m sure our parents did, but they didn’t do it in front of us.”

And it was also because of that respect that after dad determined that aging Cedar Avenue was the only location he needed for his real estate office and that computers were a fad and no better than a typewriter, we parted company. But, I remained vice-president of Prewitt Realty, and he became vice-president of Northland Research Corporation. I kept keys to his office and gave him keys to mine. I also bought him his first computer.

It was out of love years later, though, that when he asked, “Everett, what are you going to do with us when we get too old to take care of ourselves,” I could respond, “Dad, you and mom can move in with me,” and I was honored to have been able to do so.

I remember about fifteen years ago, I met a real estate salesperson at the County Auditor’s, and he asked how my father was doing.  I replied that he was doing well.  Then the man asked, “Your dad wasn’t as successful as some of the big time brokers around town was he?” I looked at him and laughed, but by the time I got to the third floor of the building, I was mad.  Shortly after, I became sad.  I was saddened for the salesperson because of his skewed definition of success.

Dad didn’t wear mink coats or diamond rings, and he was very satisfied with the houses we lived in on Olivet and Thornewood Avenue in the Glenville community.  When he visited Marcia in Atlanta at her 6,000 square foot house, his first comment was, “What do you need with a house that big?”  And you couldn’t melt and pour him into a Cadillac or any other luxury car.  Even if you gave him one, I suspect he would trade it in for a Chrysler New Yorker, because, throughout his life, that is the only car I remember him driving.

Our father was successful.  You can measure his achievements by the thousands of real estate people he mentored over the years throughout the United States.  You can measure his success by the number of friends and acquaintances here at his funeral, or who called, sent cards and expressed condolences in so many other ways. You can measure his success by the number of people he aided in real estate transactions, sometimes not charging a fee because he was more concerned that every party to the transaction be treated fairly rather than how much of a commission he would receive.  You can measure his success by his community work and his contributions both individually and through a host of organizations to make our city and neighborhoods better.  And you can measure his success through our family, and not just our immediate family, but the family sitting in this audience five rows deep.  Sociologists would call us an extended family, but we never needed to reach too far to touch each other.

A few years ago, I had thirty plus relatives over for Christmas, and I watched my father’s chest swell with pride as each of the children, and the adults, cited their accomplishments.  No one in the family was calling from Mansfield Penitentiary, and no one was in a drug rehab program.  Everyone was doing well.  All were productive citizens or good students.

He was proud even though he didn’t raise them.  But, he was responsible for their being here.  The family called my father Moses because he was the first of the children to move to Cleveland from Arkansas. The rest of his brothers and sisters followed, and we’ve been together ever since.

Dad lived life on his own terms, and he left on his own terms.  There have been times when we believed he was drawing his last breath, but every time he bounced back as if he was doing a rope-a-dope with death.  A few months ago, I had to pick him up and carry him to the car, because he was non-responsive. His pallor indicated he wasn’t well.  The doctor prepared us for the worse. His kidney had stopped functioning. We left the hospital that night with my sister looking for her black dress and my mother preparing to tell the rest of the family.

The next morning when we returned, he was sitting in a chair eating breakfast asking, “Where have you all been?  I’ve been trying to call you.”  We shook our heads.  Last Wednesday, my mother and I sat in his bedroom as our father labored to breathe.  I called Marcia. “This is it.  He’s passing.”  A few hours later, I had to call her back.  Dad’s breathing was normal again.  All my sister said was, “My daddy.”

As I look back at my father’s life and his accomplishments, I believe if our father could have one wish in life, if he might ask for the one thing that would make him happiest, it would be that the circle, that symbol of unity, the symbol of beginning and endlessness, the symbol of connectedness that has been passed from our ancestors throughout the ages and now rest with our family, not be broken.

And I believe Marcia would agree, that one of our fondest memories of our father who lived life his way and probably never regretted a minute he spent on earth, will be that as he drove through this world in his Chrysler New Yorker, as he drove through this life, our father never felt a need to blow his horn.

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Darryl

A friend of mine drove from Chicago just to attend my book signing. Darryl Flenoy and I met because we fought when we were younger. I didn’t know I was supposed to be afraid of him and didn’t learn until later that in addition to being one of the baddest dudes in the school, he was a gang leader.

I didn’t see Darryl for fifty or more years, but we recognized each other immediately at a Glenville High reunion. He invited me to breakfast to tell me why he was so angry growing up. Family life was non-existent, so he lived with neighbors. We were at opposite ends of the spectrum in our childhood experiences, but we had the same spirit.

Darryl had a stellar career in law-enforcement, but, more importantly, he became a great husband and parent. I’m so very proud of the brother for turning his life around and so happy we became the best of friends. Here’s to you my brother.

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And Pete’s banjo gently weeps

“I have sung in hobo jungles, and I have sung for the Rockefellers, and I am proud that I have never refused to sing for anybody…I love my country very deeply.”—Pete Seeger.

In 1986, I saw Pete Seeger and Arlo Guthrie in concert at the Front Row Theater—the Highland Heights wonderful theater-in-the-round (unfortunately, the Front Row met its demise in 1995, replaced by a Home Depot).    Pete’s banjo, however, lives on at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in Cleveland.

Pete Seeger, legendary folk singer, dies at 94 – The Washington Post.

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