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“J. Douglas Allen-Taylor’s 'Sugaree Rising' Is An Instant Classic”
OAKLAND, CA--The many followers of the writings of local writer J. Douglas Allen-Taylor may be surprised by the subject of the Oakland journalist’s first novel, “Sugaree Rising,” but it’s going to be a good surprise.
Instead of the up-to-date Bay Area political breakdown we’re so used to hearing from Allen-Taylor, he has chosen something farther away in time and distance: the government-planned flooding out of a largely-African-American community in rural South Carolina during the Depression years.
Loosely based upon actual historical events, “Sugaree Rising” shows how Black resistance operated in the time long before the civil rights period, in an era when lynchings were common and the Klan was in power, and Black People in the Deep South risked their lives when speaking out against whites.
But “Sugaree Rising” is much, much more than a protest novel.
Gradually, by alternating cajoling and begging and threats of more elbow punches, Yally dragged the whole story out of them. Lam Jackson’s daddy, Bonk, had heard it across the river at Jaeger’s Store that morning, and when he got back over on the cable-barge, he had gone out with his two sons, Lam and Dokie, to spread the news. The whitefolks were making plans to put a dam across the Sugaree River somewhere just above Cashville, the closest town to Yelesaw Neck. The dam—if what Bonk Jackson had heard could be believed—would leave a deep lake in the bottomlands basin from Cashville all the way north to the county seat at St. Paul and between the town of Sandy Station to the west and the Swamp to the east—the rivers and creeks, hundreds of homes, thousands of farmland acres, a wide collection of villages including the little junction of Jaeger’s Cross just over the Sugaree from Yelesaw, the bulk of the Swamp, as well as Yelesaw itself. Until now, the only dams she had ever known were the little blockages of sticks and mud she and other Yelesaw children put over the creeks sometimes to make a small barrier pool to fish or swim in, but this one—if Bonk Jackson could be believed, of course—would flood out or touch its waters on practically every place she had ever been in during her entire life. The enormity of it was too much for Yally to take in.
“Why the whitefolk want for flood-up all’a that?” she asked, in bewilderment.
“Who know, maybe for make it easier for catch fish,” Dink said, sucking his teeth.
From Chapter One
"The News From Cross'Oba-The-River"