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Peninsula lady writes of blended heritage

PORT TOWNSEND — One wet evening, Lizbeth is having a glass of wine at residence. She lives on the Olympic Peninsula in a city off state Freeway 20, and her husband Dan is out late. He instructed her he had a gathering in Port Angeles.

She’s watching “CSI: Miami” when the doorbell rings. It’s a police officer. Dan has been killed in a wreck on that rural freeway.

So begins “Exiled South,” Port Townsend creator Harriet Cannon’s debut novel. The story that unfolds following the tragedy is certainly one of a girl who first leans on a beloved cousin for help after which, by means of exploration of her household historical past, restarts her life.

Cannon, who moved to the North Olympic Peninsula six years in the past after some three many years in Seattle, has a lot in frequent along with her “Exiled” heroine. Each ladies have deep roots in South Carolina, and each went to reside for a time in South America: Cannon in Chile and Lizbeth in Brazil.

This novel, launched final week on Koehler Books, follows Lizbeth as she returns to her household’s seashore home on Folly Island, S.C., the place she begins to be taught extra about her blended background. Her ancestors’ experiences through the Civil Struggle have been difficult.

A faculty counselor by career, Lizbeth will get a six-month job in Brazil, and is glad for the journey. Working in Rio de Janeiro, she learns concerning the Confederados, Southerners who immigrated to South America as an alternative of remaining in cities similar to Charleston, S.C., after the Civil Struggle.

Lizbeth, who’s white, dives into analysis about her forebears. She finds out about her Black relations — who lived in Brazil, then relocated to the American South the place they confronted hostility from their white kin.

The ending of “Exiled South” acknowledges the ache suffered by Lizbeth and by her household — Black, white and blended. It hints, simply barely, at the potential for reconciliation, generations later.

“I needed to make it actual. This isn’t the made-for-Netflix world,” Cannon mentioned in an interview Friday.

She grew up in a household with various worldviews. There have been some very completely different tales instructed in numerous households, and there have been units of grandparents that didn’t converse to one another.

As an grownup, Cannon adopted her wanderlust and her curiosity about historical past on the non-public and international scale. She’s lived in a number of U.S. cities, consulted for the Boeing Co. and labored for the U.S. State Division in Chile.

Throughout her girlhood summers in South Carolina, Cannon heard vivid household tales from her grandmother, who lived to be 101. This grandmother was the descendant of a girl who skilled the battle of Charleston, S.C., in 1863.

“After I bought to be an grownup, I began trying deeper,” into the tales handed down from the ladies in her household.

“It was at all times behind my head to put in writing a distinct story,” she mentioned.

Cannon is a psychotherapist, now retired from apply. She coauthored a self-help guide about her specialty: “Combined Blessings: A Information to Multicultural and Multiethnic Relationships,” with Rhoda Berlin in 2013. Writing that nonfiction work was a collaborative effort, Cannon mentioned, whereas “Exiled South” was a comparatively solitary one.

That’s to not say she didn’t have an excellent time writing it. Inventing the characters and story was “a blast,” she mentioned. There have been additionally challenges: Cannon is dyslexic.

“By no means in my wildest goals may I’ve change into a author and not using a neighborhood of supporters who believed in me,” she writes within the acknowledgments in the back of “Exiled South.” She thanks her “deep studying author associates” alongside along with her editor, her writer and her husband, Charlie Cannon.

The creator’s hope for her novel is that it’ll mirror the struggles of people that lived by means of the Civil Struggle, who left the South for a international nation in one other hemisphere, and who discovered no welcome after they returned to the house of their mother and father and grandparents.

If the guide has a message, it’s that you simply by no means know what somebody has gone by means of — or what their household has endured. It’s about “not making assumptions about folks based mostly on appearances, or the place somebody is from, or what their final identify is,” Cannon mentioned.

“Exiled” can also be an antiwar guide, she added. Struggle has precipitated too many tragedies on all sides.

“This [book] was one thing of the center,” Cannon mentioned. Now, she’s engaged on her subsequent novel.


Jefferson County senior reporter Diane Urbani de la Paz might be reached at 360-417-3509 or [email protected]

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