"She had to believe that a world could exist for them, even if they had to make it for themselves."
Set in Georgia from the years 1933 to 1967, For a Little Patch of Ground chronicles the lives of John Byron, a White man, and Sistine Young, a Black woman who love each other in defiance of their segregated communities and the miscegenation laws of the post-civil war south. The novel focuses on their struggle to create a home for themselves and their children against the wills of their separate but entangled communities.
John and Sistine come of age in the cloistered Appalachian mining-community of Long Swamp, GA. There moonshinin’, preachin’, and the trials of childhood tether their separate worlds. It is Sistine’s orphaned cousin, Bill Bradley, who brings she and John together. However, after John’s grandfather dies, an act of racial-violence shatters their community. This causes John and Sistine to leave the mountains with their unborn child, settling in Mosley, GA. In this small Southern town, hatred threatens their very existence. The powers which uphold Mosley’s Confederate monument force this couple to choose between the construction of Race and the building of Family. In the end, John and Sistine discover that love is the intimacy that endures.
For a Little Patch of Ground weaves together thirty-four years of life in the American South using the poetry of “Ole Time Religion” to illustrate the necessity of redemption. It is a non-linear narrative that reframes the Hero’s Journey as a confrontation with White supremacy. This novel challenges the reader to divorce Whiteness from Christianity and to interrogate America’s conception of its Southern people. This narrative calls the reader to go against the racialization of romantic love, which has justified racial segregation in the West for more than five hundred years.
The novel’s characters fight against a society whose policing of who we love, how we love, and why we love upholds oppressive socio-political systems. This narrative illustrates how love, when freed from allegiances to political mythology and constructions of race, is the bedrock upon which we may create a renewed world. This world is rendered in the conception of a family that defies American expectations of racial belonging, without seeing the world through a ‘color-blind’ lens. The story of John Byron and Sistine Young expresses that the spirit of emancipation lies within the human heart. Yet, at its core, For a Little Patch of Ground is just a love story.
For A Little Patch of Groundwas influenced by Absalom, Absalom !Cane, and Their Eyes Were Watching God. The novel is similar to Jesmyn Ward’s Sing, Unburied, Sing , Colson Whitehead’s The Underground Railroad, and Cormac McCarthy’s All the Pretty Horses. The manuscript is complete.