No one had written it yet, so he took Toni Morrison’s advice
W. D. Foster-Graham’s “Never Give Up: A Christopher Family Novel” (AuthorHouse) is the newest saga in a successful series. In fact, a television adaptation wouldn’t be a stretch as the dynamics aren’t far from the hit series “Greenleaf” (Oprah Winfrey Network).
Like “Greenleaf,” the Christopher clan luxuriates in upscale life, a setting of prestigious, powerful African Americans, only instead of a church dynasty, with “Never Give Up” we have the world of law.
“The series itself,” says Foster-Graham, “was created out of a need. The novels [I had read] about African American men, they were down and out. Broke, busted and disgusted, unemployed, on drugs, incarcerated or dead. If they were successful [it] was limited to sports, entertainment or illegal employment.
“So, taking a page from my father, I said I could complain about it or write it myself. In the words of Toni Morrison, ‘If there’s a story you want to read and it hasn’t been written yet, you must be the one to write it.’ That’s how the Christopher Family came about, a large, wealthy, powerful African American family.”
“Never Give Up” follows the fictional house of legal legend and beloved patriarch Earl James Berry. One of Hennepin County’s earliest Black district attorneys, he notched a conviction rate that saw him seated on the criminal court bench, where he enjoyed a distinguished career and a reputation for being tough but fair.
It may all come to a tragic end when he goes to run an errand at the store and might not make it back, having been shot and gravely wounded. On what they pray is not a deathwatch, his wife, children and a grandchild each sees his life and legacy through their own eyes.
One can expect “Never Give Up” to resonate especially well with Twin Cities readers who’ve seen the rise of Justice Alan Page and State Attorney General Keith Ellison. Foster-Graham reflects on his success to date: “My ‘Christopher Family Novel’ series has [done so well] because of my own roots as an African American gay man, growing up in South Minneapolis and having lived in Chicago for several years.
“The highest compliments I’ve received by my readers have been, ‘I know somebody like that,’ ‘I have a relative or coworker like that character,’ ‘That’s something that happened to me.’ Though my series is historical fiction, I grew up with many of the actual events that took place in it. When writing about the characters in my parents’ generation, I had the benefit of conversations with the elders of my large extended family about those times in the 1940s, since I was born in 1952.”
He found inspiration as an author in celebrated novelist and James Baldwin Award for Literary Excellence winner E. Lynn Harris. He also likes Toni Morrison and Maya Angelou. “Those are the people in history who’ve influenced me.
“And I like Gloria Naylor. When she wrote ‘The Women of Brewster Place’ the story was actually several stories with a common thread. That’s what I did with ‘Never Give Up.’”
He adds, “Since I love romance novels, I also like Brenda Jackson and, as a fellow Black gay/SGL author, James Earl Hardy.”
There are four more titles in the “Christopher Family Novel” series: “Mark My Words Books 1, 2 & 3” and “You Never Know.” Look for the sixth, “The Right To Be,” in early 2021.
Minneapolis native son W. D. Foster-Graham earned a B.A. in psychology from Luther College. He is recognized by the International Society of Poets as one of its “Best New Poets of 2003” and is a guest writer for Wyatt O’Brian Evans (The Huffington Post, The Washington Post, The Advocate). Visit his website: wfostergrahamauthor.com.