On Friday, April 17, at 7pm, local author A.B. Westrick will visit the Greene County Library to discuss her 2014 Jefferson Cup Award-winning book “Brotherhood” and the family history that led her to write it.
“Brotherhood,” a historical novel for ages 10 and up, is set in 1867, during the Reconstruction era. The American Civil War is over, but the conflict goes on within Richmond, Virginia, where fourteen-year-old Shadrach and his older brother Jeremiah live. The brothers get involved with a group whose mission is supposed to be to protect Confederate widows like their mother, but they end up with more than they bargained for when the group, now known as the Klu Klux Klan, begins to show its discriminatory and murderous intentions. As a result, Shad finds himself trapped between right and wrong.
Westrick, a mother of four children, didn’t always know that writing was her passion.
“When the kids were growing up, I kept saying to them, ‘Find your passion, what you love,’” she said. “Around the time the youngest went off to kindergarten, I said to myself, ‘What do I love? I keep telling the kids to do what they love, but what do I really love?’”
One creative writing class turned into a few until she decided to go back to school and get a Master of Fine Arts degree in writing. She was writing “horrible stories” but loved it nonetheless and couldn’t stop. While at first she would write stories that she thought other people would like, it was when she began to write for herself that she noticed a difference.
“Now I write what I like, and if I’m really honest, it turns out what really interests me or what I find compelling, other people find compelling, too,” Westrick said.
Westrick moved to Richmond in 1989 and found herself resonating with the city so much so that she eventually chose to make it the setting of her book, which she wrote as the creative thesis for her MFA degree. In addition to visiting museums and researching the Reconstruction era while simultaneously writing for two years, Westrick felt it was also important to visit each location mentioned in “Brotherhood.”
“Everywhere my characters went, I went,” she said.
While Westrick hoped to be able to walk every street her characters did, some appeared to be too rough for a woman to venture alone. In spite of this, she made sure to see everything she could from her car, even if she was too nervous to get out.
One of the most interesting bits of information that Westrick learned while researching for “Brotherhood” was that the Klu Klux Klan originally began as a fraternity, or brotherhood. Their seemingly good intentions are what draw her characters to the group before they discover its true colors.
Although Westrick envisioned “Brotherhood” as a stand-alone novel, many of her readers have expressed interest in a sequel.
“The ending raises questions and I am a person who likes raising questions, so I think that’s part of the reason I liked leaving it there,” she said. “But there have been some people bothered by that.”
After Westrick’s discussion at the library, she will be signing and selling books for those who are interested. If you already own a copy of “Brotherhood,” bring it along with you for her to sign.