Inspired by debut author Natalie Baszile’s own life and family history, Queen Sugar ($27.95) is a mother-daughter story of reinvention—about an African American woman who inherits a sugarcane farm in Louisiana, and the new life and new family it brings together. Offering a rare glimpse into the little-known and complicated world of Louisiana sugarcane farming, Queen Sugar is a story of Southern wisdom, unexpected love and second chances.
Queen Sugar is the story of Charley Bordelon, a recently widowed mother of an 11 year old girl struggling to get by in Los Angeles, whose late father leaves her her eight hundred acres of prime sugarcane land in Louisiana with the stipulation that she must farm it or lose it. No amount of planning can prepare Charley for a Louisiana that’s mired in the past: Cane farming is very much a white man’s business, and her grandmother, Miss Honey, is far thornier than she remembers. As the sweltering south Louisiana summer unfolds, a troubled brother threatens Charley’s cane operation with violence and theft, and she must struggle to balance the overwhelming challenges of her farm with the demands of a homesick daughter, a judgmental and unpredictable grandmother, and the startling desires of her own heart.
When author Natalie Baszile’s father left Louisiana as a teenager in 1954, he vowed never to return. Everything about the south—from the brutal segregation to the weeds pushing through cracks in the sidewalk—repulsed him. He trained his eye on California and never looked back. Years later, his Southern Californian daughter Natalie had a different view and found herself drawn to the warmth of her Louisiana relatives, intrigued by the cast of characters who lived in her grandmother’s tiny town, and stories she’d heard about family secrets, rivalries and feuds. While writing this novel, she questioned her father extensively about her family history and made several trips back to the region, visiting with relatives and helping out during sugarcane harvesting season as part of her research for the book.
Natalie Baszile has an M.A. in Afro-American Studies from UCLA and earned an M.F.A. at the Warren Wilson Program for Writers where she was a Holden Minority Scholar.
A mother-daughter story of reinventionabout an African American woman who unexpectedly inherits a sugarcane farm in Louisiana