20th Annual Literary Festival
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Mace & Crown October 21, 1997
Reginald McKnight and Marita Golden: Prose for the traveler
BY BURGANDI COLLINS
Staff Writer

Reginald McKnight, author and recipient of numerous literary prizes and awards, spoke at ODU's Literary Festival this past week.

McKnight authored the novel "I Get on the Bus" and two short story collections, "Moustapha's Eclipse" and "The Kind of Light That Shines on Texas." "Moustapha's Eclipse," his first collection, was awarded the Drue Heinz Prize. The title story of "The Kind of Light That Shines on Texas" won both an O'Henry award and the Kenyon Review Award for Literary Excellence.

Born in Germany to a military family, McKnight has spent his life traveling.

The writing of "I Get on the Bus" led him to a one-year stay in Senegal to collect African proverbs. While there, McKnight heard about a mysterious beverage. His adventures and mishaps in acquiring this drink inspired him to write a short story entitled "Palm Wine," which McKnight read during his presentation.

"Palm Wine" is a humorous story detailing the people he met on his journey and how he learned to appreciate the significance of the drink, beyond the taste. "Palm Wine" can be found in his new collection entitled "White Boys." It is set to hit bookstores next January.

Also sharing new material at the Literary Festival was author and founder of the Zora Neale Hurston/Richard Wright Award Foundation, Marita Golden.

She read several touching passages her new novel "The Edge of Heaven." It is also due out in January.

Golden is the author of the novels "A Woman's Place," "Long Distance Life," "Do Remember Me" and an autobiography "Migrations of the Heart." She is the editor of "Skin Deep," a collection of fiction and non-fiction pieces on race by black and white female authors. Golden also wrote "Saving Our Sons: Raising Black Children in a Turbulent World," from which she read a passage. It is about a year in the life of her son and was inspired by the deaths of Len and Jay Bias.

Golden also read a selection from "Migrations of the Heart," which dealt with her parents because "They gave me a sense of myself, the most important thing a writer must have."

She credits the shape of her writing to her father, who told her stories about black people.

"Each story had a heroine whether good or bad, but they changed the lives of others," Golden said.

Those stories inspired her to write about the beauty of black life. Her writing has been widely anthologized and used in classrooms around the country. In her autobiography she says her mother knew "her child was possessed by something special."

That "something special" is perhaps Golden's gift of writing or maybe her desire to give back. As the founder of the Hurston/Wright Award Foundation for emerging African-American writers of fiction, she wanted "to extend a pat on the back of the young author."

Princess Perry, 1995 winner of the Hurston/Wright Foundation short- story contest, introduced Ms. Golden at the presentation.

Both Reginald McKnight and Marita Golden inspired the audiences they spoke to during the literary festival. Even though the weather was not very good, both authors had great turnouts and did not disappoint.

Be sure to pick up McKnight's "White Boys" and Golden's "The Edge of Heaven" in January. They are sure to be fierce readings.

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