June 24, 2021 was National Pralines Day and I was thrilled to share Titine’s story on social media.
“He who has not tasted Titine’s pralines has something yet to learn of the joys of the palate. As everybody knows, the praline is essentially a New Orleans product, and there is not an Inhabitant of that city who does not understand that grated cocoanut mixed with sugar and cooked in a certain way, will turn out pralines. Ah yes! But there are pralines and pralines!
And Titine’s secret of its absolute perfection has never been revealed. For thirty years, weather permitting, this old mulatress has been sitting in one place on the sidewalk, in the busiest section of the Town. Her little low table is the same; the tray, now despoiled of its paint, has never been replaced by a newer one, neither has she altered the pattern of her stiffly starched guiné blue dress, nor indeed have her pralines undergone any evolution. They are precisely of the same shape and size as they were years ago, when a buxom young matron, she first took her seat on the banquette and received the title of the Praline Woman.” Metropolitan magazine Company, Volume 23, 1905
Recently I was thinking about how my publisher really dropped the ball and didn’t get any reputable reviews for my book, Praline Lady. At another time I’ll write about the unprofessionalism I encountered with this publisher but for now I want to talk about reviews.
Reviews are so important for authors, especially for debut books. Most publishers get their books in the hands of reputable reviewers like the School Library Journal, Kirkus, Booklist, etc. I didn’t get a review from any of those agencies and in fact, my publisher didn’t get any reviews for the book pre or post-publication. So in addition to writing, some of us are expected to do marketing, publicity and get our own reviews!
Thankfully I was able to get reviews from book blogger and fellow authors in my writing group. At first, this was very distressing to me, even now it’s a bitter topic, but I’ve learned to turn lemons into lemonade. The reviews from my fellow authors meant so much to me because they took time out of their busy schedules to read my book and give meaningful feedback. The best review I’ve received is a single sentence from an elder in my community that I deeply admire.
“Thank you for honoring our Ancestors,” Nana Anoa Nantambu.
That one line means the world to me because it sums up my intentions perfectly.
World Read Aloud Day was on February 3, 2021. I was honored to participate and read Praline Lady at two schools virtually. The first school was Lake Forest Charter School in New Orleans. I can’t tell you how special it was that my FIRST time reading Praline Lady live was with a local school. The second school was Stride Avenue Community School in Canada! The kids were so engaged and intelligent. They asked great questions also!
I was moved by the email sent to me by Ms. Pang at Stride Avenue Community School after my presentation: “There is so much rich history in your story. It was written, illustrated, and told beautifully. Thanks again for sharing with Stride Avenue Community! I am glad they had a chance to experience that, especially during Black History Month.”
Attached is a printable word puzzle with words from my book Praline Lady. The publisher also sent me a coloring sheet with illustrations by Kameko Madere. You can download both and share it with your children or classroom free of charge!
My article “The Praline Ladies” was recently featured in the December issue of Country Roads Magazine. I really enjoyed writing it and sharing more of my research on these remarkable ladies.
Below is an excerpt. Please follow the link to read the article in its entirety.
As a child growing up in New Orleans, one of the memories I most return to is me, sitting in the kitchen, watching my grandmother make pralines. I can still picture her ladling the creamy mixture onto wax paper. I’d wait patiently as each dollop spread and magically cooled into an edible treat. As an adult, their magic never wavered.
In the 19th and 20th centuries, many African American women sold goods on the streets of the French Quarter (and throughout the United States) to support themselves. Some were even able to self-purchase their freedom or that of their loved ones. The Praline Lady was a common figure in the Vieux Carre in her gingham dress, tignon and woven basket of goodies. So were the calas cake lady, the blackberry lady, the coffee lady and many more. These women of color were some of the first entrepreneurs in the city. They used their gifts and talents to make a way under difficult circumstances.
Even though the Praline Lady no longer strolls about the French Quarters her legacy lives on as individuals, shops and restaurants continue to make and sell the creamy candy.
I visited Melrose Plantation and had high expectations but was a little disappointed. There were a LOT of additions and changes to the property that made me feel I was experiencing a less than authentic plantation experience. The grounds are beautiful and located across from Cane River but I wish we’d toured the grounds only versus the entire plantation tour that was actually very boring.
I love the country and maybe it’s because I’m a down home southern girl. Anyway, as much as I love the country I’ve come to the conclusion that I can’t actually live in the country…I’m not ready for the 24/7 bored life. However, I did stumble upon some happiness in Natchitoches recently.
I was drawn to this fence behind an old church…I mean it literally begged for me to touch & feel it…to know its story and ponder on the hands that built it.
St. Augustine church, founded in 1803 by people of color, is situated on an old country winding road across from Cane River.
Can you imagine the people in 19th-century attire gathering here to worship, celebrate weddings, baptismal’s and funerals?
The descendants of a freed slave woman, Marie Coincoin, and her French lover. Her descendants founded St. Augustine
Beautiful. Can you see the old cemetery behind the church? THIS is a country church! I will always have this picture to remind me of how full and happy my heart felt while wandering these grounds.
I’m drawn to OLD things including old cemeteries. It’s so peaceful as its residents Rest In Peace.
I drag him along on my “adventures” and he willingly puts up with the bugs, heat and my endless questions of gift shop attendants about the area.
Next up I’ll share pics from Melrose Plantation that was owned by a freed slave named Marie Therese Coincoin.
I hope everyone is fine and enjoying their summer. It’s been hot and muggy here in the “dirty” and I’ve already burned my skin twice! Life has been extra busy with school ending until the fall (YAY!) and other obligations and responsibilities. I’m hoping to have a productive summer and just wanted to check in and say “hi.” One of my favorite things is to collect quotes and or sentences from books that really speak to me. I usually text myself the above and meditate on it as a reminder to inhabit that quote, thought or saying into my core being. Recently I came across this phrase and it really moved me. Are you putting your time into something (or someone) that will outlive you? For me, that’s a direct reminder that my time, effort and energy is to focus on my children who will outlive me. Sometimes we lose track of what’s important in life and focus on the petty, unimportant things but this quote drives home the importance of living a life that will make a difference. If you aren’t a parent are you putting your time into something (your passion, talent, community etc.) that will outlive you? It’s an important question we should give serious thought to. Happy Summer!!!