Making Gumbo

Archive for July, 2017

Saturday, July 15, 2017

My novella “Something that Didn’t Happen” shortlisted by Brain Mill Press

Excited my novella “Something That Didn’t Happen” was shortlisted as one the best of the 2016 Driftless Unsolicited Novella Contest.

 Of late, students of mine have asked me, here and there, “…what will you do when you retire Dr. Nacoste?” And that time does draw nigh.

 But I will have no problems staying busy. I will continue to be an advocate for social justice, speaking and writing, pushing and prodding our nation toward our goal of a more perfect union.

 Although everyone knows I am an activist-scholar, only a few know that I am also a writer of fiction (Logan.

 Not, of course, full time. I am not working on any new fiction right now. But in the past, I have taken a couple of summers to do so and one product is my 150 page novella, “Something That Didn’t Happen.”

  In my novella “Something That Didn’t Happen” Ro-bear travels back to his childhood home of Opelousas, Louisiana to try to recover and understand a vague memory of a mysterious event from his teenage years.

 ’He had a memory of something that didn’t happen.’

 Called back to Opelousas by his old Holy Ghost High School classmate Soothsayer, the memory, the event Ro-bear is traveling to confront occurred in 1965 Louisiana and is the centerpiece of the story; a story within the story.

 In that “story within the story,” we see the world of Louisiana Jim-Crow through the adolescent eyes of “The Seven,” Ro-bear, Ironhorse, Delores, Soothsayer, Dice, Kool-Aid and Ghost.  And we experience an alternate American history where there are actual, physical, giant walls of racial segregation.

 Called to a battle that will determine the direction of civil rights history, we see these seven black teenagers struggle to avoid a coming confrontation with dark supernatural forces that will arrive in the 1965 hurricane named Betsy.  But we also see the Seven helped to face their task by a classroom experience of Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar, along with Curtis Mayfield and the Impressions’ song “People Get Ready,” and by the guidance of Ro-bear’s grandfather Raphael Malveaux who is a Creole shaman. With that help “The Seven” grow strong enough to come together to fight the dark forces that try to keep people down and keep racial hate alive.

 Last June, I submitted my novella to the Driftless Unsolicited Novella Contest sponsored by Brain Mill Press. In the announcement of the 2016 contest results, Brain Mill Press has shortlisted my novella as one of the best submitted.

 With that strong encouragement, I’ll start looking for a publisher. This leads to me think that in my retirement, when that time does come maybe I will find some small success in writing fiction. Who knows?

 Here is the Brain Mill Press announcement of the winning and shortlisted novellas to 2016 Driftless Unsolicited Novella contest:


posted by Rupert  |   8:03 PM  |   0 comments
Tuesday, July 11, 2017

Millennials, Me and David Brooks

I am sick and tired of hearing people through around stereotypes of today’s young adults; so called “millennials.” 

 Today’s young adults are not of poorer character, not weaker, than other generations have been. Those who say so are ignoring the fact that the social forces in today’s young adults’ lives are not the same as has been for other generations.

 In fact, I keep saying we are setting young people up. We are under preparing young people for the challenges of our nation’s neo-diversity, which includes the impact of new technologies. We are undermining young people’s ability to develop an adaptable skill set. 

 I have been saying all that for some time. Well, here is another voice saying some of the same things.  In a recent column, David Brooks wrote:

 “…one of the oddest phenomena of modern life [is] childhood is more structured than it has ever been, but then the great engine of the meritocracy spits people out into a young adulthood that is less structured than it has ever been.”

 Mr. Brooks goes on to say: “When I graduated from college, there was a finite number of career ladders in front of me… Now college graduates enter a world with 4 million footstools. There are many more places to perch…but few of the footstools pay a sustaining wage, seem connected with the others or lead to a clear ladder of rungs to climb upward.”

 Then Mr. Brooks makes his major point: “And how do we as a society prepare young people for this uncertain phase?  We pump them full of vapid but haunting praise about how talented they are and how their future is limitless.”

 And there you have it.  Limitless, you see, is a far greater truth that it used to be, and that is not all positive.  I have been pointing out, and Mr. Brooks seems to agree with me when he writes:

“Before there were social structures that could guide young adults as they gradually figured out the big questions of life. Now, those structures are gone.”

 Social structures?  I mean do people even remember “Blockbuster Videos,” “Borders Bookstores”?  And now Sears is fading away; whole malls are closing down all over America.

 That is the challenge young adults face today that no other generation has ever faced. No, Millennials are not whiny, weak, cry-babies. Today’s young adults are living in a new and newly unstructured work-life situation.  And Mr. Brooks is right about the psychology of that new work-life situation when he writes:

“Young people are confronted by the existential questions right away. They’re going to feel lost if they have no sense of what they’re pointing toward…”

 I say, it’s no wonder that all of a sudden a new word has been introduced to the American vocabulary and its, “adulting.”  And the given word is, “adulting is hard.”

 Look, to manage the new work-life situation, a more flexible and nimble skill-set will be required from here on. Psychologically, the first part of that skill set must be awareness of this new situation.  And that awareness must include understanding that much of what your well-meaning elders tell you is the answer doesn’t fit the shaky, wobbly, earth-quaking-with-change 21st century situation of the world of work.

 And to be of any help to young people, those of my generation, the elders, must accept, admit and tell that truth.

 Reference: David Brooks (2017, June 25), “How today’s youth navigate their 20s.” News & Observer (p. 17A).

 New York Times (post):



posted by Rupert  |   11:13 PM  |   0 comments
Monday, July 03, 2017

American Eclipse and America’s Long Struggles With Bigotry






No part of our history is untouched by the one-time American enslavement of African peoples.

 That thought flashed into my mind as I began to read “American Eclipse” by David Baron.

 From my summer book stack I picked up American Eclipse to break away (for a little while) from my summer reading of fiction.

 American Eclipse is a non-fiction book about early American astronomers and their attempt to observe and measure the effects of the total eclipse of the sun in 1898. Within two pages of reading, in setting the context for the lives of astronomers at that time, the author talks about the civil war ending and that end motivating scientists to get to work.

 Nothing in the psychology of American enterprise is uninfluenced by the one-time enslavement of African peoples, was the second flash of thought I had.

 To see, observe and measure the effects of the eclipse of 1898, meant heading to the then still somewhat untamed West where people yet remembered George Armstrong Custer’s attempt to eradicate Indians and people still talked about “Indian savages.” 

 No part of our history is untouched by the unfair, genocidal treatment of American Indians. Yep, that flashed through my mind as I read.

 I went on, learning the history of American astronomy, enjoying the writing, enjoying the well-written story that includes the inventor Thomas Edison, among other inventors and scientists interested in the eclipse.  That included a name I didn’t know because, well because this person was a “woman scientist”: Maria Mitchell

Another flash: Nothing in the psychology of the American enterprise is uninfluenced by the too long resistance to acknowledging the powerful intellect of women.

 If you are at all interested in early American scientific endeavors of astronomy (and a bit about early meteorology), “American Eclipse,” is a fun, five-star read. Stories of the real lives and motivations of a bunch of eclipse obsessed scientists; their technological challenges and human adventures leading up to their chance to observe the 1898 total eclipse that could be observed from America.

 You see, “American eclipse” is not about any of my flashes; not the enslavement of Africans, not the stealing of land and life from American Indians, not demeaning views of women. But those are part of the context of America even in a book about early American astronomy.

 In American Eclipse, there are statements people made in 1898 that are the same statements people make today about blacks, American Indians and women. That is why it is more than fair to say that nothing in the psychology of our 21st century is uninfluenced by our histories of intergroup bigotries.

Yet, know this too: Nothing in our American psychology has been so profound, and important, as discounted peoples pushing through, and defeating, America’s too many intergroup bigotries.

posted by Rupert  |   8:01 PM  |   0 comments