Why end in 1980?
I wanted to in some ways, metaphorically, or structurally, I suppose, is the better way to put it, mimic or parallel the arc of the Great Migration. The arc of time in the novel kind of parallels that. Not exactly, because the Great Migration started during World War I and my novel starts in 1925, and the great migration more or less was over by about 1971, and my last chapter's 1980, but you can see, more or less, it sort of mimics that or parallels that movement, so I was very interested in that as well.
There's some mental illness in the book. What made you decide to address that?
I think that certainly as a culture in general we seem to have made room to talk about things like depression, more than say, the mental illnesses that are more, I guess, dramatic in their appearance or more kind of tragic in their long term. We still tend to shy away from some of those. So, things like schizophrenia. But they are certainly a part of many many many families' reality and it seemed important to me to include that in some way and I think also in the black community, mental illness is a thing that we tend not to talk about very much at all. As in the case in America in general, and it seemed important and it seemed an opportunity to be able to discuss that.
How's the experience been joining Oprah's book club?
Obviously the book has reached a readership that it wouldn't have otherwise, which is really pretty incredible, and then of course, just the level of attention. The book now occupies a stage with a great big spotlight that it may not have had otherwise so it's been a really stunning and really miraculous experience. The biggest boon being obviously that every writer hopes to find readers and this is allowing the book to find not only more readers than I would have, but I suspect also some different kinds of readers than it might have attracted otherwise.
, Chicago, Detroit