Provenance is an intimate family saga about hope and love and, the tragedies that test these life-affirming bonds. Beginning in the early twentieth century—a time when to be African-American meant risking everything to dictate your own destiny—three generations of a family make bold choices as they struggle against—racism, sexism and elitism—struggles that still resonate today. Their story moves from the Deep South, to Paris between the World Wars, to New York during the City ’s Golden Age—as Provenance’s characters risk everything to take more than society would ever offer them.
Provenance was selected as a finalist for the 2016 Phillis Wheatley Award for First Fiction. Provenance and author, Donna Drew Sawyer were featured at the 2016 Virginia Festival of the Book and the 2016 Gaithersburg Book Festival.
Lance Whitaker was 18 years old when he became a white man. Caught after dark in his small sundown town, he was accused of a crime that was certain to get him lynched. Hank ran for his life, forced to leave all he knew and all who knew him. He arrives is a city where no one knows him and because of his racially ambiguous looks, he is mistaken for white. For the first time in his life, he experiences what it is like to have, “life smooth out like silk.”
For two decades, Hank continues to “pass,” building a successful business and becoming part of white society. When he marries and has a son, he tries to figure out how to tell his family the truth about his heritage without losing everything—again.
Fate steps in and Hank, on his deathbed, finally shares his secret. It is a revelation and betrayal that forces his wife, Maggie, and 18 year-old son, Lance, to flee. Maggie is guilty of the crime of miscegenation and her son faces the sudden harsh reality of being Black in the segregated south.
The family joins the more than 200,000 African-Americans who left the U.S. during the early 20th century searching for racial freedom in Paris between the World Wars. Provenance intertwines the fictional Whitaker family with real African-American expatriates—some famous, like Josephine Baker—others like Belle da Costa Greene and Eugene Bullard, were not as renowned but just at remarkable. They all shared the unique challenge of coming to terms with freedom gained but also, identity lost.
At its core, Provenance is about the aspirations of generations of African-Americans and their determination to dictate their own destiny—despite their provenance.
About the Author:
Donna Drew Sawyer advanced the creativity of others as a Madison Avenue advertising executive, public relations manager for Sesame Street and as a senior administrator for national arts organizations including the Chrysler Museum of Art and the Smithsonian’s Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden. Writing to attract audiences for others led her to start writing for an audience of her own. Born and raised in New York City, she now lives with her family near Washington, DC. PROVENANCE is her first novel.
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Provenance: A Novel
Author: Donna Drew Sawyer
Available from all major booksellers in the following formats:
Hardcover 289 pages – Price: $28.00
Trade Paperback 334 pages – Price: $16.00
Available from all major booksellers and in all eReader formats