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Thirty Years Ago!

Thirty years ago this spring, Alice Walker's Wild Trees Press published my novel Condor and Hummingbird. The novel had been rejected many times, when my daughter Rebecca suggested I send it to Alice Walker's new publishing company. When Alice called and offered to publish it, and told me how much the presence of the ancestors in my book had resonated with her, I could barely believe such a wonderful thing was happening. This was the second time she had been my benefactor. The first time was when, as an editor at Ms. Magazine, Alice accepted a short story of mine, "Gaiety and Dreaming." Now she was publishing my book. That such a great writer had made time in her life to help unknown writers publish their work was an undertaking of rare generosity, and I am forever grateful to her.

Here is a slightly blurry picture of me at the Wild Trees Press table at the American Book Association's convention in New Orleans in 1986. Blurry thought it is, I think you can see how happy I was. I wish, though, that the picture showed a moment from that day that I have always treasured. A well known editor at W.W. Norton, who had previously rejected Condor and Hummingbird with a nice personal note, stopped at our table and admired my book with its beautiful painting on the cover by my daughter Rachel Mendez (the same painting that I'm so grateful to have now, on the new edition). She was very warm and pleasant, and looked through the pages with great interest. Then she surprised me by saying, "I wish people would send me books like this!" Whereupon, with great delight, I told her. "I did! But you rejected it." We both laughed, and then she said-- "But it didn't look like this!"

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