Thursday, November 17, 2011
Family's saga continues with new book
Local author Larry Hamilton pens sequel to 'Lucy's Story'
BY SHARON SEMANIE
With permission from the Piqua Daily Call
PIQUA - While many individuals aspire to research their family roots, historian and retired Piqua High School teacher Larry Hamilton of Piqua has given new meaning to genealogy and the fulfillment of researching one's ancestry. He has published a sequel to his first book "Lucy's Story" - titled "Between Two Suns: The Berean Experience" - available locally beginning Friday.
Authored by Hamilton and written by his former student Christina DeLaet, the latest book is "the continuing saga of a family history narrative handed down from generations of the Hamilton family of Loveland, Ohio." The 62-year-old author indicates that his first historical novel focused on his great-great grandmother, Lucy Sams, and her flight from slavery in Madison County, Ky,. to Camp Nelson, a "haven of refuge" in Lexington, which served as a Civil War fortification and was among the largest recruiters of black soldiers.
It was during that time that Lucy Sams, he writes, "survived a tragic and deadly expulsion of fugitive slaves and befriended the abolitionist and humanitarian Rev. John G. Fee. At the camp, she was courted by Allen Ross, a soldier who miraculously survives the Saltville Massacre and returns to marry Lucy with the Rev. Fee officiating."
In the latest novel "Between Two Suns," Hamilton describes the family's "hope for a bright new future with the dawning of the Reconstruction era following the Civil War." The family, he notes, struggles to be maintained as a cohesive unit during the turmoil of widespread racial violence.
"Farming and just working hard isn't enough to win the friendship of some neighbors," he said, "which contributes to a migratory path of the family from Garrard County, Ky. to Warsaw on the Ohio River and on into Lockland, Ohio, for a short time and final settlement in Loveland. In spite of social difficulties and economic hardship, Lucy is passionate about following the advice of her old friend, Rev. Fee, in having her children educated." Ironically, he adds, "it is her only daughter Cynthia, who is the one chosen to attend Berea College, which was founded by Rev. Fee and becomes an integrated educational oasis in a region of strict adherence to Jim Crow."
Hamilton suggests that "remarkably, the recognition of the plight of European immigrants by these former American slaves is made real in the emotional strain of the fraying marriage of Lucy and Allen (Ross). Despite threats to marital fidelity the couple sacrificed to raise a family and fervently held to the ethic of hard work and the counsel of education as the means to accomplishing advancement in America. The mysterious murder of a family member and the conspiratorial manner brought by the imposition of the Day Law marked the sunset of the beginning of the twentieth century."
"Readers who loved 'Lucy's Story' will double their pleasure with 'Between Two Suns,'" he said. "It is twice as long (330 pages) with no additional cost ($18.87) and the intrigue, romanticism and mystery will make it difficult for readers to put the book down."
Hamilton suggests that Book III of his trilogy of historical novels will relate, in part, to an important upcoming anniversary in the Miami Valley. Hamilton's books are available at Readmore's Hallmark Store and Eagle Printing. Book signings also will be scheduled at the Miami Valley Centre Mall, Readmore's Hallmark and Kroger for Christmas holiday gift purchases.
A native of Loveland, Hamilton lived in a large extended family group with two older sisters and two younger sisters. His father, he noted, had four brothers with three of them being immediate neighbors "The other lived one block away and my father's mother - the Hamilton family matriarch - lived two blocks away. And my mother's family also had her parents only three blocks away."
Hamilton graduated from Loveland High School in 1967, before enrolling at Central State University where he was graduated in 1971. He earned a master's degree from Wright State University in 1978, and taught World History, African American History and Current Events at Piqua High School from 1971 to 2001.
"It was by no accident that I authored Lucy's Story," explained Hamilton, when asked what inspired him to initiate the trilogy of novels. The spark occurred after taking a group of high school students to hear Alex Haley talk about his book "Roots: The Saga of an American Family."
Although the seed was planted in 1975, Hamilton didn't begin his historical journey until 2008, when a former student contacted him about a series of Black History Month presentations he was giving at a local college. Unable to attend due to inclement weather, the student forwarded a letter inviting Hamilton to talk with her about his family's experiences in the Civil War camp since she had an interest in writing stories of that era. Hamilton's desire to have his great-great grandmother's story told resulted in their partnership in 2008. Hamilton authored the material written by Christina DeLaet whose parents are Bob and Diane DeLaet, owners of Eagle Printing. Christina's sister, Nikki, is the graphic artist and, according to Hamilton, "has also played a critical role in the publication of both "Lucy's Story" and "Between Two Suns."
Determined to "bring honor and dignity" to the struggles of his ancestors as Americans, Hamilton noted the oral history with his grandmother took place in November 1975, more than three decades before Lucy's Story appeared. "The events, locations and most individuals are historically accurate, but the only way to weave a story around the presentation of historical facts has to be labeled as fictitious because there is no way to totally verify the oral history given to me through my grandmother," he added.
When asked if it was difficult to undertake such an important piece of history, he replied "No. This was the purpose to which I was born. It took a long time only because it was supposed to. As (Alex) Haley stated 'it was a series of meant to be experiences that led to this initiative and that was what was intended by divine dictate."
Larry and his wife, Linda, are the parents of four children: Lawrence III (Butch), Cicely, Erika and Jonathan. Both sons are educators, Butch a teacher in Columbus, and Jon, a graduate assistant working on his doctorate degree at the University of Illinois, Erika is pursuing an acting career in California and Cicely, who contracted meningitis after birth and is developmentally disabled, lives at home with her parents.
"I married Linda - also an educator - in June 1971. We celebrated our fortieth anniversary this year. Our children," he quipped, "covered our expenses in vacationing in Jamaica," Hamilton said.