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Author Archive: "Tara Conklin"

The Story of Mumbet

My novel The House Girl tells the story of two women: Lina Sparrow, a lawyer in modern-day New York, and Josephine Bell, a slave in 1850s Virginia. People often ask me why I chose to write about Josephine and who inspired her character. (They assume, I suspect, that Lina is a stand-in for myself: I too have been a lawyer in New York.) I didn't choose my characters, I always reply. My characters chose me.

There's a certain degree of evasion in this answer (I don't know!) but also a degree of truth. The seeds of my characters were planted long ago, and I could no more unplant them than I could remove a childhood scar from my knee or the slight Massachusetts twang from my voice. I grew up in Stockbridge, an old New England town where history pressed in close on all sides. A rock-filled creek ran behind our house and my sisters and I regularly pulled ancient treasures from its icy flow: pieces of broken pottery, a silver spoon, and, one frosty fall morning, a necklace of intricately worked silver blackened by time and ...


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