Monday, October 19, 2009

Test Ride on the Sunnyland Bus cover art

So here's the cover for the book. The photo is from the Florida State Archives and is, actually, from the Tallahassee bus boycott. The rider whose face is most clear is Reverend C.K. Steele, the stalwart leader of the protest.
Of course, I would have loved for the cover to show an interracial pair, one black rider and one white, but that would have been far too dangerous for a photo op. In fact, in 1959, two years after my dad and his friends rode integrated, a group of student activists in Tallahassee planned another test ride. They decided that it would be safe for black riders to take seats in the front of the bus, though it happened rarely, but that white and black students riding together would only invite violence. They were right, of course. In 1961, when integrated Freedom Riders rode south on a Greyhound from Nashville, violence materialized at every turn, most famously on Mother's Day when an angry crowd in Anniston, Alabama threw gas-soaked rags through the bus windows screaming: "Fry the goddamn niggers." Most of the angry crowd, men and women, were still wearing church clothes.
One last footnote on the cover art: I heard a speaker on design this summer mention that orange is the second-worst color choice for a book cover, behind only purple. Then again orange does bring out that Sunnyland irony.

Saturday, October 17, 2009

Know a good bookstore?

So here's the cover copy for Test Ride on the Sunnyland Bus including the generous blurbs from two of my favorite memoirists, Kathleen Finnearan and Danielle Trussoni.

The info represents my makeshift press kit as I begin to scour the landscape for places that will invite me to come read from or talk about the book next year. I'm not picky. I'll visit a school, church, library, book group. If you can think of a venue, feel free to pass this stuff on, and/or to drop me a note about my schedule.

Of course independent bookstores are the best. When Now Go Home came out I was terrified to go out reading. Me from the boonies, on leave from trail crew. What should I wear? How should I act? From the minute Laurie and I walked into the first independent bookstore, I could tell it didn't matter a whit. Independent bookstore people were my tribe. They were kind and genuine, engaged and engaging, and always appreciative if occasionally quirky. I've been dismayed lately to find how many of those great little stores (and some big ones like Black Oak Books in Berkeley) have gone out of business in five years. Yikes!

Here's the info:,674635.aspx

Test Ride on the Sunnyland Bus chronicles the story of an American family against the backdrop of one of the civil rights movement’s lesser-known stories. In January 1957, Joseph Spagna and five other young men waited to board a city bus called the Sunnyland in Tallahassee, Florida. Their plan was simple but dangerous: ride the bus together—three blacks and three whites—get arrested, and take their case to the U.S. Supreme Court. Fifty years later Ana Maria Spagna sets off on a journey to understand what happened and why.
Her journey complicated by the fact that her father never spoke of the Sunnyland experience and died unexpectedly when she was eleven, Spagna travels from her remote mountain home in the Pacific Northwest to contemporary Tallahassee, searching for the truth of the incident and her father’s involvement. She seeks out the other bus riders, now in their seventies, and tries to make sense of their conflicting stories. Her odyssey becomes further troubled by the sudden diagnosis of her mother’s terminal cancer.
Winner of the River Teeth Literary nonfiction prize, Test Ride on the Sunnyland Bus deftly weaves cultural and personal history, memoir and reportage, in this fascinating look at a family and a nation’s, past.

Test Ride on the Sunnyland Bus stands as a magnificent testament and tribute to the lives of many people— Ana Maria Spagna’s parents, the many patriots of the Civil Rights Movement, and the citizens of communities far and wide, large and small. Her surprising story renewed my awe in the interconnectedness of all of our lives and affirmed that the current championing of hope in our country is a hope deserving of all its fervor.”—Kathleen Finneran, author of The Tender Land: A Family Love Story

Test Ride on the Sunnyland Bus is an absorbing story of a daughter’s search to understand her father’s involvement in the civil rights movement. While Ana Maria Spagna’s ability to capture the nuances of her father’s life is impressive, it is the wonder and persistence she brings to her tale that make this such an engaging book. Any daughter who has puzzled over the mystery of her heritage will love Spagna from the get-go.”—Danielle Trussoni author of Falling Through the Earth