Bond had just finished teaching a writing class when her
Cynthia," said the voice on the other end.
"This is Oprah."
screamed. When Oprah told her she loved her
novel "Ruby" and was going to make
it her Book Club 2.0 selection, Bond could only scream
turned and stared at me like I was crazy," says
Bond with a laugh. The screams were warranted, she says,
because the selection was an unexpected validation for
the novel she had poured more than a decade of her life
into writing. It will also help Bond, a social worker,
make a better life for herself and her 10-year-old
novel is part romance, part ghost story, part mystery
and part historical fiction. It tells the tale of Ruby,
a beautiful woman from a fictional, all-black town in
East Texas called Liberty.
is sexually abused as a child. When she escapes to 1950s
New York City as an adult, she turns to prostitution to
survive. Now back in Liberty, sheís slowly descending
into insanity because of her violent past.
in the town abandons her ó some do worse ó except
Ephram Jennings, a church deacon whoís loved Ruby from
afar since they were kids. The novel was informed by
Bondís experience of abuse growing up and her social
work teaching writing to at-risk youths in Los Angeles,
she says. It was also inspired by her own familyís
mother was born in Liberty Community, an all-black town
in East Texas from which the fictionalized Liberty gets
its name. In the 1930s, Bondís aunt was murdered by a
sheriff and his deputies because she had been involved
with a white man. The men, rumored to be members of the
Ku Klux Klan, shot her multiple times and threw her body
on her fatherís front porch in a sack.
story is something thatís lived in our family for many
years," she says by phone from her home in Los
Angeles. "I wanted to share that secret, but do it
in a way that kind of wouldnít hurt the reader."
aunt and grandfather appear as fictional characters in
the story. Through memorializing them in the novel, Bond
says she hopes to bear witness to their lives, as well
as other victims of violent racism and abuse.
that question, ĎIf a tree falls in the woods and makes
a sound, is it heard?í" she says. "I want
that fall to be heard."
only fear is that many would-be readers avoid the book
because itís rumored to be unnecessarily dark, so
violent itís hard to read. "Iím not a crime
reporter," she says. "Iím not a journalist.
Iím a fiction writer, and one of the things I really
tried to do is take care of my reader."
By creating beauty amid the pain. She hopes her lyrical
writing allows the reader to experience the violent
parts of mankind more gently.
believe that when we see how textured the world is that
we become better people," Bond says.
creates in us a greater capacity for empathy, she says,
and seeing those whoíve suffered pull through is a
source of great hope.
pulls through. Because of Ephram, "for a brief
instant, Ruby saw the treasures within her soul,"
says Bond. That starts her on a path toward healing. It
also gives us hope, she says.
has already seen the book provide such hope for readers.
After being selected for Oprahís book club, Bond has
heard from women whoíve experienced many of the things
Ruby had. One said she knew Rubyís experiences so
intimately she felt like she was Ruby herself.
"Wow," Bond says. "This is why I wrote