The Persia Cafe
Title: The Persia Cafe
Author: Melany Neilson
“To the tables I hauled more fried chicken.’n baked ham ’n delicate corn pudding,” says Fannie Leary, the narrator of the story, as she describes her work cooking and serving her neighbors. Like the café’s name, the narrative serves up old-fashioned fare, and lots of it, lovingly prepared in Persia, Miss., in the summer of 1962 and depicting the death throes of the “Jim Crow South.”
Having come within an inch of her life, Fannie Leary is determined to take a good look at it—to figure out, in fact, what is her part in the tragedy.Growing up in a small Mississippi River town, Fannie works at the local cafe, trying to hold her own in a world of slow expectations and hard boundaries.Dreaming that her cooking will be her ticket out of Persia, she cleaves to Mattie, the irrepressible black woman who runs the kitchen; to Will, the troubled, quiet boy she falls in love with; and eventually to Sheila Jones, a reclusive young girl who has returned with her mother from California to the town after her father’s death.But when a young black boy suddenly disappears and the town erupts in violence, she is the only one who can piece their story together.What she uncovers is as unexpected as it is heartbreaking.The Persia Caf examines the ordinariness of racism, and what people will do to one another in the name of loyalty.It is a story of a place where dreams are paid for in blood.But it is also about a woman who has other, perhaps even more complex business to attend as she confronts a vastly transforming world, and the personal search she must make, the difficult question she must ultimately ask: How do you forgive those who show no regret, or even understanding?A novel about innocence passing, along with an American age, The Persia Caf is a story of murder, betrayal, and the possibility of redemption.With The Persia Caf, award-winning author Melany Neilson establishes herself as a remarkable new voice in Southern fiction.AUTHORBIO: Melany Neilson grew up on a farm near Ebenezer, Mississippi.Her first book, Even Mississippi, won the Lillian Smith Award, the Mississippi Authors Award, was named Gustavas Myers Outstanding Book on Human Rights, and was nominated for a Pulitzer Prize.She now lives in California with her husband, Fred Slabach, and her young twin sons.The Persia Caf is her first novel.