Margaret Wilkerson Sexton’s grandfather graduated from college and six of his children followed suit. But the next generation struggled to keep pace even as the specter of Jim Crow receded. “I wanted to know why,” she says, and chose fiction as her probe.
The Dartmouth and UC Berkeley Law graduate’s research revealed the war on drugs and mass incarceration as modern barriers to opportunity. Her challenge became illuminating the culprits in narrative form. That is, writing a page-turner, not a sociological treatise. “I wanted it to be a book that also had a plot,” she says. “Because a lot of times I read books and they’re so deep, but it’s like you’re plodding through them.”
In just a year’s time, Sexton found a way to explore the fragility of the black upper class through three generations navigating systemic racism, familial strife, and ill-fated romance. She penned A Kind of Freedom in 2016 during a year-long Djerassi fellowship with novelist Jane Vandenburgh and had a book deal with Counterpoint by early this year.
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