If you’re looking for historical African American fiction featuring strong families and relatable characters, you need to check out the works of Tina Jones Williams. Williams grew up attending the first desegregated class at her Berkeley junior high school in the 1960s, and many of her experiences inspired her to write stories about the city of Berkeley during that tumultuous time. Although Williams’ characters are fictional, the emotions and historical references can be felt on every page.
This story begins with a family moving from the Southside of Chicago to Berkeley, California in 1943. They found community in South Berkeley, but still faced daily challenges and discrimination when they ventured outside their portion of the neighborhood.
In the 1970s, many black families were celebrating their children’s accomplishments, such as graduating high school and attending college. Considered the Affirmative Action generation, young people strived to assimilate to a nation that was still anti-Black.
Fast forward to 2020, when some older members of the black community decided to step back and amplify the voices of the younger generations. The heavy memories of discrimination in America haunt elder black people, but their struggles paved the way for a bright future for today’s youth.
Sara Jameson and her three children stood at a Chicago train station in 1943, waiting for their ride to a new life. Sara feared the three-day journey ahead of her, and she worried if she was making the right decision. Would moving to Berkeley really help her and her family achieve success? Or will the same problems continue to plague her and her children no matter where they traveled?
This story takes place from the 1940s to the 1960s, following the lives of Sara, her husband Ben, and their children. After leaving Chicago behind, the family hopes that life on Julia Street in Berkeley will be a new beginning. During their time in this neighborhood, Sara and her family grew strong friendships and unbreakable community bonds, all while dealing with social injustice, economic challenges, and unpredictable tragedies. In the midst of the turmoil, incredible opportunities took Sara’s entire family by pleasant surprise.
This book shares the next life stage of Sara Jameson and her family, spanning from the 1960s to the 1990s. Sara finds that her life and neighborhood is changing faster than ever before, with old neighbors moving out and new businesses popping up around South Berkeley. Furthermore, Sara’s relationship with her husband has grown distant and complicated, and she fears that their marriage may come to an end. Everything is up in the air, and Sara feels as if she can’t let anything fall to the ground.
Mr. Gregory lived in South Berkeley for seven decades, witnessing the history unfolding every day in his little cleaning shop. Beginning in 1943, he documented his observations. From successful black business owners and doctors to the horrific injustices against Black residents, Mr. Gregory soaked it all in. During the darkest parts of those seven decades, he would repeat Sara Jameson’s advice: “We fall from grace, but we always get up.”