Always Overbooked…
By Terri Schlichenmeyer


Once, many years ago, your grandmother chased your grandpa out of the house.

Nobody remembers why or what happened afterward; the particulars are lost, and they aren’t important anymore, really. The laugh-til-you-cry telling, the knee slapping, each embellishment as years go by – that’s what truly matters.

Family stories are the glue that holds you all together. And in the new book “Our Auntie Rosa” by Sheila McCauley Keys (with Eddie B. Allen, Jr.), you’ll read one family’s recollections of an icon.

For much of their early lives, Sylvester McCauley’s children didn’t know who their favorite aunt really was. Sure, they’d read about the woman who launched the Civil Rights movement. They’d heard her name said with pride. But for most of them, it took awhile to make the connection: the woman on the bus that day in Montgomery was their Auntie Rosa Parks.

Even after she moved north, after she and her husband and mother came to live with the eleven-member McCauley family in Detroit, their Auntie Rosa didn’t much speak of her actions. The nieces and nephews asked her sometimes, but she usually waved questions away. The past wasn’t important to her then. Family was.

The Parks never had any children themselves, so the McCauley kids were happy to absorb any extra love. Their Auntie Rosa was a good cook who loved to entertain. She was steady, supportive, and resourceful but she encouraged independence. An elegant, sharp dresser, Parks was never showy in manner or accomplishment – although she did save all her hate mail.

To the children of her beloved brother and to those she enfolded in her circle, Parks embodied strength and fearlessness. She made sure there was food on tables more than once, and clothes on young backs. Through her mistakes, she taught the power of apology. She counseled them not to judge as they’d been judged, but she showed them that there’s a limit to forgiveness. In her latter years, they say, she was the same calm, determined person she’d always been. And even well into her eighties, she vowed to keep doing what needed done.

With the approaching 50th anniversary of Rosa Parks’ famous act of defiance, you’re likely to hear a lot about her in the next year. But when was the last time you thought about Mr. Parks?

Yeah, same here. That’s why “Our Auntie Rosa” is so important.

Filled with memories of the Parks’ lives within the raucous, loving McCauley family, this book offers things history doesn’t tell you. Author Sheila McCauley Keys (with Eddie B. Allen, Jr.) weaves her siblings’ memories into a treasury of life, not politics or action. We meet people important to Rosa Parks and, through them, tales of a real person warms us – tales that, if you never met Parks, will make you mourn for it.

I absolutely loved this memory-filled delight, I loved its balance and I think you will, too. If you’ve ever wondered about the quiet, tiny giant behind the act, “Our Auntie Rosa” is a book to chase down.


“Our Auntie Rosa” by Sheila McCauley Keys with Eddie B. Allen, Jr.

c.2015, Penguin Tarcher
$24.95 / $27.95 Canada
208 pages




Driving the King

Everybody has that one friend…

She’s the person you call in the middle of the night because you don’t know what else to do. He’s your wingman, Saturday afternoon mechanic, and fellow prankster. She gives you courage. He gives you advice. That one friend is your go-to person, your rock; your personal booster. And in “Driving the King” by Ravi Howard, that kind of friendship works both ways.

Nathaniel Weary hated airports.

The planes coming in low and loud always reminded him of Kilby, the state prison in Montgomery, where he spent ten long years. He and his fellow inmates would be out in the Alabama cold, cutting kudzu from a fence, and those circling planes teased him with what he was missing. He was a young man then, just home from fighting overseas, with a ring in his pocket, intent on asking his girl to marry him. His friend, Nat “King” Cole was going to help but when someone threatened Cole’s life and Weary jumped onto the stage to prevent danger, the plan fell apart. Instead of asking his girl for marriage, he went to prison for assaulting a white man, and he asked her not to visit him anymore.

Nearly ten years later, Cole’s bodyguard came to Kilby with an offer: Nat “King” Cole needed a driver. He wanted that driver to be Nathaniel Weary.

In Montgomery , as around the country, much had changed while Weary was in jail. Television was a novelty when he went in; when he came out, it was in everybody’s living room. Folks back in Montgomery were boycotting city buses and another King – this one, a preacher – was standing up for civil rights, Weary’s mother had died while he was in Kilby, and his father didn’t want him talking about that place once he got out. Los Angeles offered a fresh start. He took the job.

But even a year in LA didn’t dampen the tug of home for Nathaniel Weary. He didn’t miss the trouble there; it had, in fact, followed him to California – but he missed his people something fierce.

He had to find a way to say goodbye.

I really wasn’t sure I was going to be able to finish “Driving the King.” The books’ first pages had me pretty well completely lost, so don’t be surprised if that happens when you try reading it – but don’t be deterred, either.

With the early Civil Rights movement as backdrop, author Ravi Howard brings together history, pop-culture, and mid-century music to craft an overall-satisfying story. The trouble comes with a back-and-forth storyline that takes some getting used to, but it’s softened by the ease with which its two main characters move and the friendship they share. In the end, the back-and-forth is what makes it work.

There’s a certain cinematic feel to this book that’s really appealing and will captivate readers, once they get more into the story. If you’re looking for a well-done reel-life drama, then “Driving the King” could be that one book.


“Driving the King” by Ravi Howard

c.2015, HarperCollins
$25.99 / $31.99 Canada
336 pages