Here we have the gate to the first Chinese Cemetery in Greenville, MS, the existence of which got me started down the rabbit hole of the entire history of the Chinese of the Mississippi Delta. This cemetery was founded in 1913. In 1931 a second cemetery was begun when it became clear the needs of the growing Chinese Delta community would soon outpace this one. This one, however, was still receiving new occupants in family plots as late as the 1990’s.
The gate is kept locked, but security is not tight. I myself found it simple to sneak in. It’s a Chinese tradition to offer food and drink to the deceased. As you can see, even the older graves are still well-tended.
PAPER SON comes out today! On the shelves at your local indie — or if not, they can get it stat. Or you can order it to wing your way, or download it on your e-reader or for audio. If you pre-ordered, thanks and you probably have it in your hot little hands, or ringing in your ears, by now. To celebrate: Party at Red’s!
Red’s Juke Joint, Clarksdale, MS. Photo, me.
If you’re like me and this is the first you’re hearing of the 100-year-old Chinese community in the Mississippi Delta — don’t be a wise guy, the community is 100 years old, not the people — you’re probably scratching your head and saying, “Wha?” When I was told about them that was my reaction. So I researched, and the more I learned, the more fascinated I became. What brought Chinese people to the Mississippi Delta? Not gonna tell, but you’ll find out if you read PAPER SON. (See what I did there?) But I’ll give you a hint. This photo is of a Chinese-owned grocery store in Greenville, MS. Check out the clientele hanging around outside.
image credit: https://bit.ly/2WNay6S
PAPER SON drops July 2, at which time all those of you who’ve pre-ordered (and I sorta hope that’s lots of you) will find your copies winging your way. To celebrate this once-in-a-lifetime event — well, THIS book will never have a first day again — I’ll be posting historic photos of the Delta, from which I have just returned and in which the book is set. Those will start tomorrow, but I thought I’d offer, first, a little orientation. This is on account of because a friend of mine asked yesterday whether the Delta was the area around the mouth of the Mississippi River, down by New Orleans.
A reasonable assumption. But incorrect.
A river delta is, rightly, where a river breaks into smaller flows at the place where it hits the sea. (Called a “delta” because it’s usually a roughly triangular shape, like the Greek letter.)
The Mississippi Delta, though, is a misnomer. Broadly speaking, this Delta is the floodplain to the east of the river. Check out the map, below. The Delta’s outlined in green. It’s said to start just below Memphis, TN, and extend to Vicksburg, MS. Most of PAPER SON takes place in and around Clarksdale, MS.
So why do they call it the Delta?
Ya got me. Anyone?
PAPER SON, my sixteenth book and the twelfth in the Lydia Chin/Bill Smith series, will be out July 2. Mississippi, however, got a special dispensation to have books early, because I went down there last week to do a book tour. Cleveland — yes, Cleveland MS — Clarksdale, Greenwood, Jackson, and Oxford. Plus a podcast for the Mississippi Book Festival, where I’ll be on a panel Aug. 17, in case you’re in Mississippi and didn’t get sick of me last week.
For those of you not in Mississippi, I thought you might like a few photos. I posted some others on my Facebook page while I was there, and you can check them out even if you’re not on Facebook.
For those of you in Mississippi and not on my mailing list, or not on my mailing list and not in Mississippi, which I do believe covers everyone unless you ARE on my mailing list, you can sign up right here on the left of this page. I promise no more than a couple of newsletters a year, and you’ll get to hear from Lydia’s mom each time.
My buddy Eric’s porch, my Mississippi Delta home.
Sunset over the Delta.
Greenwood sidewalk and don’t ask me.
I guess the message here is, Oxford is Oxford is Oxford.