Carolina Built

Kianna Alexander. Gallery, $27 (336p) ISBN 978-1-982163-68-6
Romance writer Alexander (Back to Your Love) offers an informative if clunky story inspired by the true story of Josephine N. Leary, who was born into slavery and went on to build a real estate empire in North Carolina. At nine, spunky Josephine devours Shakespeare, does her chores, and remembers being enslaved as a little girl. As a teen, she meets her husband, Archer “Sweety” Leary, while training to be a barber. They marry and set up their own barbershop, which, with clever negotiation, Josephine buys outright using wedding money from the white man who fathered her. Thus begins her dream to invest in property and make her own money. While running various businesses, Josephine raises two daughters, instilling in them her love of reading, education, and independence. Josephine’s ambition and headstrong nature serves her well, but it causes constant friction with Sweety, such as when she insists on buying a house (“I vowed, from the day I was freed, never to live at the whim of another white man”). Some of the dialogue is clichéd (“I’m no spring chicken”) or anachronistic (“It is what it is”), but Alexander’s exhaustive research and the ample historical detail do justice to the material. As a novel it’s fairly unremarkable, but the author does a nice job illuminating the life of an extraordinary historical figure. Agent: Sarah Younger, Nancy Yost Literary. (Feb.)

Correction: An earlier version of this review misspelled the author's last name.

Reviewed on : 11/18/2021
Release date: 02/01/2022
Genre: Fiction
Downloadable Audio - 978-1-7971-3769-8
Book - 978-1-9821-6369-3
Book - 1 pages - 978-1-9821-6370-9
Compact Disc - 978-1-7971-3771-1
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