Best-selling author to read from novel depicting East St. Louis

Michael Datcher, a New York and Los Angeles Times Bestselling author, will read from his new novel, “Americus” Monday, Feb. 16, at 12:30 p.m. in The Friends Room of the Lovejoy Library. The book depicts East St. Louis from a historical perspective.

Michael Datcher photo courtesy of Redmond

According to SIUE Emeritus professor Eugene B. Redmond, who invited Datcher, “Americus” takes place between the post-Civil War days and the race riots in 1917.

Redmond said many black East St. Louisans fled to Missouri during those racially tense times.

Datcher’s reading, according to Redmond, is an opportunity to mix people who know a lot about East St. Louis with some who do not have a general understanding of its history or very little.

Redmond added that Datcher’s visit on campus will be a great way to raise awareness of African-Africans’ contributions to literary, cultural and academic arts.

“I’m very impressed with some of the passages in his book,” Redmond said. “They are reminiscent of Toni Morrison, first black American writer to win Nobel prize for literature.”

Redmond stated that Datcher is a brilliant writer, able to apply magical realism in which he steps outside of time and reality to combine the imaginary with the actual, “or interpenetrate the material and spiritual, life and death.”

“He creates an atmosphere and an aura with strong descriptive and figurative language, while at the same time providing exact portraits of East St. Louis settings,” Redmond said.

Other elements are incorporated in Datcher’s writing.

According to Redmond, “Americus” weaves a love story into the larger historical picture. Besides the broad history, the story of a husband, wife and their twin sons is patterned after an Egyptian myth, he noted.

The Americus family and local African-Americans were facing racism during the times the story takes place. Their stories are at the center and so too that portion of American history, according to Redmond.

Redmond said Datcher’s novel book is important as it comes out of a historical setting of racial tension and cooperation in East St. Louis.

He added that Datcher identifies with a broad audience.

“Datcher shares a cultural message about the spirit of American history with honesty,” Redmond said. “There was so much turmoil and angst over race. He’s a clear and clarifying voice for these times.”

Datcher is also a professor of English Studies at Loyola Marymount University in Los Angeles. Other works by Datcher include “Raising Fences” which was a Today Show Book Club Book of the Month pick, “Tough Love: The Life and Death of Tupac Shakur” and a play, “Silence,” which was commissioned by the Getty Museum.

He will spend five days as writer-in-residence in the area as a guest of the East St. Louis-based Eugene B. Redmond Writers Club. As such he will speak and read to students and residents; and scholars and aficionados of the the city’s culture, art and history.

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