Trusting the Currents is a multi-award winning visionary novel that guides readers into their own truth and transformation. Narrated by Addie Mae Aubrey, a Southern, African-American woman, Trusting the Currents is a story of self-discovery and the uneasy search for one’s place in life. Beginning at age eleven with the arrival of beautiful, mysterious cousin Jenny and her shadowy stepfather, Uncle Joe, Trusting the Currents explores Addie Mae’s reluctant awakening. As Jenny introduces Addie Mae to the natural world, a caring teacher guides Addie Mae with the power of reading. Romantic love enters her life for the first time with Rawley, and we learn how Addie Mae’s emerging sense of self compels her to a life-altering decision, even as fear and evil shakes their lives.
There are three levels to the book: Addie Mae’s powerful story, universal life messages woven throughout the book, and high energetic frequencies embedded in the writing that shift consciousness deep into the heart when reading.
Addie Mae reveals how life blossoms when we have the courage to not only accept but also learn from our mistakes and sorrows. Her story may belong to one woman, but the lessons it teaches belong to everyone willing to open their hearts and listen to the truth within their souls.
Targeted Age Group:: 16-Adult
What Inspired You to Write Your Book?
I never expected to be a writer until I started hearing the voice of a Southern, African-American woman in my head and just began writing down what she was telling me. It was a year before I realized I was writing a book. The first draft, which is when she was speaking to me, took two years. She took me on an extraordinary journey during that time but when she left, I decided to put the book away so I could go on with my life. A year later, she returned and pushed me to start editing as the first draft was written as I heard her, in heavy Southern, black dialect. It took me years to work on the language, words and cadence. I kept giving up thinking it was crazy. But I always returned. Finally, one day, I knew it was ready. And now, I hope others experience Addie Mae's wise words as I did.
How Did You Come up With Your Characters?
They all came from Addie Mae. I never tried to create characters. Even the names. But though she gave me her last name right away, Aubrey, she did not reveal her first name until I had been writing the book for about a year. I kept changing her first name, but it never fit until one day I was watching TV and a news report came on about the 1963 Birmingham church bombing that killed 4 little girls. One of the little girls killed was Addie Mae Collins. As soon as I saw her picture I knew that was her name, Addie Mae. For the rest of the writing of the book I kept an image of Addie Mae Collins taped to my computer. I feel her spirit is somehow infused into the story.
It’s not what happened to me that matters.
It’s what Mama said about Uncle Joe and the old house, and that little secret lying buried beneath the floorboards. I’d mostly forgotten about the place. God knows forgetting was the best thing for me. But every now and then the wicked secret came out in a dream, or even sometimes just walking down the street on a beautiful sunny day.
I tried to ignore it, shoo it away like a swamp fly—like the ones that used to come around every spring near the water’s edge. They’d nest in the reeds and bushy punks where Jenny and I hid when Uncle Joe got into one of his mean moods. Big, blue shiny things they were, with teeth, or at least that’s the way I remember them. By the time Jenny and I came out of hiding, usually around dark when Mama would call us to supper, we were bit up to death. By then Uncle Joe would be sleeping, the whiskey once again showing us its kind side. Mama always did amazing things with the greens and cornbread and whatever meat she could trade for sewing. Each night we thanked the Lord for his blessings.
Mama was known for her sewing all over the county. It was probably the only reason we didn't starve, and why those state folk who come and take away poor kids didn’t take Jenny and me. Those official types always said they were doing best by the children, but most cried awful and were never heard from again. Usually their mamas just had more. Sometimes the state never found out. Country folk knew it was better to birth at home so there’d be no trace. Schooling never mattered anyhow because the only thing expected from life was the farm, and what good was reading and writing for that? Mama had a special gift. The rich ladies from Taversville would buy the lace tablecloths and matching napkins Mama made. Local folks traded pig or chicken and the occasional clutch of fresh eggs for her fine stitchery. Mama was proud of her work, and we were proud for her.
Mama’s ample heart could swallow the entire county. She was always feeding neighbor children despite our own meager supplies, believing that God provided for those who sacrificed themselves for the sake of others. Even though there were nights my growling belly challenged that thinking, time proved her right. I hate to admit this, but it took me a long while to figure the virtue in all of her kindness. Once when skinny Reggie Robinson, who I'd known from birth, come sneaking around for some of Mama’s cooking, I angered at Mama giving up what should be mine. I hollered at Reggie to go on home to his own mama’s lame concoctions.
Mama jumped towards me with a face full of anger. “Addie Mae, you get over here, girl!” she demanded, as poor Reggie fled from the kitchen table and out the back door, bawling.
I wasn’t much of anything then, maybe eleven going on twelve, but Mama figured I was old enough for mercy to take hold. She stopped yelling, though I could still feel temper percolating inside. It was her disappointment that hurt most, blistering more than any rage she could have mustered.
I hung my head and skulked shamefully towards the table. “I’m sorry Mama, but that Reggie’s always hangin’ ‘round like we don’t know what he’s truly after. Maybe me or Jenny gonna want your cookin’ later.” For a flash Mama looked at me like I wasn’t her daughter, like some other mouth released them harsh words. Then she smiled with her usual forgiveness, settling with me at the kitchen table.
“Givin’ up somethin’ ya own is hard to consider. I know that Addie Mae. All through life you gonna be forced to let go a things you reckon to be yours alone. Nothin’ belongs to nobody. We just borrowin’ from God and the land and them pesky spirits that try our nature. You gotta learn to give back if you don’t want God’s magic circle to be broken. When you offer somethin’ to someone in need, it’s like puttin’ love in the bank. One day that love will return just when you need it yourself, reappearin’ in the shape of your own heart’s desire.”
Mama sat there waiting for me to understand, waiting for that loving spark to catch fire. I’d like to say her words turned my thinking, but they didn’t. They only changed my behavior, which I guess was enough for her right then. I moseyed over to Reggie’s house and apologized, coaxing him back with Mama’s griddlecake kindness.
On most days Jenny and I would wake at dawn, Billy Milgrin’s prized Red cockadoodledoin’ so to wake the dead. We didn’t mind though. We were young and full of life, and for us, life began at dawn.
Mama was already up. Uncle Joe, usually sober yet, was out tending the fields. Morning was glorious, the sun coming up over those big strong oaks, turning the land all sparkly and new. The smell of coffee was somehow reassuring, though Mama never let us touch it. It was just one of them grownup things we reckoned; one of those things we’d get our own chance at in due time. And we sure seemed to have lots of time ahead of us.
Of course, chores filled most our days, either helping Uncle Joe in the fields as he got drunker and lazier, or walking clear past the Robinson place for water as we did but twice a week. We never stopped talking. Our jawing began the day Uncle Joe showed up with Jenny after Jenny’s mama died in a terrible fire that also swallowed her baby brother. Rumor was Uncle Joe started that fire, be it by accident or not. But because Uncle Joe was Jenny’s step-daddy and only family, they let him go, warning to leave town quick. So he did, showing up one morning on Mama’s doorstep.
I saw them coming that day. This big dark man with even darker eyes being trailed by Jenny who wore a pretty yellow dress covered in lilac flowers. With her long chocolate hair and blue eyes, she looked very different than me. I'd never seen blue eyes before. I once asked Mama why Jenny and me looked so different if we were cousins and all. She told me about Jenny’s grandma and how she got pregnant by a white boy passing through town. This boy was traveling the country doing God’s work, that's what he said, and Jenny’s grandma was supposed to be one of his converts to a better God. By the time he left town, she was more than converted.
Jenny was the first one in the family to get the blue eyes of God’s work. This did not make life easy. Her mother did the best she could, protecting Jenny from the hate-mongers who called her the devil’s child. Black folk in this part of the country still had raw rememberings of the slave days, and Jenny’s blue eyes reminded them of this painful past. So, she spent most her days alone, walking along the river, listening to the birds rejoicing.
Jenny loved the woods and its coolness. Even on the hottest summer afternoons she found refuge near that glimmering river. Lying long on dark green moss, cheek pressed to the soft ground, Jenny would watch a parade of ants march over the hill as they made their way to the base of an old tree stump. She’d park there for hours, jawing to herself and her ant friends, watching the leaves frolicking above her head.
It wasn’t until her baby brother was born that Jenny had another soul to talk to. He didn’t speak of course, the tiny thing. He simply was, and when he smiled, Jenny imagined he loved her. On the occasional days her mama traveled to town for provisions, she’d let Jenny take her baby brother to the woods. Jenny loved sharing her magical place with that magical new life.
By now Uncle Joe was already drinking too much, blaming her mama for all his life woes. He hit her once or twice, always apologizing straight off then not touching a drop of liquor. It never lasted though. After a day or two he'd be railing on again about his fate in life and how much better he could have done than Jenny’s mother and that bastard child of hers.
Jenny smelled smoke one Saturday afternoon as she sat with her ant family. She figured it was Marvin Torrell burning his bad crops again and thought nothing more of it.
Walking home she was suddenly seized with the knowledge that her mama was gone. The fear was so strong, its fiery energy charged through her small body, popping out of every one of her fingers and toes like firecrackers. It was like a new Jenny was born, and by the time she arrived home to witness the last timbers fall, she was almost a grown woman inside.
She circled her burned house, crying in vain for her little brother. The fire was so hot Uncle Joe and his friends never did find little Eddie. Then again, they never looked all that hard.
Uncle Joe disappeared and didn’t come back until two days following the funeral. He stunk like whisky. The local sheriff had words with him, and most in town suspected the worst. But small towns don’t like bad news, so the sheriff decided it was easier just to tell Uncle Joe to take Jenny and leave.
That’s how Jenny and me started our talking. She had so much stuck inside when she arrived, I don’t think her voice stilled at all in that first week. It finally did quit her though, and when she tried to talk she sounded like one of them little birds she loved so much. It was one of the first times I ever saw Mama laugh hard, and laugh she did, watching Jenny chirp her most mattering of believings.
Jenny was near the same age as me, only older by two months and four days. Still, she knew more somehow, like some old woman stole her body. I didn’t understand much of what she talked about in those early days, but she sure liked jawing. So, I’d just listen, smile and nod, I guess. Her fuddling words did nest in me though, incubating beneath my growing limbs. In time they all hatched and one day I finally understood her words and the things she believed, even though I didn’t quite believe them myself.
We were just eleven when Jenny showed up, and already she was talking about boys, having Mama shorten her dresses just a bit. Billy Milgrin was the first I knew about, but I suspect it was really his older brother Bobby that Jenny let touch her under her dress early that summer.
Bobby was always hanging around, sugaring Jenny on how pretty she was and all. Jenny seemed to need to hear such things. She was beautiful even then, as I think back. Being so white-looking though, most boys kept away, almost out of some sort of fear of her. Bobby was different. Somehow he sensed Jenny’s womanly beginnings and decided to see what a part-white girl looked like down there. He wooed her, picking flowers and wrapping them in lacy pink ribbons. Mama did her best to warn Jenny away from this nonsense, but a young girl with her first admirer ain’t hardly got a chance now does she?
Jenny never told me what happened between Bobby and her. By August, Bobby barely regarded her no more, and young Billy seemed to want something. Soon he was bringing Jenny flowers, touching the skin of her naked arms whenever he could.
It was late August. The three of us traveled ten miles to the county fair. I'd never seen so many folks, white and black mixing together, nobody hooting over each other’s color. For the first time I realized that life-long beliefs, born purely from being a child of Oakville, were not all true. I was not who others decided me to be. I could change my identity by simply altering my location. Perhaps I was the daughter of a very wealthy man. Or a peculiar-tongued visitor from far away. Could it be that I was smarter than anyone there? Or, was I the dumbest girl in school? Amid the crowds, watching all those scattered strangers, I decided it was within my own power to pick the “me” I chose to be. No one else had a say in any of it if I didn’t let them.
Jenny and Billy and me strode around the grounds, laughing at the clowns, picking the cows and pigs we liked best. There were some rides. We stood watching while other children played on them. Having no coin ourselves, dreaming was all we could do. I was watching a whirly-thing that flies in the air when I noticed that Jenny and Billy were missing. I searched for over an hour. I felt both angry and fearful and not sure which, until I finally spotted Jenny walking back from the far side of the fair. It was anger. Jenny came up to me and I screamed at her in a voice I didn’t recognize. It startled me, this loud, mean sound escaping my body. So much so, that I stopped. That’s when I noticed Jenny was crying. Well, yelling at a crying person solves nothing, so I hugged her, and asked what happened and where was Billy?
That’s when she told me the story. It wasn’t rape, I don’t think. Jenny and Billy found a trailer where the animals were kept at night. Billy jimmied open the door and both of them fell in, wrestling as they hit the sharp hay. He was on her all at once, kissing her, jawing that he loved her. Jenny pushed him away. Billy was honestly confused. He was a good-looking boy. Working the fields since he took his first step, he had unusual size and strength for a boy of fourteen. Unlike his brother though, he had no gift for the word. He had brawn instead. Billy yelled at Jenny, calling her a tease. Then he tried kissing her again, this time crawling his farm-craggy hand under her white dress. She kissed him back, holding that hand just as close as she was willing. That’s all Billy needed.
Jenny continued kissing Billy. Only God knows why she didn’t stop, but Billy finally decided kissing time was over and wanted to see the things his brother must have told him about. He climbed on top of her, clutching both her arms with his strong hands. At first she giggled, flattered that a boy would find her so attractive. Billy pulled her underpants down and Jenny got scared.
“Stop it now, Billy!” she ordered, squirming beneath his ample frame. “You a fine-looking boy. Much cuter than that Bobby. An’ I can tell you smarter, too. Must be ‘cause a your pretty mama and how much more she loves you than the rest a her brood.”
These pleasing lies eased Billy’s grip long enough for Jenny to escape. Instead of running, entertaining that particular opportunity, Jenny tugged hard at his crisp, dusty hair. This seemed to arouse Billy even more. Pulling down the top of her dress, he placed his mouth on her small breast. Jenny struggled and tried to scream but Billy covered her mouth with his hand. The weight of his body did the rest. Jenny said it really didn’t hurt so much. It was over fairly quickly, and Billy did up his trousers, thanked her for a good time. He sincerely meant it, according to Jenny.
“So, why you cryin’?” I asked her.
“He wouldn’t buy me some cotton candy. I know he got a little bit a money, enough to buy one cotton candy. But he wouldn’t.”
Jenny and me got a ride home from the farmer who lived not far down the road from us. I’d like to say from that day on she had the sense to stay away from those Milgrin boys. But I can’t. Jenny would always be confusing her body with her heart.
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