Surrounded by horses, chickens and cats, author Terry Persun accomplishes all of his best work before most people even wake up in the morning.
Persun spends the first few hours of every day writing novels and poems. The rest of the day, he does his “real” work and helps manufacturing companies with their marketing strategies by creating technical articles, press releases and advertising materials. But as the sun rises each morning over his family’s Chimacum farm, Persun almost always can be found doing what he loves the most: writing.
Recently, Persun celebrated the release of his latest novel, “Sweet Song.” Set against the turmoil of post-Civil War America, “Sweet Song” tells a tender, raw and provocative story of Leon, the mixed-race son of a white landowner and a black house servant. Leon is raised black but is an outcast from both cultures — teased by other black children and taken advantage of by the landowner’s children.
“Because of this, he feels as though he doesn’t fit anywhere, something I believe everybody has experienced at one point or another,” Persun said.
Suddenly, Leon finds himself on his own — and passing for white.
“It happens on accident at first, but then he allows it to continue,” Persun said. “Throughout the book, Leon struggles with who he is and how he wishes to address the rest of the world.”
Even though the book takes place after the Civil War and in a town that was part of the Underground Railroad, “passing” is a dangerous thing to do. Wages for black and white people were different, as well as living conditions and everyday interactions. If discovered, Leon could be shunned, kicked out of town or even killed for lying about his race.
Persun describes the novel as “full of vivid scenes, lively action and lyrical prose” and an “archetypal American story of transformation and self-discovery that will stay with the reader for a very long time.”
Persun is the proud author of five published novels, two poetry collections and a nonfiction book about small presses. Several of his novels explore the idea of identity.
The inspiration for “Sweet Song” comes from a very personal place.
“I grew up in a family where my brothers and sister were of lighter skin color than I was,” he said. “My dad was of French and Indian descent (and) I happened to be the darkest child of four.”
At school, Persun recalls being teased for his dark skin. When pointing at a photo of the family, even his father would sometimes proclaim that he was “the black one.”
From “Sweet Song,” Persun said he hopes readers will gain a better understanding of other human beings regardless of race, religion or status.
“We are all in this together and often fear the same things, worry about the same things and then treat others as though they don’t understand,” he said. “They do.”
More than anything, readers should enjoy the journey, Persun said.
“One reviewer on Amazon said that the novel read like a memoir, which really touched me,” he said. “I want readers to become my characters and feel what they feel.”
For more information, go online to www.terrypersun.com.