Red Clay Suzie (Hardcover)
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A novel inspired by true events
The coming-of-age story of Philbet, a gay, physically-misshapen boy in rural Georgia, who battles bullying, ignorance, and disdain as he makes his way in life as an outsider—before finding acceptance in unlikely places.
Fueled by tomato sandwiches and green milkshakes, and obsessed with cars, Philbet struggles with life and love as a gay boy in rural Georgia. He’s happiest when helping Grandaddy dig potatoes from the vegetable garden that connects their houses. But Philbet’s world is shattered and his resilience shaken by events that crush his innocence and sense of security; expose his misshapen chest skillfully hidden behind shirts Mama makes at home; and convince him that he’s not fit to be loved by Knox, the older boy he idolizes to distraction. Over time, Philbet finds refuge in unexpected places and inner strength in unexpected ways, leading to a resolution in the form of a letter from beyond the grave.
About the Author
Jeffrey Dale Lofton hails from Warm Springs, Georgia, best known as the home of Roosevelt’s Little White House. He calls the nation’s capital home now and has for over three decades. During those early years he spent many a night trodding the boards of the DC’s theaters and performing arts centers, including the Kennedy Center, Signature Theatre, Woolly Mammoth, and Studio Theatre. He even scored a few television screen appearances, including a residuals-rich Super Bowl halftime commercial, which his accountant wisecracked “is the finest work of your career.”
Ultimately he stepped away from acting for other, more traditional work, including providing communications counsel to landscape architects and helping war veterans tell their stories to add richness and nuance to historical accounts. At the same time, he focused on pursuing post-graduate work, ultimately being awarded Master’s degrees in both Public Administration and Library and Information Science. Today, he is a senior advisor at the Library of Congress, surrounded by books and people who love books—in short, paradise.
Red Clay Suzie is his first work of fiction, written through his personal lens growing up an outsider figuring out life and love in a conservative family and community in the Deep South.
“Arresting debut…a vivid depiction of a unique childhood that feels universal in its longing.”
— Christopher Castellani, author of Leading Men
“Red Clay Suzie’s Philbet Lawson joins Scout Finch (To Kill a Mockingbird) and Frankie Addams (Member of the Wedding) in Southern literature’s pantheon of outsider children. While Philbet finds unlikely allies in his small world, others ridicule his sensitive nature and deformed body. Philbet’s roots are planted in the South’s inhospitable red clay, but he grows up, honest to his true self. Read Red Clay Suzie and cheer on Philbet, a new literary hero.”
— Alice Leccese Powers, writer and editor of the bestselling In Mind series
“From a new, pitch-perfect, Southern voice, a story so close to the heart you can almost hear it beating.”
— James Hart, author of Lucky Jim
“An intimate exploration of people, place, and identity, Red Clay Suzie opens up the idea of the South into one that is more inclusive and real.”
— W. Ralph Eubanks, author of A Place Like Mississippi: A Journey Through a Real and Imagined Literary Landscape
“Jeffrey Dale Lofton is a writer’s writer, whose strong, authorial voice captures your imagination with an unshakable grip.”
— Willee Lewis, PEN/Faulkner board member, editor of Snakes: An Anthology of Serpent Tales
“A deeply moving story by a unique new voice in Southern literature, Red Clay Suzie belongs in the high school English syllabus.”
— Elaine Greenstone, educator, former International Baccalaureate examiner in English, curriculum specialist
“We care what happens to this observant voice, as Philbet searches for the handbook of life.”
— Joanne Leedom-Ackerman, author of No Marble Angels and upcoming Burning Distance
“Red Clay Suzie offers a lesson in what it takes to thrive in a world that’s intent on building fences, and it does so with affection and sweetness.”
— Paul Lisicky, author of Later: My Life at the Edge of the World