From the moment Lonnie hears the song of the beautiful Love Bird, his life begins to change--as if by magic! Instead of sitting all alone in his room at the orphanage, he finds himself following the magical Love Bird into another place and time: Paris, France in the early 1900s. As Lonnie searches the city for the tricky bird, he is led to an old house. There, waiting for him, are his grandparents, who at last tell Lonnie the story of his family that he has so desperately longed to know. It is a family history that is inextricably bound with the history of a century and the history of several cultures: African American, French, Jewish. Beginning with a grandfather who fought in World War I with the French in the exclusive regiment known as the Harlem Hell Fighters through the Harlem Renaissance and the blossoming of African American culture to the darker times of World War II, Lonnie traces his family tree and comes to know all the people who gave him their talents, their strengths, and their love. Cover excerpt, Bonjour Lonnie, by Faith Ringgold, (edited by Elizabeth Gordon), Hyperion Press, New York 1996.
"I wanted to give some affirmation to children of mixed heritage and children without parents. Also, the experience of African Americans going to Paris to achieve cultural freedom has been interesting to me since my first trip there, in 1961. I fell in love with Paris. At that time, I became aware that some forty years earlier, in the 1920s, African American artists, writers, and musicians began going to Paris because they felt the same way. I thought it a good idea for Lonnie to have French roots.
"As a child, growing up in Harlem, I often saw the 369th Infantry soldiers drilling in the streets and I went to the armory to attend dances and social gatherings. My uncle was in the 369th regiment, and he went to France. The Harlem Hell Fighters won many medals for their bravery during World War I. When they returned to America, they were saluted as heroes, the first public honor afforded a group of African Americans. It is considered to be one of the causes of the Harlem Renaissance, which was a period of great cultural achievement for African Americans, both Home and abroad."
"I wanted to weave all these African American experiences into Lonnie's story." Faith Ringgold
(New York: Hyperion, 1996)
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