Posts tagged “arkansas

They’re naming streets after Raye Montague in Pine Bluff, Arkansas!

Posted on June 18, 2021

One of the many things I love about working with David Montague is that we have these conversations that are full of things we want to manifest on his mother’s behalf. Some of those things have come true, and other things, well, we’re still waiting on them to come true.

 

That is not to say they won’t. It’s just to say they haven’t yet.

 

This morning, David was in Pine Bluff Arkansas, where Pullen and Linden Streets were officially renamed Jordan-Montague Way. Why this is significant: this is the site of the original Merrill High School, where Raye graduated in 1952. If you’ve read the book, you know how and why Raye sang this school’s praises even late in her life (If you haven’t read the book yet, please do, so you can understand why this school was so special). So it’s touching that this street now bears her last name, as well as the last name of Massie D. Jordan, who was the principal from Raye’s last year there until 1980.

 

A special, heartfelt shoutout to Rosie Pettigrew, a 1967 Merrill graduate who not only organized the school’s reunion last night, but convinced the City of Pine Bluff to rename the street in time for it. Here she is with David last night.

 

 

Thank you, Rosie, for making sure people in Pine Bluff never forget about Arkansas’s own Hidden Figure.

 

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Other updates:

  • On Monday, David and I had a command performance with the lovely folks at Hunton Andrews Kurth, LLP. The first talk was for the firm’s Diversity and Inclusion practice, while this was for their fifty summer associates and anyone else in the firm who wanted to show up. We ultimately had 178 people on this Zoom call, and we are so grateful for the firm’s support! This time we spoke a little bit more to how Raye’s story can serve as an example to young professionals who are making their way in a complex and layered world, and we hope that these young men and women were able to take something away from this talk that will serve them well going forward.
  • If you are a reader — or even a potential reader — in Lake Charles, Louisiana, please know that David and I took our book talk to McNeese State’s SAGE series, and that recording will be airing a couple of times a day for the next week on Calcasieu Parish’s C-Gov, which you can find here. Any local media who would like to speak to either one of us about Raye Montague are welcome to contact me via this website, or David via his.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Overnight Code on Good Morning America

Posted on March 31, 2021

I tend to make a lot of lists. Grocery lists. To-do lists. Books-I’d-Like-To-Read lists. Books-I’d-Like-To-Write Lists. And so on and so forth. These lists keep me from forgetting important things, but they also keep me focused.

Before Overnight Code came out in January, I made a list of things that I hoped would happen for this book. Then David and I went about our business talking to groups, giving media interviews, chatting with book clubs and doing Zoom events with bookstores. We’ve had some wonderful support along the way, everyone from booksellers, to his university, to reporters, and friends who have enlisted us to speak to their book club, their enormous law firm, the political science department at their HBCU, etc. We’re grateful for everything that has been happening for this book and take none of it, and no reader, for granted.

If you’ve read this far, thank you a million times from the bottom of my heart for supporting David, me, and Overnight Code. It has been a tremendous privilege and honor to share this story with you. It has also been a great amount of fun for us both.

Now…

There was one thing I really wanted and I wrote it down on my list. I wanted Raye Montague’s story to return to Good Morning America. It’s where Raye first got big national attention in February 2017, when she talked about her life as the U.S. Navy’s Hidden Figure. It’s what got a certain special literary agent’s attention, which, in turn, led to Overnight Code. It’s responsible for launching the Paige and David literary show that has been running hard since January 12, 2021. A lot of things started there, on that show, and I had this twitchy little feeling that things needed to come full circle. I began pitching the book to them, looking for different angles each time. After a couple of tries, I heard nothing. I wasn’t surprised because it is a large, national show with a lot of busy people. But last week, I pitched it again, and a producer got back to us. At that point, things started moving really fast and feeling really unreal. They interviewed us. We sent them photographs and five copies of the book that didn’t arrive, and one copy of the book that did. Even though all of these signs seemed to point to them committing to the story, the nervous part of me knew that something could happen and the segment about Overnight Code could get bumped. So I didn’t want to tell anyone about it.

Because what if…

This past Monday, fifteen minutes before the end of the show, they aired this segment. It was exciting enough to see Robin Roberts hold up a copy of our book…

…but when I saw it on the Jumbotron outside GMA’s Times Square studio, I almost had a heart-attack. I just couldn’t believe it, and still can’t. But I am tremendously grateful to Robin Roberts, her producer Danielle Genet, and the rest of the GMA crew for helping us share this story with the nation. Somewhere, up above, Raye Montague is looking down on all of this, smiling. She’s not only getting her due, but lifting others up in the process.

The Raye Montague Challenge

Sunday, March 28 was Raye Montague Day in Little Rock, and David read Julia Finley Mosca’s The Girl With a Mind for Math to children via a Zoom event with Pyramid Art, Books and Custom Framing. Pyramid has become one of my favorite independent bookstores, and its owner, Garbo Hearne, has been a tremendous supporter of Overnight Code. On Sunday, Ms. Hearne issued a challenge to Central Arkansas: by next year’s Raye Montague Day, she wants to see a copy of The Girl With a Mind for Math and Overnight Code in every school and community organization library in the state. The Little Rock Water Reclamation Authority has already kicked off the challenge by purchasing and donating 100 books, and we are grateful to them for getting things going. Ms. Hearne wants Raye Montague to be a household name in Arkansas, and we thank her for that. Here’s hoping people are up for the challenge, not just there, but all over the nation, too.

 

Some book news…

Posted on November 8, 2018

When I was in the midst of moving back to Atlanta, my agent contacted me about a story that really needed to be told. It was about an African-American woman named Raye Montague, who engineered her way out of the Jim Crow South to become the first person to draft a Naval warship design by computer. The idea was that I’d complete a proposal (quickly), and if it sold, help her get her memories down (again quickly; she was 83) so we could get what promises to be a marvelous and truly inspirational book about a Hidden Figure out to market. Over the course of the summer and into fall, I’ve gotten to know and truly love Raye and her son David, as I started working with them to create what was originally intended to be her memoir.

About a month ago, Raye fell ill and went into hospice. She died October 10, and after months of talking to her and getting to know her, my heart absolutely broke. Her son’s heart broke. So many people whose lives she touched…their hearts broke. Raye was brilliant, strong, inspirational and so goddamn funny. She was a great storyteller, which was a delight for someone like me. Now, her son David and I will be working together to co-author her biography, which is tentatively titled KICK LIKE THE DEVIL. It’ll be published by Chicago Review Press, just like my first book was, and I think I can safely that I and David – my friend David – are chomping at the bit to share the life of this amazing woman with you. Stay tuned…and thank you.