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Alice Randall in Conversation with Jeff Martin

PEN Tulsa, in collaboration with Magic City Books, the Bob Dylan Center, and the Woody Guthrie Center, invites you to a conversation with professor and author Alice Randall on the occasion of her new book, My Black Country: A Journey Through Country Music’s Black Past, Present, and Future. As the first Black woman to write a number-one song on the country charts — “XXXs and OOOs,” by Trisha Yearwood — Randall offers a lyrical and introspective account of her galvanizing presence within the world of country music as she searches for the roots of Black creativity and influence within the historically segregated genre. Randall will engage in a lively discussion with Magic City Books founder and PEN Tulsa Chapter Leader Jeff Martin and field questions from the audience.

My Black Country: A Journey Through Country Music’s Black Past, Present, and Future is available here. Copies will also be available for purchase onsite, with a book signing that will follow the conversation.


About My Black Country: A Journey Through Country Music’s Black Past, Present, and Future

Alice Randall, award-winning professor, songwriter, and author with a “lively, engaging, and often wise” (The New York Times Book Review) voice, offers a lyrical, introspective, and unforgettable account of her past and her search for the first family of Black country music.

Country music had brought Randall and her activist mother together and even gave Randall a singular distinction in American music history: she is the first Black woman to cowrite a number one country hit, Trisha Yearwood’s “XXX’s and OOO’s”. Randall found inspiration and comfort in the sounds and history of the first family of Black country music: DeFord Bailey, Lil Hardin, Ray Charles, Charley Pride, and Herb Jeffries who, together, made up a community of Black Americans rising through hard times to create simple beauty, true joy, and sometimes profound eccentricity.

What emerges in My Black Country is a celebration of the most American of music genres and the radical joy in realizing the power of Black influence on American culture. As country music goes through a fresh renaissance today, with a new wave of Black artists enjoying success, My Black Country is the perfect gift for longtime country fans and a vibrant introduction to a new generation of listeners who previously were not invited to give the genre a chance.


Alice Randall is a New York Times best-selling novelist, award-winning songwriter, educator, food activist, and now memoirist. A graduate of Harvard University, she holds an honorary doctorate from Fisk University, is on the faculty at Vanderbilt University, and credits Detroit’s Ziggy Johnson School of the Theater with being the most influential educational institution in her life. She is widely recognized as being one of the most significant voices in 21st century African-American fiction, the only Black woman in history to write both a number one Country song (XXX’s and OOO’s) and an ACM video of the year (Is There Life Out There? starring Reba McEntire).

Randall has presented across the nation: in auditoriums, libraries, museums, and ballrooms; in fields, in graveyards, and harborside. She once did a talk for a group of students as they marched across the Edmund Pettus Bridge. In all those spaces she weaves history, literature, practical wisdom, and political passion into powerful exchanges with large and small audiences. She covers expected territory in unexpected ways and makes unexpected territory accessible. My Black Country, memoir and album, is a summit of her storied career. Randall’s work has been or is currently being taught at a wide range of universities, including Fisk, Harvard, Iowa State, Penn State, Philander Smith, Princeton, Tuskegee, The University of Texas Austin, The University of Virginia, and Wesleyan.

Jeff Martin is an author, editor, and Founder/Executive Director of the Tulsa Literary Coalition and Magic City Books. His books include The Customer is Always Wrong: The Retail Chronicles (Soft Skull Press), a National Book Critics Circle Award nominee and a Shelf Awareness Book of the Year and The Late American Novel: Writers on the Future of Books (Counterpoint), praised in the New Yorker, The Economist, and called “funny, poignant, relentlessly thought-provoking” by The Atlantic. He is a contributor to Publishers Weekly, Poets & Writers, Salon.com, and National Public Radio. Most recently his poetry appeared in the new anthology, The Eloquent Poem (Persea) edited by Elise Paschen. 


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