I'm excited to have my friend, Christopher Joseph share his new book today. It's set in Detroit, Michigan and sounds amazing! Check out the interview with him!
Tell us about your book:
Well, will share my summary! Zeke’s Kitchen, a well known Detroit, Michigan east side Soul Food restaurant has been devastated by the closing of nearby automobile plants that have fueled it’s eatery for decades.
The Woods family have owned and operated Zeke’s since the Civil Rights movement of the 1960’s. Since the passing of Ezekiel S. Woods Sr. his beloved and devoted wife Mrs. Tyla Woods, known simply as ‘Mama’ has run the historic business.
Collapsing in front of her youngest daughter Silvia forces the estranged adult Woods children to unite for their mother and the fate of the struggling famed restaurant.
Pompous and arrogant lawyer oldest son Ezekiel Woods Jr., successful advertising exec and flamboyant oldest daughter Maureen Woods, missing in action and troubled youngest son Kevin Woods aka Kwame and mousy, withdrawn, college student Silvia along with their extended family and friends are reunited to face their demons and face the challenges that change begets their family.
What inspired you to write this book:
I love good stories. I have hundreds of other stories in various states of completion. Zeke's is my 2nd published novel after Road Kill 'Pathfinder' Pt. 1. I wanted to show the world my diversity as an author and not be stuck in one genre. My next manuscript I'm currently working on is a sci-fi. I have as many different screenplays finished as well.
Zeke's started as an overview of family dynamics especially in the Urban black community. Everybody has a family in some state of being. Could be a tight nit family, always together, holidays are packed tight, everyone looks out for each other. Some families are estranged, people are by themselves, no communication, people lose track of each other. Many are dysfunctional, plagued with arguments, money issues, affairs, drug issues, deceitfulness. Some are utter horrific. Even if one can't place a blood member anywhere nearby, they did at one time have a mother, a father. Our network of friends and co-workers can be our family. Essentially surrounding the core family in Zeke's is a diverse group of workers and friends from all backgrounds that essentially is the culture of the USA. This network of people can be vast, or can be small. Your family always stays in your heart, the good the bad and the ugly. I wanted to tap into that.
Who are some of your favorite authors:
Virginia Hamilton, Alex Hailey, Nathan McCall, Kevin Powell, Katrina Kittle.
What book by another author do you wish you had written:
The Autobiography of Malcolm X... I mean, who would pass on a chance to kick it with and learn from the violate and influential legend?
Are their any particular songs that inspired your writing as you worked on this book:
Absolutely! Music is one of my deepest passions just as writing. Several chapters in this book I quote influential songs while giving proper honor to the artists. I quote everyone from Prince, A Tribe Called Quest, Mary J. Blige, Eminem, Roy Ayers, Grand Puba, Eryn Allen Kane, and Louis Armstrong. The story being set in Detroit, Michigan, I pay tribute to many of the cities superstars such as the late J. Dilla, Royce The 5'9, Slum Village, Dwele, Elzhi, Oddisee, E. Dubb Da Gawd, Black Milk and a host of others. Eminem's 'Food stamps' lyrics in particular influenced the entire chapter 'Government Cheese' which is a turning point in the story. Also 'Flapjacks' was inspired by Dwele's song of the same name. The chapter 'Styles upon Styles' mixes a beginning and ending arch that is book ended by the great Roy Ayers masterpiece 'Everybody loves the Sunshine' along with artists that sampled Sunshine, such as the Mary J. Blige 'My Life' and Brand Nubian's 'Wake UP." 'Styles upon Styles' title itself is derived from the late great Phife Dawg.
Who is your favorite character in the book and why:
Freddy Styles. He's a real OG. 70 + and still making things happen! Hopefully I can be like him one day.
Why is it called Eat@Zeke's and you included recipes in the book?
One of the quintessential black family business are restaurants! Black folks love to eat good food and many love to cook. It is ingrained in a way of lifestyle. Soul Food being a staple of the urban community. In this generation, healthy eating is essential to quality life as well as having a stable family support network. Our people valued taste and quantity of food over nutritional values for so long. Possibly stems from the PTSD of our ancestors in slavery or segregation for centuries and not having adequate bounty of food. Our fathers and grandfathers wanted to feast well the spoils of freedom. Least they worry about their heart and arteries. Many men have fallen to this foolishness. The backdrop of Zeke's builds on our ancestry of the passing down of the family business, the legacy of the American Soul Food, the migration of blacks from predominantly small farming communities to urban industrial cores, then the eventual shut down of these lucrative industry jobs and the eventual fall-out of these once thriving cities. Detroit was a prime example of this circle of life. A decayed city with idle factories and vanished residents who have long fled, abandoned homes, failing schools, neighborhoods plagued by violence and exploitation of the remaining few. Alcohol, cigarettes, guns, fried chicken and lottery stands woo the fallen sheep left with nothing. Detroit, Cleveland, Chicago, Pittsburgh, Flint, Dayton, they are all the same. Detroit is the big D, while down south on I-75 Dayton is the little D. The pipeline of the drug highway. It's all the same.
Gentrification, the tech boom, reemerging cities and those exploiting the fallen are addressed in Zeke's as a backdrop to the families peril. The cry for 'Eat at Zeke's' is a metaphor, essentially used the same as 'Stay Woke' or 'Black Lives Matter' or the 'Me2' movement. Let's build on and consume goodness, for we all must eat healthy to survive, strengthen our bodies, our spirits, our minds. Strengthen our communities with positivism.
"Zeke" itself was influenced by my late father's nick name. The man loved to eat!
The recipes are a nice addition! The story revolves around food right? I believe I picked some nice healthy ones, sans the dreaded Chicken Gizzards and maybe that yummy pie! The wine was a throwback to my late grandmother Ella, who harvested her own grapes and made her own. Too bad I was too young to enjoy. Wish I could find her recipe!
What else influenced the setting of Detroit:
The awesome history and people of the city! The 'Nain Rouge' is a Detroit urban legendary who curses those that see it and is blamed for many of the cities woes. He wrecks havoc on the Woods family as well as in the primary battle ground of Cass Town.
I honor Detroit's John George of Blight Busters, who is a legend right now building back whole neighborhoods by leading teams of volunteers to attack urban blight one hood at a time. Other cities need to adapt his manifesto to battle urban decay!
Also mentioned is filmmaker Pleze Moore of Related Filmworks, a good friend of mine and Detroit legend in music, film and sports.
Name drop Detroit Lions, Pistons, Red Wings, the awesome Shinola Watches and the abandoned Boblo Amusement park!
Dayton and Detroit have a long history of collaboration and Eat@Zeke's is continuing in that honor. The Lil D makes a few appearances!
Find out more about Christopher here: about.me/christopher.j88
Get the book here:
Author of the Landry's True Colors Series, the Cecily Taylor Series, the Star Series, and Dating the It Guy.