Bernadene Coleman

Bernadene High Coleman
Mama Rose

Interviewed by: Lauretta Pierce
July 24, 2002

1. Who is Bernadene High Coleman?

A retired Educator who always had a passion for writing, but was told (in her youth) that she should pursue something else because there was no opportunity for (then) Negro Writers. I am also a speaker and a poet.

2. What inspired you to write the novel Mama Rose?

I wanted to write about how our ancestors survived following the Civil War. And I wanted people to know their strength and innate intelligence; how they valued each other, freedom and family ties.

3. How long have you been writing?

I have always written but I've been seriously writing for six years.

4. How did you come about the character Rose?

Rose is based on the life of my great grandmother.

5. Why did Rose continue to call Jesse, Mr. Ford?

This was a habit practiced by many women of that day. Race had nothing to do with that.

6. How did you come about Jesse and Frank Ford's character?

Jesse is based on the life of my great grandfather and Frank Ford was his brother.

7. How did you come about Zeke and Mamie characters?

Stories about Zeke and Mamie, were told to me by my great grandmother, who lived to be about 95 years old.

8. How did you come about the plot surrounding Justine, Moe and Joe?

Again, this is part of the Oral Tradition that was handed down to the generations. MAMA ROSE is based on real stories pieced together from stories handed down by my ancestors, plus my own research.

9. How did you come about the plot surrounding Cecilia Metoyer with her wanting to pass for white?

See above

10. Will there be a sequel to Mama Rose?

Probably not, even though I've been asked. I am currently writing stories about some of their descendents.

11. What message would you like readers to receive from reading Mama Rose?

An understanding about the true characteristics of our ancestors, despite slavery. Also, to learn that many fair skinned African-Americans are not the result of rape. Some are from mixed parents who deeply loved and respected each other. I want our children and others to know that there are rich, inspirational and awe inspiring stories that have never been told.

12. Are there any of your personality traits in any of your characters?

I have been told that I inherited not only my great grandmother's looks, but also her strength and determination.

13. What type of atmosphere do you require to write?

I write late at night when there is a minimum of distractions.