An open book ...

Pictured is the cover art that graces Jacksonville graduate Cordell Adams’ debut novel, “Light Bread”

Author Cordell Adams will be signing and discussing his book, “Light Bread” at these Jacksonville venues:

• from 8:30-11 a.m. Friday, Nov 21, Austin Bank;

• from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. Friday, Nov. 21 at Lon Morris College;

• from 2-4 p.m. Friday, Nov. 21 at the Norman Activity Center;

• from 9-11 a.m. Saturday, Nov. 22 at Larissa House.

Jacksonville High School class of 1979 valedictorian Dr. Cordell Adams feels blessed to have grown up in such a small town, under the watchful eye of his grandmother.

So much so that the places and people featured in his recently published novel are, he admits, loosely based on his hometown, his grandmother and his own childhood.

Adams, an ophthalmologist with a thriving practice located in the heart of Baylor University Medical Center, has the distinct honor of being the first (and only) black valedictorian at a time when racial issues were at the forefront of the country’s mind.

“Growing up in Jackson-ville, race rarely had anything to do with the relationships I formed,” Adams remembers. “I grew up with most of my classmates. We all played together, we’d never known segregation. I had friends from all sides of the track.

“I realize now that I was shielded from a lot of things that were happening in other places at that point in history. My parents and grandparents were wonderful shields. The community was special, too.

“When you ride around the Sonic on a Saturday night with the same people you were small children with, there’s a trust factor there. The value system you learn in a small town made it easy to accept everyone else.”

That value system was pressed into Adams’ young mind especially by his grandmother, he remembers, who passed away in January 1980. His book’s main character, Veola Cook, channels his memories of his grandmother.

“This book for me was therapy,” he said. “It really helped to bring the best parts of her to the forefront.”

The story follows Cook, who “possesses insatiable curiosity, a respect for and interest in keeping any man on the right track, a healthy sense of humor and a desire to fill everyone’s bellies,” according to the book’s jacket.

Veola starts what she believes is a God-given mission to improve life in her small East Texas community of Parkersville. She dispenses smiles and advice to her family, friends and even the families she works for as a domestic.

“The main commodity that crossed racial barriers in the segregated south of the late 1960s was food,” Adams explains in the author’s note included on the back of the book. “Blacks and whites alike called white, store-bought bread “light bread,” thus the name for the story.”

Adams said he owes a lot of his success to his parents, naturally, and his childhood community — especially his grade school teachers.

“I always felt like people expected me to succeed, so I did,” he said. “There wasn’t one teacher I had in Jacksonville that didn’t profoundly affect my life. Each and every one brought something yo the way I look at my life now.”

Adams said he always thinks fondly of the town he spent his childhood in.

“I miss the people, the friendships I had there,” he said. “I talk to several of my teachers on a regular basis and I still keep in touch with some of my classmates.

“But I miss the general feeling of well-being you get from living in a town like Jacksonville.”

Literature in review

“Light Bread, a first novel by Cordell Adams, weaves a lovely story around the tumultuous 1960s in his creation of Veola Cook — a brave, black Earth-mother of wisdom, warmth and wit. But Veola has the strength of goodness and godliness to offer love and comfort to those in need, regardless of the danger she faces, regardless of the unrest in America... and regardless of the color of the many who depend on her.”

— Billie Letts, Where the Heart Is (an Oprah Book Club selection), and MADE IN THE USA

“We all know her. That go-to person for all our troubles. And in his debut novel, Light Bread, Cordell Adams gives readers that person in the form of Veola Cook, who just about everyone in Parkerville, Texas, comes to count on when they need a little homespun wisdom and propping up. Adams has created a warm, caring, colorful and insightful character who will be a delight for readers. A woman with the wisdom to avoid trouble and the insight to handle it, if it rears its ugly head.”

— Robert Greer, author of seven novels in the CJ Floyd mystery series (the latest two, The Mongoose Deception and Blackbird, Farewell), two medical thrillers, and a short story collection

“Cordell Adams’ wonderful debut novel, Light Bread, took me back to my youth in East Texas. He describes the times, the people and their circumstances with stunning accuracy. Ms. Veola is a true character and I found myself cheering for her through her tribulations to the satisfying ending.”

— Evelyn Palfrey,

author of The Price of Passion

“A good book happens when a good story is told or when a story is told well. Cordell Adams’ Light Bread does both. I went back to my own childhood and opened the door to characters who were coming in anyway. The breath and wisdom of Light Bread leaves you wanting more.”

— Bertice Berry, author of Redemption Song, When Love Calls, You Better Answer, and

The Ties that Bind, A Memoir of Race Memory and Redemption

“Engaging and engrossing… filled with heartfelt characters and achingly realistic portrayals of a time passed but not forgotten. Miss Veola, Miss Loretta, and Fayetta Dewberry reminded me of women that I have known, loved, and celebrated. Light Bread will make you laugh out loud and praise your ancestors. Hallelujah.”

— Gabrielle Pina, author of Bliss, Chasing Sophea, and

Children of Grace

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