Ladee Hubbard’s book title “The Talented Tenth” was taken from W.E.B. DuBois’ influential essay of the same name published in 1903 that refers to a leadership class of African Americans.
BY FRANK DROUZAS, Staff Writer
ST. PETERSBURG —Ladee Hubbard, who spent summers of her youth in St. Pete, was recently named a winner of the 2016 Rona Jaffe Foundation Writers’ Award. The award is given annually to six women writers who demonstrate excellence and promise in the early stages of their careers.
Now in its 22nd year, the Rona Jaffe Awards have helped many women build successful writing careers by offering encouragement and financial support at a critical time. The award is $30,000 each and was presented to the six recipients on Sept. 15 in New York City.
Hubbard, who attended Lakewood High in her freshman year, was nominated anonymously for the award by members of the publishing industry. She is the winner of the Faulkner-Wisdom Short Story Award, and her stories and poems have appeared in such publications as “Prick of the Spindle,” “Rhino,” “Beloit Fiction Journal” and “GUD” magazine, among others.
She received her MFA in fiction at University of Wisconsin-Madison in 2014, and her forthcoming first novel, “The Talented Tenth,” evolved out of her master’s thesis. The book is due out in the fall of 2017.
The book’s title is taken from W.E.B. DuBois’ influential essay of the same name published in 1903 that refers to a leadership class of African Americans, Hubbard explained, and centers around a family whose members all have unique abilities.
“It sort of literalizes it [the essay] in that the characters have actual talents,” Hubbard said. “The whole book is playing with ideas that have to do with the need for a black leadership.”
“The Talented Tenth” is structured as a road novel that combines elements of the picaresque and the noble quest, and tells the story of the Ribkins family, each member of which is born with a unique talent: one can see in the dark, one can pick any lock and another can make intricate maps from memory of anything he sees.
“It’s become slightly surrealistic,” she said, “but it’s a literal plot, it takes place in the real world,” adding that the family members try to figure out what to do with these gifts they’ve been given.
Hubbard already has other books in the works including a historical novel set in 1918 Chicago and a collection of linked short stories set in the 1980s. She said that much of her short fiction is set in the contemporary South and admitted that when composing many of these, she’s actually thinking of St. Pete, where she would spend entire summers visiting her grandparents. Hubbard’s mother now makes her home in St. Pete.
“I have a lot of fond memories of St. Petersburg,” said Hubbard, who is a mother of three and now resides in New Orleans, where she has taught at Tulane University.
Growing up, the Hubbard family was very mobile and lived in such varied locales as California, the Virgin Islands and Ft. Myers.
“The real homecoming for me was always St. Petersburg,” she said, “because I spent every summer with my grandparents.”