MVSU Graduate and Educator Publishes First Novel
Titled My Delta Blues, the novel is about a 15-year-old boy who has recently moved to the Delta from Chicago to live with his grandmother. The story takes place over one summer, yet through flashbacks, Lipsey delves into the history of his young protagonist, Malachi, exploring the events that both influenced his character and instigated the challenges he faces going forward.
“Even though this is a fiction story, lots of the things that happen are things that I experienced or things that are true to other people’s experiences,” Lipsey said. Still, My Delta Blues is not a roman à clef – Malachi at 15 is a different person from Lipsey at that same age.
He emphasized that many of the more traumatic experiences that take place in the Delta, ranging from growing up without a father to sexual abuse, take place in other places, yet oftentimes they’re not discussed openly.
“I hope that people take away that in the black community we have to start talking about these things,” Lipsey said. “I want people to realize that the secrets, the lies, the duplicity – these things make you messed up as a child, and if you’re a messed up child, you grow up to be a messed up adult.”
While the story is about a teenager from the north who moves to Mississippi, Lipsey said that he thinks the book reflects on experiences relevant to a broad section of the reading public, and not just Mississippians. He hopes the novel attracts a wide audience of readers.
My Delta Blues was first published as an ebook by Read Publishing, a startup publishing firm, though he has recently published a print version through Fundcraft, a Tennessee-based publisher.
Although Malachi, Lipsey’s protagonist, is from Chicago, Lipsey was raised much closer to home in nearby Greenville. After finishing his undergraduate education in 2000, he worked for Wwiscaa, a nonprofit community action agency, for several months before getting a job as a substitute teacher for Greenville Public Schools. In 2001, he became a high school teacher in Greenville, and after his first full year of teaching, he came to MVSU in the summer of 2002 to obtain his M.A. in Teaching.
“Going to Valley – Most of my professors knew my struggle. They understood what I was going through – they really cared.”
In many ways, Malachi’s struggle to overcome obstacles and personal setbacks mirrors Lipsey’s own struggle to be his “true and authentic self.” His journey toward self-actualization led him to the works of African American author, director, and academic Omowale Akintunde, who he considers a mentor. Through Akintunde, he learned that a deeper level of fulfillment is possible through the process of deconstruction – taking apart all the norms, assumptions, and ideologies learned over a lifetime and unveiling who you really are beneath it all.
Lipsey started writing My Delta Blues in 2005, not long after graduating from Valley. He rewrote the novel six times before having it published. To finish the novel, for two years he wrote every night before going to bed. At first, he said that much of what he wrote were long passages with no characters, but after a while he began to imagine characters and their stories seemed to start writing themselves.
He cites Song of Solomon and There Eyes Were Watching God as sources of inspiration. The perspective of My Delta Blues, written in the first person, is that of a teenager’s. “When describing these things,” Lipsey said, “I saw myself describing them as a child. I drew from personal experiences and the way that he describes things is very much the way that I would’ve described them at that age.” In some ways, he sees Malachi as a part of himself, even though the events of Malachi’s life don’t match up with his own.
With this book now complete, Lipsey is hoping that it can serve, in part, as a launch board for other things. He stated that he would like to do some public and motivational speaking. He also discussed wanting to be a guest lecturer at a college. “I’m an educator,” he said, stating that the work that he does with his students, he would like to bring to a wider audience. “I would like to inspire anyone who can’t see the forest for the trees, that you can do it.”