BY JOHN-HENRY DOUCETTE
TOWN CENTER — Writer Rashod Ollison, familiar to readers of The Virginian-Pilot for writing about music and culture, is now the author of a memoir earning praise for, as Publishers Weekly put it, revealing “the ways that music can soothe the pain.”
The Arkansas native tells his story of finding music, writing and himself in the memoir, and, in an interview, he said Toni Morrison’s The Bluest Eye was an early influence in the eighth grade that helped shape his own art.
He said the book was a revelation because it was different from other works by black writers that seemed to be explaining their story to a white audience.
Soul Serenade: Rhythm, Blues & Coming of Age Through Vinyl reflects his perspective — “my own humanity,” Ollison said during a recent interview at the Sonoma Wine Bar & Bistro Restaurant at Town Center. The author, who lives in the Hilltop area, is scheduled to appear at Barnes & Noble at Columbus Square at 7 p.m., Tuesday, Jan. 26.
Ollison joined The Pilot after working in big cities about six years ago, and he said he initially found himself driving to Baltimore or D.C. to see family and friends.
“Personally, this has been a big change for me,” he said. “A single, black, gay man in suburban sprawl is a transition.”
He said the change here also helped him focus on himself and his work.
He poured himself into his writing at The Pilot. And he wrote about his family, placing some early versions of what became the book on Facebook. He saw it as the kind of narrative that didn’t conform to others he had read.
“I was basically writing the book because I wanted to read the book,” he said.
A Facebook friend read a section that had been published by The Pilot, and forwarded it to Beacon Books, which ultimately published the final book. The story deals with family challenges, identity and the power of music. In its pages, the presence of artists like Aretha Franklin is essential.
“Aretha’s voice in the book is almost like another character,” Ollison said.
It told him, he said, “I can be as strong as she sounds.”
© 2016 Pungo Publishing Co., LLC