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The many layers of Charmaine Wilkerson’s ‘Black Cake’

Charmaine Wilkerson
Charmaine Wilkerson

This week on The Write Question, Lauren speaks with novelist Charmaine Wilkerson, author of Black Cake (Ballantine Books), a novel about inheritances, small and profound—like a recipe for black cake, passed down from a mother to her children, learned by demonstration, conversation, and proximity; Wilkerson writes in the novel, “baking black cake was like handling a relationship. The recipe, on paper, was simple enough. Its success depended on the quality of the ingredients, but mostly on well you handled them.” Black Cake is the story of a mother, a woman, whose traumas and histories she hid from her children—children who, after her death, are forced to confront their mother’s past, as well as their own identities in light of such shocking revelations.

About Charmaine:

Charmaine Wilkerson is from New York, has lived in Jamaica, and does much of her writing in Italy. A former news and communication professional, she has published award-winning stories in various anthologies and magazines. Her debut novel Black Cake is a New York Times bestseller and a #ReadWithJenna book club pick. A screen series based on the novel is currently under development for Hulu.

Charmaine Wilkerson recommends:

Anancy and Miss Lou by Louise Bennett (Sangster’s Book Stores)

Girl, Woman, Other by Bernardine Evaristo (Grove Press, Black Cat)

Olive Kitteridge and Olive, Again by Elizabeth Strout (Penguin Random House)

Joy Luck Club by Amy Tan (Penguin Random House)

Brown Girls by Daphne Palasi Andreades (Penguin Random House)

A Little Hope by Ethan Joella (Scribner)

Olga Dies Dreaming by Xochitl Gonzalez (Flatiron Books)

Lauren Korn recommends:

Homegoing by Yaa Gyasi (Alfred A. Knopf)

The Mothers and The Vanishing Half by Britt Bennett (Riverhead Books)

The Write Question team is Lauren Korn, host and co-producer; Peter Hoag, co-producer and editor; and Tom Berich, sound engineer.

The Write Question logo and brand (2022) was designed by Molly Russell. You can see more of her work at iamthemollruss.com and on Instagram @iamthemollruss. Our music was written and recorded by John Floridis.

Funding for The Write Question comes from Humanities Montana; members of Montana Public Radio; and from the Greater Montana Foundation—encouraging communication on issues, trends, and values of importance to Montanans.

The Write Question is a production of Montana Public Radio.

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Lauren R. Korn holds an M.A. in poetry from the University of New Brunswick, where she was the recipient of the Tom Riesterer Memorial Prize and the Angela Ludan Levine Memorial Book Prize. A former bookseller and the former Director of the Montana Book Festival, she is now the host of Montana Public Radio’s literature-based radio program and podcast, ‘The Write Question.’
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