January 19, 2021
Ladee Hubbard
Historical Fiction
Hardcover, 384 pages
"Shocking and thought-provoking, Hubbard’s latest cements her status as an American original."
-Publishers Weekly

“Hubbard delivers a dazzling tour-de-force in this richly painted, perfectly timed meditation on privilege and fury.” -Booklist (starred review)
The acclaimed author of The Talented Ribkins deconstructs painful African American stereotypes and offers a fresh and searing critique on race, class, privilege, ambition, exploitation, and the seeds of rage in America in this intricately woven and masterfully executed historical novel. The story is set in early the twentieth century and centers around the black servants of a down-on-its heels upper-class white family.

For fifteen years August Sitwell has worked for the Barclays, a well-to-do white family who plucked him from an orphan asylum and gave him a job. The groundskeeper is part of the household’s all-black staff, along with “Miss Mamie,” the talented cook, pretty new maid Jennie Williams, and three young kitchen apprentices—the latest orphan boys Mr. Barclay has taken in to "civilize" boys like August.
But the Barclays fortunes have fallen, and their money is almost gone. When a prospective business associate proposes selling Miss Mamie’s delicious rib sauce to local markets under the brand name “The Rib King”—using a caricature of a wildly grinning August on the label—Mr. Barclay, desperate for cash, agrees. Yet neither Miss Mamie nor August will see a dime. Humiliated, August grows increasingly distraught, his anger building to a rage that explodes in shocking tragedy. 

Elegantly written and exhaustively researched, The Rib King is an unsparing examination of America’s fascination with black iconography and exploitation that redefines African American stereotypes in literature. In this powerful, disturbing, and timely novel, Ladee Hubbard reveals who people actually are, and most importantly, who and what they are not.
Dear Reader, 

My novel, The Rib King, tells the story of an African American groundskeeper who becomes an icon for a popular brand of meat sauce marketed and sold throughout the United States in the early twentieth century. When I began writing the book, I wanted to explore the intersection between the rise of minstrelsy as a prominent form of entertainment at the turn of the last century and the efforts of former slaves to establish their identities as citizens following the Civil War.

I focused on a group of black domestic servants who often find themselves required to enact minstrel stereotypes even as they carry out their complicated duties in the tumultuous household that employs them. While my initial interest concerned the enduring impact of minstrel stereotypes, I was also interested in acknowledging and paying tribute to their humanity, so often obscured by their relationship to stereotypical roles. The Rib King is the book that came out of these concerns and I am honored to share it with you.

Warmest regards,

Ladee Hubbard's The Rib King
 Book Club Menu and Recipe
Food is an important emotional core of The Rib King and a lot of my research involved considering what the book's characters ate and what their relationship to food and sustenance might reveal about who they were. The chance to sample a recipe from the era becomes a wonderful way to connect with these characters and the complexity of their experiences. These are some recipes I suggest:

Antebellum Barbecue Sauce from Michael Twitty's blog, Afroculinaria: "This recipe comes right out of the narrative of Mr. Wesley Jones, who was born enslaved in South Carolina in 1840. In his narrative, edited by Elmer Turnage of the Works Projects Administration of the 1930s, he described his role as a pit-master at the many barbecues that served as social and business engagements for the planter class."

Baked macaroni and cheese from Toni Tipton-Martin's cookbook, Jubilee: Two Centuries of African American Cuisine.
Elizabeth’s Lemon Cake from Toni Tipton-Martin's Jubilee: Two Centuries of African American Cuisine. Tipton-Martin adapted the recipe from Malinda Russell's A Domestic Cook Book: Containing a Careful Collection of Useful Receipts from the Kitchen. Published in 1866, Russell's book is the first known cookbook written by an African American woman in the United States.

From Ladee Hubbard:
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