Shaunna J. Edwards and Alyson Richman are the co-authors of the novel The Thread Collectors, which is a story of two women who risk everything for love and freedom during the atrocities of the Civil War. Their paths converge in New Orleans, where an unexpected encounter leads them to discover that even the most delicate threads can be a lifeline.
Edwards and Richman spoke with rolling out about the book and the inspiration behind it.
How did this book start for you two?
Shaunna J. Edwards: Alyson and I come from two different heritages and cultures. I’m a Black woman from the South, originally from New Orleans where our book is set. Alyson is a proud Jewish woman who grew up in the Northeast. We spent a lot of our time over a decade-long friendship, talking about how our heritage has shaped the way we respond to the world, the way we respond to literature, and even the importance of stories in our various cultures. We started talking about a Civil War book … six years ago. With the racial reckoning that was going on during 2020, we realized it was time to write this story. So The Thread Collectors is about two couples. One is Black, one is Jewish, and it takes place at the height of the Civil War in New Orleans, and it’s about how those lives intersect, but also how two very different marginalized communities navigate this cataclysmic chapter in our history.
What do you want people to learn from this book?
Alyson Richman: When creating this novel with Shaunna, I think our intention was very much to create a book that was historically accurate and show this horrific time in history and what was happening, but at the same time illuminate that there are often certain threads that connect us rather than dividing us [like] having both a Black musician and a Jewish musician. Their lives connecting in this unexpected friendship was a wonderful way to show the common bond between humanity and also how art can often transcend all this hardship and brutality that is around us that two people coming from different backgrounds, religions, cultures, and economics can find a common ground with music. When I look back as an old woman at this project that I did with Shaunna, for me it’s about showing what unites us rather than what divides us. We are showing what was happening in the United States at that time period, but at its core, it’s about putting a beating heart into history and that’s what I wanted to do with this novel.