Authors: Lisa Wingate
In a fractured world, sensitivities related to race, economic class, and geographical dialects have justly increased. Modern ears don’t skip casually over words that would have been commonplace a half century ago, or variations in dialect that remain the norm in other parts of the country today. Hopefully that means we’re more aware—but it also puts us in danger of sanitizing what
As a storyteller, I have tried to respect authentic voices and authentic representations of historical eras.
Wherever possible, I’ve attempted to be faithful to the various dialects of Louisiana and Texas, the narratives left behind by men and women who lived during the historical time period of the story, and the racial and ethnic terminology Hannie would have experienced in her day.
History has much to teach us. That was one of the reasons for the inclusion of the real-life Lost Friends ads in this book. They are the true voices of actual people who lived, and struggled, and who left these small pieces of themselves for posterity. Their history has taught me more than I can ever say, and for those hard-won lessons, I remain eternally grateful.
To Gloria Close, for helping today’s families find safe homes.
To Andy and Diane, and to the dedicated keepers of the Historic New Orleans Collection. Thank you for preserving the history.
To the Lost Friends, wherever you might be.
May your names never go unspoken and your stories forever be told.
No story is a solo creation—the scenes sketched, colors added, highlights and shadows dabbed on in solitude. These literary creations start as casual doodles, and they invariably grow outward from there. They become a community project of sorts, a mural with many and diverse contributors who have only one thing in common—they were kind enough to stop by and fill in a blank section or two.
The Book of Lost Friends
is no exception, and I’d be remiss if I didn’t write the names of a few kind souls on the wall before I go.
To begin with, I’m grateful to the hardworking people behind the Historic New Orleans Collection for creating the invaluable Lost Friends database. You have ensured that the history of a place, an era, and thousands of families is not only preserved but available to the public, researchers, and countless descendants searching for family roots. In particular, thank you to Jessica Dorman, Erin Greenwald, Melissa Carrier, and Andy Forester for your devotion to HNOC, the Lost Friends, and to history itself. To Diane Plauché, what can I say? If you hadn’t brought the Lost Friends to my doorstep, I would never have met them, and Hannie and Benny wouldn’t exist. Thank you for introducing me, for sharing your volunteer work digitizing the ads for the database, and for telling me your family’s story. I will always be grateful to you and Andy for the hours spent together, listening to stories, soaking in the history, studying old documents, talking with Jess and her folks, and walking the quiet cemetery grounds, reading the time-worn markers and wondering what might not be marked. The most surprising thing about these literary journeys is that they bring about new friendships in the real world. I’m honored to count you among them.
To the many other kind folks who offered up their time and knowledge during my travels in Louisiana, thank you for generously sharing your home state. How could a wandering writer expect anything less from a place so well known for its hospitality? In particular, my gratitude goes out to the hosts, tour guides, and curators at Whitney Plantation and to the friendly staff at Cane River Creole National Historical Park. Thank you, park ranger Matt Housch, for taking me under wing, giving me a fantastic personalized tour, answering all of my questions, and even confirming the existence of hidden access hatches in the floor of the plantation house.
As always, I (and this story) owe so much to an incredible group of family, first readers, and old friends who helped to bring
The Book of Lost Friends
into being. To author pal Judy Christie, thank you for sitting on the porch swing with me during the initial “doodle” stages of this book, kicking around ideas, and then for generously reading draft after draft, adding not only your Louisiana expertise but needed doses of encouragement, love, and an occasional lunch of the intrepid Paul Christie’s chicken soup or chili. To my mother, Aunt Sandy, Duane Davis, Mary Davis, Allan Lazarus, Janice Rowley, and incredible author assistant Kim Floyd, thank you for being the best beta reading team ever, for helping to refine the story, and for cheering Hannie and Benny on to the finish line. Without you, I don’t know where they would be.
On the print and paper side of things, I can’t say thank you enough to my brilliant agent, Elisabeth Weed, who believed in this story from the first mention of the idea and encouraged me to write it. You are the best! To editor Susanna Porter, thank you for always being behind this book and for sifting through its many iterations. What book would be complete without the perfect publishing team? Thank you to Kara Welsh, Kim Hovey, Jennifer Hershey, Scott Shannon, Susan Corcoran, Melanie DeNardo, Rachel Parker, Debbie Aroff, Colleen Nuccio, and Emily Hartley for being the engine behind this book, for cheering each new publishing milestone with me, and for being just all-out fun people to work with. I can’t imagine more joyful journeys than the ones we’ve shared. I’m grateful also to the teams in production, marketing, publicity, and sales, and to Andrea Lau for the interior page design, as well as Scott Biel and Paolo Pepe for the book’s gorgeous cover concept. If not for you, these stories would never find their way to bookshelves, nightstands, and the hands of readers.
Speaking of readers, I’m eternally grateful to all the booksellers, librarians, and communities who have hosted book talks and signings, sent notes, recommended my books to readers, hosted book clubs, and welcomed me to your stores and hometowns. Lastly (but most important), a huge load of gratitude goes out to so many reader friends, whether around the corner or on the other side of the world. Thank you for giving my books such loving homes. Thank you for sharing them with friends and family, for handing them to strangers in airports and suggesting them to book clubs. You are the ones who turn story into community. And for that, I remain in your debt.
Today, tomorrow, and always.
“Lost Friends Exhibition.”
. Historic New Orleans Collection. Web. 2019.
“Piecing Together Stories of Families Lost in Slavery.”
. National Public Radio. Web. July 16, 2012.
“Purchased Lives Panel Exhibition.”
. Historic New Orleans Collection. Web. n.d.
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is the author of the #1
New York Times
Before We Were Yours.
She is the author of over thirty novels and a nonfiction book,
Before and After,
co-authored with Judy Christie. Her award-winning works have been selected for state and community One Book reads throughout the country, have been published in more than forty languages, and have appeared on bestseller lists worldwide. The group Americans for More Civility, a kindness watchdog organization, selected Wingate and six others as recipients of the National Civics Award, which celebrates public figures who work to promote greater kindness and civility in American life. She lives with her husband in North Texas. More information about her novels can be found at
, where you can also sign up for her e-newsletter and follow her on social media.