U.S. EMBASSY LITERATURE SERIES – A Reading from The Rib King with Ladee Hubbard, Mary Ellen von der Heyden Fellow in Fiction, American Academy in Berlin, Fall 2021
Moderated by Anne Potjans, Department of English and American Studies, Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin
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.
Ladee Hubbard is an award-winning New Orleans-based writer of literary fiction and the author of The Talented Ribkins (Melville House, 2017), which received the 2018 Ernest J. Gaines Award for Literary Excellence and Hurston-Wright Foundation Legacy Award for Debut Fiction. Hubbard completed her BA at Princeton University, MFA in dramatic writing at New York University, PhD in World Arts and Cultures at the University of California, Los Angeles, and MFA in creative writing at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. She has taught in the Africana and African Diaspora Studies department at Tulane University. Recent and forthcoming publications include the novel The Rib King (Amistad/Harper Collins, 2021) and short-story collection The Blinking What (Amistad/Harper Collins, 2022). Hubbard’s writing has appeared in Guernica, The Times Literary Supplement, Arkansas International, Copper Nickel, and Callaloo, among others. Her work has been supported by the Camargo Foundation, Djerassi Foundation, MacDowell Colony, Rona Jaffe Foundation Writers’ Award, Sewanee Writers Conference, and the William Faulkner-William Wisdom award for the short-story category.