JAAMM Post Event – Paul M. Levitt Provenance

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Paul M. Levitt

Sunday, December 11, 6:30 p.m.

Phillips Social Hall
$10 Adult, $8 Student/Senior

Set in Hungamon (aka Bogalusa), Louisiana 1988-89, Provenance takes the reader through progressive historical discoveries to the sources of a Hungarian painting that escaped the grasping fingers of Nazis and Communists, and to the secrets of two families, one Jewish, the owners of the Hungarian painting, and the other gentile, the owners of an American painting, which hides a dark tale.

            When a young African-American man drowns in the lake behind the Shaw’s house, all manner of intrigue ensues.  A witness to the drowning, a young Black boy, retreats to the Shaws’ house, where the child’s mother, Zoe, comes to take him home.  Zoe immediately captures Adam’s fancy, so much so that he gives her a position at the facility for tropical diseases that he directs in New Orleans, Moss Hospital.  Separated from her husband, Samuel, who is suffering from PTSD and dealing in drugs, Zoe tries to save the life of an Indian child brought to Moss Hospital from the Panamanian rain forest.  Samuel and Rachel make common cause when he sees a large portrait of her grandfather and immediately senses its historical import:  a 1930’s world of lynchings and skullduggery that belies her father’s revisionist accounts. 

            Lynchings, shootings, and suicide provide the impetus for the Shaws and Samuel to involve themselves in children, race, family secrets, provenance, and a conflict that brings into focus the principal characters who occupy a busy canvas of mystery and lies.  Although the book, like most fiction, follows a progressive discovery pattern, passions and not thrills drive the plot, which exposes the cultures that underlie two paintings.  Once the pentimento of the character’s lives is revealed, their surface colors and shapes can no longer hide certain truths.  The book ends with masks torn away, lies confuted, and an unexpected providence.

 Paul M. Levitt is a prolific writer living in Boulder, CO. A published author for over 40 years, Paul is the recipient of multiple teaching awards as well as the Multicultural Non-Fiction Young Adult Gold Award at the 2012 Moonbeam Children’s Book Awards for his title Raven Finds the Daylight and other American Indian Stories.