Continuing our series on the power and potential of the thriller genre, The Center for Fiction welcomed Ousmane K. Power-Greene for a conversation on The Confessions of Matthew Strong. In this thought-provoking and suspenseful tale, Allegra Douglass is finally ready to tell her version of what happened with a white supremacist named Matthew Strong. From the beginning, Allie had the clues—found in possibly-connected disappearances of other young Black women; in a series of recently restored plantation homes; in letters outlining an uprising; in maps of slave trade routes and old estates; in hidden caves and buried tunnels; in a confessional that should never have existed—and then Allie herself disappears. In his incendiary story about race, redemption, the dangerous imbalances that continue to destabilize society, Power-Greene “shreds the pretense that America’s murderous history is a ‘whodunit’ and not a ‘wedunit’” (Paul Beatty). Author Elizabeth Nunez (Now Lila Knows) joined him in conversation.
The Confessions of Matthew Strong
By Ousmane K. Power-Greene
Published by Other Press
A wildly original, incendiary story about race, redemption, the dangerous imbalances that continue to destabilize society, and speaking out for what’s right.
One could argue the story begins the night Allegra Douglass is awarded Distinguished Chair in Philosophy at her top-tier university in New York—the same night her grandmother dies—or before that: the day Allie left Birmingham and never looked back. Or even before that: the day her mother disappeared. But for our purposes Allie’s story begins at the end, when she is finally ready to tell her version of what happened with a white supremacist named Matthew Strong.
From the beginning, Allie had the clues: in a spate of possibly connected disappearances of other young Black women; in a series of recently restored plantation homes; in letters outlining an uprising; in maps of slave trade routes and old estates; in hidden caves and buried tunnels; and finally, in a confessional that should never have existed. They just have to make a case strong enough for the FBI and police to listen. This is when Allie herself disappears.
Allie is a survivor. She survived the newly post-Jim Crow south, she survived cancer, and she will survive being stalked and kidnapped by Matthew Strong, who seeks to ignite a revolution. The surprise in this doesn’t lie in the question of will she be taken; it lies in how she and her community outsmart a tactical madman.
Ousmane K. Power-Greene
Ousmane K. Power-Greene
Ousmane K. Power-Greene is the Program Director of Africana Studies and an Associate Professor of History at Clark University. Power-Greene is the author of Against Wind and Tide: The African American Struggle Against the Colonization Movement, and his writing appears in The Harlem Renaissance Revisited: Politics, Arts, and Letters. He’s been featured on All Things Considered, C-SPAN Book TV, and NPR’s history podcast Throughline.
Photo Credit: Imanni Power-Greene
Elizabeth Nunez is the award-winning author of a memoir and ten novels, four of them selected as New York Times Editors’ Choices. Anna In-Between won the PEN Oakland/Josephine Miles Award and was long-listed for an IMPAC Dublin International Literary Award. Nunez also received the 2015 Hurston/Wright Legacy Award in nonfiction for Not for Everyday Use; an American Book Award; and a NALIS Lifetime Literary Award from the Trinidad and Tobago National Library. She is a cofounder of the National Black Writers Conference and executive producer of the CUNY-TV series Black Writers in America. Nunez is a Distinguished Professor at Hunter College, where she teaches fiction writing. She divides her time between Amityville and Brooklyn, New York.