By: Stacy M. Brown, NNPA
Reaching back to Hollywood’s golden age, where dreams were spun under the spotlight and stars were born, bestselling author ReShonda Tate takes readers on a captivating journey through the life of Hattie McDaniel. In her latest work, “The Queen of Sugar Hill,” Tate, a seasoned author and managing editor of the Defender Network in Houston, presents a mesmerizing fictional portrait of the trailblazing actress, the first Black person to win an Academy Award for her iconic role as Mammy in the classic film “Gone With the Wind.”
“It is fiction based on fact,” Tate exclaimed of her extraordinary 55th novel.
As McDaniel graced the stage in 1940 to claim her historic victory for Best Supporting Actress, tears of joy streamed down her face, believing that the moment would be the pinnacle of her career. Little did she know the triumph on that stage would be followed by a series of challenges that would test her resilience and determination.
The months that followed were plagued by what became known as the “Oscar curse.” Despite her achievements, Tate reveals how McDaniel struggled to find work in an industry that couldn’t see beyond the stereotypical character of Mammy. Caught between two worlds—Black and white—she faced rejection from both sides. “Whites saw only the character she portrayed, while the Black community resented the demeaning portrayal,” Tate noted.
Amidst the adversity, McDaniel persisted in her fight to pave the way for other Black actors. Beyond the glitz and glamour of Hollywood, she devoted herself to supporting war efforts, combating housing discrimination, and navigating the complexities of four failed marriages.
“The Queen of Sugar Hill” brings McDaniel’s powerful story to life, capturing her unwavering passion for ambition, love, sex, family, friendship, and equality. ReShonda Tate crafts an unforgettable novel that delves into the essence of resilience, dedication, and determination—illuminating what it truly takes to pursue dreams, even when faced with seemingly insurmountable obstacles.
In this narrative, Tate explores Hattie’s triumphs and tragedies and sheds light on the steadfast friendships she cultivated with Hollywood luminaries like Clark Gable, Louise Beavers, Ruby Berkley Goodwin, and Dorothy Dandridge. Through Tate’s vivid storytelling, “The Queen of Sugar Hill” stands as a testament to the indomitable spirit of a woman who, against all odds, left an enduring legacy and paved the way for future generations of Black artists in the unforgiving landscape of Hollywood.
“In bringing to life the inimitable Hattie against the backdrop of her segregated times, ‘The Queen of Sugar Hill’ introduces readers to the important, inspiring, heart-wrenching story of the legendary actress whose legacy deserves to be fully understood and celebrated,” said Marie Benedict, the New York Times Bestselling author of “The Personal Librarian” and “The Other Mrs. Christie.”