Book Title: THE QUEEN OF SUGAR HILL
Character Name: Hattie McDaniel
How would you describe your family or your childhood?
We are full of love and joy. Unfortunately, love and joy don’t pay the bills, so we lived a life of abject poverty. My daddy was disabled from the war. He suffered some serious injuries – physically and mentally. That kept him from holding down a job. And since he was a proud man, that took its toll on him. The government wouldn’t even give Daddy his pension because he couldn’t produce a birth certificate. He was born a slave! His Master didn’t give him a birth certificate. Anyway, Mama tried her best to make ends meet, cookin’ and cleanin’ for white folks, but it was never enough. Me and my seven siblings lived in a three-room delipidated shack. But we learned to entertain ourselves to take our mind off the hunger pains rumbling in our stomachs. So I guess you could say that’s how the entertainment fire was lit inside of me.
What was your greatest talent?
My perseverance and my ability to entertain.
Ooooh, chile. Don’t get me started on that. Unfortunately, I have not been lucky in love. Married my first husband, Howard, young. I loved him, but I loved performing more. And though he had been a piano player, he wanted a domesticated wife, so we battled a lot. Sadly, he died of pneumonia after only four years of marriage. My second marriage is one of those I wish I could do some hocus pocus and make disappear from my mind. Lots of folks think his name is George, but it’s actually Nym. I’m not even sure how that rumor of me marrying someone named George got started. Anyway, we met on the road, touring. He was fun, and we had a blast, and then one day, he just left. I was heartbroken and searched for him. Found him years later living with his wife in New York City. No, I didn’t stutter. This buster had a wife and kid that he failed to tell me about. So yep, I married a bigamist. After that, I decided to stay single for a while, until I bumped into an old friend, James. He was overall a good guy, but I think he got caught up in being “Hattie McDaniel’s husband” because he didn’t want to work anymore and that doesn’t work for me. After I had a false pregnancy (that’s a whole ‘nother heartbreaking story), we just drifted apart. Then my last husband, he was the king of louses. Not only was he abusive, he drained my bank account. I divorced him and left him $1 in my will. Sorry to ramble, but you asked….
Biggest challenge in relationships?
My biggest challenge in a relationship is keeping a relationship.
Where do you live?
Los Angeles….by way of Denver, CO and Wichita, KS.
Do you have any enemies?
How long you got? The NAACP waged an all-out war against me because they don’t like the types of characters I play. They despise mammies, servants, and slaves. It burns my bottom how they think this is something I choose. I would love to play Cary Grant’s love interest or heck, even Wonder Woman. I could be a cute, hefty superhero. Where do I sign up for these roles that they would rather I play??? (You can’t see me but I’m rolling my eyes right now). But between the colored folks who don’t like me for that, and the white folks who don’t like me because my maid/servant/slave roles are “too sassy,” my list of enemies runs long. But here’s what’s sad, people that get to know me, love me and my generous heart.
How do you feel about the place where you are now? Is there something you are particularly attached to, or particularly repelled by, in this place?
I’m bittersweet about where I am in this life journey. I’ve been blessed to have been in a position to open doors for future actors of color. I’m happy about being able to be an inspiration to so many. Do I wish my Oscar win had opened more doors? Absolutely. But the Lord blessed me with a pretty amazing life – flaws and all.
Do you have children, pets, both, or neither?
I have two dogs, a cocker spaniel named Frisky and a Dalmatian named Danny. Those are my babies. As much as I wanted children, the Lord never saw fit to bless me with any.
What do you do for a living?
I entertain, honey! I want to make you laugh because laughter is good for the soul!
Not being blessed with children, failed marriages, all the racism I encountered, and that so many people couldn’t see that I am more than Mammy.
Greatest source of joy?
From within. I used to seek happiness, but that’s short-term and based on feelings. I learned long ago that joy comes from faith. It’s internal and is long-term. So I do the things that bring me joy – spend time with family, friends, giving back…and stopped chasing “happiness.”
What do you do to entertain yourself or have fun?
I love to sing (did you know I was the first Negro woman to have her songs played on the radio?) and dance. And of course, act.
What is your greatest personal failing, in your view?
Not being able to have children. My dear friend, Clark Gable, tells me that is not a personal failing, it’s just not in the cards. But for me, it feels like a failure.
What keeps you awake at night?
Pondering the legacy that I will leave. My prayer is that I will be a credit to my race.
What is the most pressing problem you have at the moment?
Finding suitable acting roles. I really would love to show people the diversity of my talents, but the world only sees me as one thing.
Is there something that you need or want that you don’t have?
For yourself or for someone important to you? I have everything I need. What I want is to be accepted by Blacks and whites. I want people to judge me on my talents, not on the roles they think I should be playing. White actors are labeled and looked at negatively for their comedic roles. I want that same thing.
Why don’t you have it? What is in the way?
Well, for starters, racism. Overt and covert. People only see me through one lens, and it’s going to take a breakthrough role to change that. It’s my hope that I will live to conquer that role.
A Novel of Hattie McDaniel
Bestselling author ReShonda Tate presents a fascinating fictional portrait of Hattie McDaniel, one of Hollywood’s most prolific but woefully underappreciated stars—and the first Black person ever to win an Oscar for her role as Mammy in the critically acclaimed film classic Gone With the Wind.
It was supposed to be the highlight of her career, the pinnacle for which she’d worked all her life. And as Hattie McDaniel took the stage in 1940 to claim an honor that would make her the first African-American woman to win an Academy Award, she tearfully took her place in history. Between personal triumphs and tragedies, heartbreaking losses, and severe setbacks, this historic night of winning best supporting actress for her role as the sassy Mammy in the controversial movie Gone With the Wind was going to be life-changing. Or so she thought.
Months after winning the award, not only did the Oscar curse set in where Hattie couldn’t find work, but she found herself thrust in the middle of two worlds—Black and White—and not being welcomed in either. Whites only saw her as Mammy and Blacks detested the demeaning portrayal. As the NAACP waged an all-out war against Hattie and actors like her, the emotionally conflicted actor found herself struggling daily.
Through it all, Hattie continued her fight to pave a path for other Negro actors, while focusing on war efforts, fighting housing discrimination, and navigating four failed marriages. Luckily, she had a core group of friends to help her out—from Clark Gable to Louise Beavers to Ruby Berkley Goodwin and Dorothy Dandridge.
The Queen of Sugar Hill brings to life the powerful story of one woman who was driven by many passions—ambition, love, sex, family, friendship, and equality. In re-creating Hattie’s story, ReShonda Tate delivers an unforgettable novel of resilience, dedication, and determination—about what it takes to achieve your dreams—even when everything—and everyone—is against you.
Multicultural African-American | Historical [William Morrow Paperbacks, On Sale: January 30, 2024, Paperback / e-Book, ISBN: 9780063291072 / eISBN: 9780063291096]
As the national bestselling author of more than 53 books, ReShonda Tate has the credentials, and the passion, to bring stories to life.
ReShonda writes both adult and teen fiction, as well as nonfiction. Her sophomore novel, Let the Church Say Amen, was made into a film directed by actress Regina King, and produced by TD Jakes and Queen Latifah.
ReShonda made her on-screen movie debut in the film, which was one of BET’s highest-rated programs. Her book, The Secret She Kept, was also made into a movie and aired on TV One. ReShonda made a cameo in that movie as well.
A highly sought-after motivational speaker and award-winning poet, ReShonda is the recipient of the NAACP Image Award for Outstanding Literature for her book Say Amen, Again and was also nominated for her books Mama’s Boy and The Secret She Kept. She has received a plethora of distinguished awards and honors for her journalism, fiction, and poetry writing skills, including an induction into the Arkansas Black Hall of Fame and a Texas Top Author honor. Considered one of the top African-American authors in the country, her books remain a staple on Bestseller’s lists and have been featured in USA Today, The Washington Post, Jet, People, Essence, and Ebony Magazines.
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