in the Literary
the following pages you will read about the
hardships and events of a struggling black family,
their history, their beliefs, and their lives.
The events described in this book did in fact
happen as told by Kim’s Great Grandmother
and Grandmother. Then passed down each generation
adding new memories as the family grows.
It all started back in 1865, the country was
young and fighting to survive. Black people
were just a commodity easily replaced in the
eyes of most plantation owners. Yet with all
the hardships and persecutions brought on them
by those who would use them to line their own
pockets. They never gave up on their lives or
This is the history of four generations of women
who raised their families through slavery, depression
and racism. They watched a nation struggle and
grow to be a better place to live. With a will
of iron forged by the sweat, blood and lives
of there forbears. They share the joy of love
and laughter to all who knew them.
I will remember this story as long as I live.
The details in this book are so powerful. Some
of the contents are very graphic and bloody.
One scene in particular I’ll never forget.
But this reviewer feels that it gives the reader
a better understanding of just what this family
dealt with throughout their lives. Sometimes
there is no easy way to say something. Kim Robinson
gives a vivid recollection of family trials,
some good and some bad. You will be spell bound
by each experience. She also throws in some
spirits and Voodoo to add a slight paranormal
twist to this story. Through laughter and tears
this family has shared it all. Ms. Robinson
writes with passion and heart. I’m sure
we will be seeing more of her work in the future.
This story reminds me of my own grand mother
and the wonderful times I spent listening to
her tales of growing up in the same era. It
made my heart laugh and cry, as I remember where
my own roots come from. I wouldn’t be
a bit surprised if one day I see this story
on the big screen. It’s every bit as good
as Alex Haley’s Roots. I recommend this
book highly. Enjoy! Reviewer: Diane T., Love
her descriptive narration Kim has succeeded
to bring a family history to life. The story
of Helen is compelling, 7 children, 24 grandchildren
and 38 great grandchildren, shows a woman’s
will to face adversity. As if being black wasn’t
enough, being a slave to a white man was synonymous
to being part of the ‘herd.’ The
poems used by Kim at the beginning and the end
of the book are striking, and on their own tell
of a human struggle to love, be loved and accepted
as Helen said; “Every person’s life
is like a pot of gumbo, you get out what you
Roux in the Gumbo takes you step by step through
the life of a slave that any of today’s
women would not want to experience. The twentieth
century, at least the beginning of it through
the 70’s was not kind to African Americans.
As we fight terrorism in the 21st Century we
should not forget that America had it’s
own terrorists for almost a hundred years, “the
Ku Klux Klan,” which the authorities were
reluctant to do anything about.
have never been in Louisiana, but after reading
‘The Roux in the Gumbo,’ I feel
like I’ve known it all my life. This book
is a must read for everyone interested in history
and more importantly; in humanity.
Verreault, Author of; “The Jacob Schreiber
The Roux In The Gumbo is a story that is a biography
with a little bit of fiction thrown into the
mixture. This story tells the tale of author
Kim Robinson's family starting generations back
and especially her grandmother, Helen. Who was
a very special woman with a big caring heart.
The story starts in Louisianna and the days
of slavery and moves up through history until
present day in California.
follow the story that tells of the life of slaves
and how they were beated, raped and overworked.
We also learn of voodoo, healing with herbs
and spices, the war, the fight with the KKK,
illegal drinking and gambling establishments.
young girl escapes, left for dead, hoping to
die until one kind hearted soul offers refuge,
freedom and a new life. She learns the art of
healing from a great healer who raised her like
she was her own child. We then follow her story
and watch as she finds true love and has a family
of her own.
this story progresses, we follow the life of
each child of every generation. Their ups and
downs. The happiness and sadness. Their fight
for the right to exist and thrive in a world
that had other ideas. Even though this family
had to overcome great obsticles, they still
had big and caring hearts to welcome others
in need into their close knit fold. Never once
bemoaning their life or what fate has offered
them. One I have to say I admired for their
loving and strength.
story was aptly named....The Roux in The Gumbo....roux,
is a gravy base and the foundation of the the
gumbo dish. In this story we find that Helen
was the mainstay..the foundation of this author's
family. Strong, steadfast, caring and lovable.
We all have our own "roux" in each
of our families. Whether it is a mother, father,
grandmother or grandfather.....that one person
who holds the rest of the chaos together....who
teaches us right from wrong, is strong willed
but soft hearted when it counts. Reading this
story, I got to know Helen. I watched as she
grew up, gone through some rough times and still
ended up being a very special and caring woman.
A woman I wish I had the chance to meet in real
life. I could tell she touched everyone she
came into contact with.
Roux in The Gumbo is author, Kim Robinson's
first story and hopefully not the last. At the
beginning, this story was a bit confusing to
read until I got into the feeling and flow of
things. I say confusing because Ms Robinson
constantly changes points of view or I should
say switches from one person's story to another's.
But don't let this stop you from reading this
story, it takes just a short time to get the
feel and into the flow of the writing and it's
really worth reading. The Roux in The Gumbo
is an incredibly inspirational, heart felt and
amazing story that should not be missed. New
author, Kim Robinson, shows much potential in
her writing. She writes with feeling and from
the heart and because of this trait the reader
can't help but feel the ups and downs....the
happiness and sadness along with the characters
while reading. I know if her grandmother was
alive today....she would be very proud of her.
Kim also includes one of her families Gumbo
recipes that has this reviewer itching to try
it out for her very first taste of Gumbo. <g>
I can't help but highly recommend this story
to readers......I know you will feel as moved
as I after reading this wonderful and special
I was going to do this month’s book review
in Restoration because of the content being
genealogy. Yet, as I read this book, I found
it to be more fitting inside Motivation. It
depicts the purpose of striving for the better
life. Striving to preserve one’s history.
Yes, I know, I promised you a romance and it
is coming, but this summer I find myself delving
a little deeper. I guess I am ready once again
to read more literary works that would propel
my way of thinking. Graduate school has been
out of the way for a couple of years now and
I no longer cringe at the thought of expanding
the intellect. I am no longer overwhelmed by
gaining knowledge (smile). Anyway, this author
sent me an email asking if her book is something
that I think would be useful to the readers
of IB. Page after page my answer strongly said
yes, yes, oh YES.
Robinson starts her book by sharing a glimpse
of her grandmother, Helen’s life as it
draws to an end.
Theresa S. Kearns, PsyD
ROUX IN THE GUMBO by Kim Robinson begins in
1850 Louisiana when the United States still
practiced slavery. The first person we meet
is Gizelle, a 12-year-old girl who was so miserable
from the beatings and horrors of slavery that
she prayed for death. Instead of dying, Gizelle
was found by Tullulah, a mixed Indian and white
healer, who nursed her back to health. She then
removed Gizelle from slavery. As the story moves
on, we are treated to the life stories of many
people; some were slaves, others were not. Frequently
the slave master took advantage of his female
slaves, even going so far as to sexually abuse
their own daughters they had sired with slaves.
Many of the women felt helpless, but one French
woman, on learning that her husband was abusing
his slave daughters as well as her daughter,
fought back. She visited a voodoo priestess
and took care of him. After the Civil War was
fought, we find the black women still being
abused, but they had more options. Annie, whose
white lover abandoned her to marry his sweetheart,
opened a speakeasy and made illegal liquor.
She also refused to take abuse from anyone and
was adept with a pistol, a shotgun and a knife.
People learned, sometimes the hard way, not
to mess with Annie. There were many fascinating
stories about the members of this large and
Robinson has penned a truly wonderful novel
that traces one black family from California
back to its roots in slave-holding Louisiana.
Her descriptions are so well done that you can
smell the smoke and taste the homemade booze
as you gamble in Annie's speakeasy. Sympathy
for the slaves overwhelms you as the author
describes brutal, uncaring overseers, masters
and mistresses. Yet you can laugh at the antics
of the family members as they make the very
best of a poor situation. Even though there
are many, many characters parading through the
book, they are very easy to follow. It was fascinating
reading about this family and how they overcame
so much adversity. There is even the family
gumbo recipe in the book. It is well worth reading,
and if it were possible, I'd rate it at least
a six. I couldn't put it down.
Reviewed by alice Holman
of The RAWSISTAZ™ Reviewers
a compelling story The Roux in the Gumbo is!
in the Gumbo rises from the power of silent
strength, through roots set in slavery from
the cotton fields of Louisiana, to the African
American power today. Kim Robinson, the author’s
ancestors walk with the heat and passion of
black families entwined as the reaching branches
of deep-rooted towering trees.
those early roots, Gizelle was taken back to
1850. She was twelve, scared, tired, hungry
and sick. She sat crying and shivering under
a huge magnolia tree in driving rain deep in
the bayou. This is where Kim Robinson begins
the story of her ancestors fight for the annihilable
rights of Freedom.
was a Voodooist. Her husband Grayson practiced
Hoodoo, Bad Medicine. Gizelle predicted the
future for generations who walk through the
storytelling of The Roux in the Gumbo.
Thomas was born in Louisiana in 1904. Annie
was fourteen when the plantation owner’s
son Willie Simpson III planted his seed, only
to cast Annie’s love aside and marry a
Southern Bell of the same color. As it was,
Caroline proved barren of an heir. It was then
Willie sought out Annie to lay claim to the
child who resembled him in color and looks.
was the beloved child Annie fought furiously
to keep. She was no different when it came to
running her club; Annie was swift with the switchblade
knife, to leave many a scar on the unsavory
types who frequented the nightlife with a thirst
for moonshine and the pleasures whore houses
provided. She always had the town Judge on her
side. The Judge was to haul Annie out of many
a tight spot with the law.
night Horace stepped into Annie’s club
with the confidence of a Mob Boss. This handsome
black man was to slip the diamond ring from
his finger to hers with a grin and the words,
“With this ring I thee wed”. Disappearing
for two weeks Horace left Annie hankering for
more of her man. Their love would conceive Genevieve,
a sister for Helen.
future had been foreseen for Annie, she would
face the worst of adversities through her life.
From strength to strength the generations grew
in numbers. Helen would have many children after
Annie marched the confident Melvin before the
Judge in the early hours of morning, with a
shotgun pointing the way.
Roux in the Gumbo is a story of faith, hope,
and the strength of the African American people
who rose above the cruelties of slavery in a
newly developing Nation. A story to equal the
storytelling of the series, Roots!
November 2005 ©
Black Family’s Odyssey in America
Kim Robinson has written a remarkable account
of her family’s history gathered from
stories she was told as she was growing up.
The life stories of her great grandmother, Annie
Thomas and her grandmother, Helen Simpson are
the roux in this gumbo; a very rich and entertaining
read. The author acknowledges that a lot of
people in her family helped her to write this
book by giving her their memories. More African
American families should share memories such
as these. Rich in culture and historical events
it’s a perfect course assignment for Black
story opens in the early 1800s, near Lake Charles,
Louisiana where a young slave girl has escaped
from the Sunrise Plantation. She is laying under
a magnolia tree in the driving rain; scared,
tired, hungry and sick. Asking the Lord for
mercy, she is determined not to return to the
horrors of living on the plantation. As the
story unfolds and the young girl remembers how
life changed for her on that dark night, you
are reminded of the many slave narratives written
long ago. Ending in 1997; this book is a journey
in Black history told in bits and pieces, sewn
together like a patchwork quilt. I really enjoyed
visions of later day New Orleans are rich in
the bayou land as Kim’s family lives as
farmers, toiling the land and as entrepreneurs
running every type of business from midwives
and medicine women, root workers and hoo-doo
men and livery services and prohibition time
night spots complete with good food, gambling
and home-made liquor. Kim’s ancestors
were some very colorful personalities. But,
they worked hard and were basically good people
who stuck together and helped out a neighbor.
Their dealings with the Klan and racist encounters
in other parts of the South were also portrayed.
They stood up for themselves and soon relocated
to California for a better way of life.
laughed and cried with this family as good money
went bad and troubles touched the lives of the
large and sometimes dysfunctional tribe. But;
they always found a way to make ends meet and
to support one another through their trials.
Grandmother Annie and Grandmother Helen were
two very strong Black women who although did
not have a formal education, used mother wit
to overcome their lack of schooling.
did not hesitate to pull out her trusty blade
to defend herself or her family from violence
and good deeds gone bad. Trouble did not last
always for this family and on the whole, they
lived and loved well. Always respected in the
community of Compton, California; they carved
a life out of their situations that left a legacy
for the future generations.
Roux in the Gumbo is a book that you will enjoy.
It is both entertaining and interesting. It
is also a saga of African American life told
from the viewpoint of four generations in American.
I found it good reading, and especially appreciated
Kim’s grandmother’s recipe for Gumbo
in the front of the book. The recipe makes a
great pot of Gumbo.
by: Idrissa Uqdah