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Lisa Jackson

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Eva Rutland
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Eva Rutland’s life is a portrait of determination . . . and a study in courage. She was born and reared in the house her grandfather, a former slave, built four years after the Civil War — and her life has been an extraordinary one.

As a child growing up in the segregated Atlanta of the ‘20s, Eva never gave much thought to the difference between black and white. "We were surrounded by more white than black neighbors, and the Jewish synagogue was just two blocks from our home. Our yard, the biggest, was the neighborhood playground for all the kids, white and black, Jew and gentile."

Growing up was an exciting time, a time when the world seemed full of wonder and of remarkable experiences. "I attended Washington High and lived for the school’s wonderful dances. One year, a girl named Lena Horne attended that school and danced with us."

After receiving a Bachelor of Arts degree from Spelman College in 1937, she spent four years as a bursar at Miles College in Birmingham, Alabama. It was there that she met her future husband, William Gilbert Rutland, then an assistant manager at a federal housing project. "We met at a friend’s house where I was rehearsing for an amateur play," says Eva. "I suggested that this extremely handsome guy ‘come up and see me sometime’!" says Eva. He did, and four years later, they were married.

Eva began her writing career when she was in her late 40s. The author of 21 novels, she’s still going strong — despite her loss of sight. "I started going blind at about the time I began writing," says this dynamic 80-something.

Now totally blind, Eva writes via a voice synthesizer on her computer. During the course of her long and fruitful career, she has relied upon longhand, an old typewriter, and a tape cassette recorder — anything to get the thoughts onto paper. "Words don’t flow naturally from me," the author explains, trying to describe the intricacies of the writing process. "I start and stop, fret and laugh, as I fiddle around trying to get the true picture across."

After 43 years as a civilian with the air force, Eva’s husband retired in 1985 from his position as Chief of Staff at McClellan Air Force Base in California. "He still has a full-time job," Eva relates. "William is my proofreader, editor, and super critic." And Eva isn’t joking — her husband has called her to task about her writing on many occasions.

"I love it when he demands to know why my male character must use such ‘strong language,’" she laughs. "I tell him it’s because he’s the role model for these characters . . . and maybe he should watch his own tongue!"

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