On The Same Page: On the Rooftop

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January/February 2024 Selection

On the Rooftop

Margaret Wilkerson Sexton 

In Margaret Wilkerson Sexton's novel, On the Rooftop, the dreams of a mother and her three daughters collide in the vibrant, historically Black Fillmore District of 1950s San Francisco. Widowed Vivian, a refugee from segregated Louisiana, nurtures her daughters Ruth, Esther and Chloe into a musical sensation called The Salvations. Vivian's dream of their musical stardom clashes with the sisters' evolving ambitions. 

Vivian's relentless rehearsals on the rooftop have shaped The Salvations into a local sensation, catching the attention of a talent manager with a once-in-a-lifetime offer. However, as the sisters mature into independent women, their dreams diverge from their mother's vision. Against the backdrop of the Jazz-era Fillmore, the neighborhood is undergoing change, with White gentrification threatening the community. 

Sexton intricately explores the complex dynamics of familial relationships, portraying the bonds of loyalty and jealousy among the sisters. The novel hits on the nuances of regret and the impact of deferred dreams, in a rapidly changing neighborhood. 

On the Rooftop is a moving family portrait that weaves together themes of love, independence, and the challenges of embracing change in a tumultuous era. Margaret Wilkerson Sexton's novel resonates as a heartfelt tale of family and community, showcasing her uncommon talent in bringing to life the intricate dance of dreams within the intricate tapestry of 1950s San Francisco. 

Sexton, a native of New Orleans, pursued creative writing at Dartmouth College and later studied law at UC Berkeley. Recognized for her literary achievements, Sexton's latest novel, On the Rooftop, earned acclaim as BART's One City, One BART book. Her novel The Revisioners garnered prestigious awards, including the 2020 Janet Heidinger Kafka Prize, an NAACP Image Award, and the George Garrett New Writing Award. A national bestseller and finalist for esteemed literary honors, The Revisioners also received recognition as a New York Times Notable Book of the Year. Her debut novel, A Kind of Freedom, achieved acclaim as a long-listed National Book Award contender and Northern California Book Award contender. It won the Crook's Corner Book Prize and the First Novelist Award from the Black Caucus of the American Library Association. Sexton's impactful contributions to contemporary literature extend beyond her novels, with her work featured in notable publications such as The Paris Review, The New York Times Book Review, and O, The Oprah Magazine. Currently residing in Oakland with her family, she continues to shape the landscape of modern literature. 

This event is a partnership with the African American Art & Culture Complex.

Related Events

Book Club – On the Rooftop, Wed., Feb. 21, 7 p.m., Virtual Library

Author Talk – Margaret Wilkerson Sexton in Conversation with Dorothy Lazard, Tue., Feb. 27, doors open at 6:30 p.m., event at 7 p.m., African American Art & Culture Complex, Buriel Clay Theater, 762 Fulton St, San Francisco, CA 94102