Tuesday, 2/27/2024
6:30 - 8:30
African American Art & Culture Complex

762 Fulton St
San Francisco, CA 94102
United States

Margaret Wilkerson Sexton discusses her novel, On the Rooftop, the story of a mother whose dream of musical stardom for her three daughters collides with the daughters' ambitions for their own lives––set against the backdrop of gentrifying 1950s San Francisco. Sexton will be in conversation with ​​Dorothy Lazard, Bay Area historian, celebrated librarian and public historian.

Doors open at 6:30, event at 7 p.m.

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. Sexton's story 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. 

Image removed.Lazard grew up in the Bay Area of the 1960s and ’70s, surrounded by an expansive network of family, and hungry for knowledge. Today Lazard is celebrated for her distinguished career as a librarian and public historian, and in these pages she connects her early intellectual pursuits to the career that made her a community pillar. As she writes with honesty about the challenges she faced in her youth, Lazard’s memoir, What You Don’t Know Will Make a Whole New World, recounts her Bay Area upbringing in the '60s and '70s, revealing a hunger for knowledge that propelled her into a distinguished career as a librarian and public historian. Celebrated for her journey, she intertwines personal growth with historical events, offering a triumphant narrative of resilience, curiosity, and enthusiasm.

SFPL is honored to partner and host this at the African American Art & Cultural Complex (AAACC). 

Attendees will receive a complimentary copy of the book courtesy of SFPL, while supplies last.


Margaret Wilkerson Sexton – Website | Margaret Wilkerson Sexton – Instagram  

Dorothy Lazard - Website | Dorothy Lazard - Instagram 

AAACC - Website | AAACC - Instagram | AAACC - YoutTube