Right now, it’s all golden for former Kansas City resident and Southwest High School graduate Cynthia Bond.
Her debut novel, “Ruby,” is a recent Oprah’s Book Club 2.0 selection. A visit to the club’s online site reveals the full Oprah effect, including Oprah Winfrey’s interview with Bond, a reading group guide to the book and a list of Winfrey’s favorite passages from it.
Of the book’s opening line, Oprah writes: “An intriguing opening line that compelled me to the next sentence and the next. Made me immediately want to know more about this Ruby.”
Winfrey’s film production company has also optioned the novel, and now Bond is preparing a screenplay.
“When you think about success, you have this image of sitting on a cloud, thinking that you have arrived,” Bond said recently from her Los Angeles home.
“But then you discover that success means you have to work harder than you ever had worked in your life.
“It’s a wonderful thing. It means you get to make your living as a writer.”
Bond grew up in Lawrence and Kansas City, daughter of the late Horace Bond, a speech and theater instructor at the University of Kansas, and Zelema Harris, a former president of the Kansas City chapter of the NAACP.
After graduating from Southwest High School, she attended Northwestern University (and also served as a copy clerk on the morning Kansas City Times) before deciding to pursue acting.
That led her first to New York, where she worked with Samuel L. Jackson and other members of the Negro Ensemble Company, and then to Los Angeles, where she landed film and television roles.
But years of depression symptoms followed. One salvation, she said, was in leading writing workshops for young people and also enrolling in some herself.
Years ago, in one of those workshops, she wrote this sentence: “She wore gray like rain clouds.”
Today that sentence appears in the second paragraph of “Ruby.” It describes Ruby Bell, who leaves her small east Texas community to live in New York in the 1950s but then reappears back in Texas years later, battling resentment and worse.
Bond still remembers writing that first sentence.
“I had been wearing this gray shirt and it just made me feel so safe and comfortable,” she said. “And then I went into that workshop and it helped me so much being able to write.”
Some reviews have warned readers of the moments of racial tension and sexual violence that “Ruby” includes.
“Ruby represents the fate of so many women in this country and yet she has found a way to walk though great pain and to open herself to love and healing,” Bond said. “Ruby is a magical, mystical survivor of the unthinkable.”
Bond will speak at 6:30 p.m. Tuesday at the Central Library, 14 W. 10th St. Go to KCLibrary.org for more info.
Irish eyes still smiling
Pat O’Neill, Kansas City public relations representative and political consultant, published his first version of “From the Bottom Up: The Story of the Irish in Kansas City” 15 years ago.
But the story of Kansas City’s Irish proved too big for that edition, and a new and improved hardcover version now is available.
There’s plenty about politicians (the Pendergasts), lawyers (Frank Walsh), bartenders (the Kellys) and Roman Catholic priests and bishops (Bernard Donnelly, Thomas Lillis, John Hogan).
The O’Neills arrived in the 1880s; one served as a Jackson County sheriff.
O’Neill’s late father, also named Pat, headed Kansas City political and construction bond campaigns going back to the 1960s. In later years both operated out of the old Jackson Democratic Club offices in the 1900 block of Main Street, where machine boss Tom Pendergast had received visitors in the ’30s.
More recently the younger O’Neill has helped organize the annual St. Patrick’s Day Parade as well as Kansas City’s Irish Fest, now in its 13th year.
“Admittedly, I tell the stories with a great deal of personal interest and affection,” O’Neill said recently.
“While I wasn’t around to meet all the people or witness all the Irish-influenced events in our city’s history, my ancestors were. They were politicians, bartenders, hucksters, influencers and, according to one newspaper, ‘proven’ scoundrels.
“But they were very much a part of the Irish story in our city, so I feel an obligation to tell it.”
The new edition will be available at this year’s Irish Fest, which runs Sept. 4-6 at Crown Center Square, 2450 Grand Blvd. For info, go to KCIrishFest.com.