Cheek, Gene 1951–

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Cheek, Gene 1951–

PERSONAL: Born March 2, 1951, in Winston-Salem, NC; son of Jesse and Sallie Cheek; married (divorced); children: three daughters.

ADDRESSES: Home and office—Lakey Gap Acres, Black Mountain, NC 28711. E-mail[email protected]

CAREER: Worked as a house painter. Military service: Served in U.S. Navy.

WRITINGS:

The Color of Love: A Mother's Choice in the Jim Crow South (memoir), Lyons Press (Guilford, CT), 2005.

SIDELIGHTS: Gene Cheek was born in North Carolina, and his The Color of Love: A Mother's Choice in the Jim Crow South is a telling documentation of not only his own childhood but also of the atmosphere of the segregated South. As an adult, Cheek served in the U.S. Navy and worked in California and Washington; it was after his return to North Carolina that he began to write his memoir.

Cheek was the son of Jesse, a brutal alcoholic, and Sallie, his hard-working and loving mother. Although she tried to keep the family intact, Sallie separated from her husband and then fell in love with Cornelius Tucker, a kind, black coworker, and became pregnant by him. Sallie was still married to Jesse, who had since completely abandoned his family, and he brought charges against her because of her interracial relationship. Sallie's lawyer failed to appear in court, and the testimony overwhelmingly accused her of being a bad mother. Her punishment was to be the loss of one of her children. Cheek, at twelve, volunteered to be placed in the custody of the state rather than have his mother give up the new baby, his half-brother, so he spent his high school years in a home for boys.

Cheek wrote his memoir as vengeance for the mistreatment of his mother, the cruelty of his father and family, and the years he spent in the foster-care system. In doing so, he eventually came to understand and forgive the actions of the past. Library Journal reviewer Janet Ingraham Dwyer called The Color of Love "an honest look at the lasting pain caused by injustice," while a Publishers Weekly contributor deemed it "a mesmerizing yarn."

BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:

BOOKS

Cheek, Gene, The Color of Love: A Mother's Choice in the Jim Crow South, Lyons Press (Guilford, CT), 2005.

PERIODICALS

Kirkus Reviews, February 1, 2005, review of The Color of Love, p. 160.

Library Journal, February 15, 2005, Janet Ingraham Dwyer, review of The Color of Love, p. 138.

Publishers Weekly, March 21, 2005, review of The Color of Love, p. 45.

ONLINE

Curled up with a Good Book, http://www.curledup.com/ (October 4, 2005), review of The Color of Love.

Gene Cheek Home Page, http://www.genecheek.com (October 4, 2005).

Smoky Mountain News Online, http://www.smokymountainnews.com/ (May 18, 2005), Jeff Minick, review of The Color of Love.