Book ‘Returning The Bones’ Sheds Light On How Hate Groups Function

Photos: Returning The Bones
(February 27, 2023, Seattle, WA) In her debut historical fiction novel, “Returning The Bones,” Gin Hammond regales readers with an epic, globe-trotting adventure inspired by her Aunt Caroline (aka Bebe), an African American, barrier-breaking doctor from the small town of Bryan, Texas, who was determined to lead a quiet life as a librarian, until a life-altering family tragedy forced her to choose whether to follow in her father’s footsteps and take over his role as a civil right crusader or to at last pursue her own deferred dreams.
Returning The Bones is also a love letter to the role of historically Black colleges and universities in African American history, and an ode to the passionate romance she fought for despite her family’s objections.

Asked why she felt compelled to write her aunt’s story, Hammond said: “I think it’s important to tell my aunt’s story because most of us, eventually, face hard choices at some point in our lives around existential questions such as, ‘How do I choose between my people, my country, and myself?’”

For Hammond, art somewhat imitated life. Hammond’s father was a dentist who hoped that she would one day take over his practice. She spent summer breaks as her father’s dental assistant but would sneak off during the school year to perform in school plays. Upon being accepted to the American Repertory Theater Institute at Harvard, Hammond called her family and said, “I’m going to Harvard!” to which they responded, “For what?”

“Returning The Bones” is set against the background of the 1930s and ’40s when racial oppression in the American South was rampant and Europe was both recovering from, and gearing up for, World Wars. Though the Nazis were eventually defeated, antisemitism raged on. Simultaneously, despite the ongoing threat of being lynched for simply being African American, Bebe was chosen to represent the United States in a post-war recovery program which happened to otherwise consist of all white medical students.

It is this medical program that takes Bebe to London, Paris, an orphanage in Budapest—and finally to Poland, where she accompanies a small group of rogue medical students to Auschwitz to determine whether or not the Holocaust was media propaganda or real. She becomes acutely aware of what the Jews encountered and ways in which it resonated with the African American experience. Hammond says the story “connects the relationship between American racism against Blacks and antisemitism and shines a light on how hate groups have tried to exterminate us in different ways.” She continues, “I think that hit me most clearly the day I learned that both the Nazis and the Apartheid government in South Africa modeled their policies after the U.S.’s Jim Crow laws. In recent years, frankly, the United States has been exporting the same kind of hate, and we have to relearn how similar lethal outcomes can happen as a result, which is why active participation in our democracy is absolutely essential.”

Caroline’s wild adventures in Paris are a highlight of her trip. She witnesses, for the first time, African Americans being celebrated for who they are, and later becomes friends with a mixed-race couple who introduce her to luminaries at a party they host, including James Baldwin, the Black model and Christian Dior model Dorothea Towles, and Bebe’s idol, Richard Wright. Bebe also discovers that during the war her friend, a seemingly carefree bon vivant, was part of the French Resistance, and that her contribution to the Allies’ victory came at a great personal cost.
Hammond’s inspiration for the broad scope of her book was sparked when she learned that, in the 1930’s when her aunt was a young child in the segregated South, she had hit a white boy. Bebe was terrified of the potential consequences, and rightly so. However, what moved Hammond “to get the story down on paper was hearing about the life-affirming exchange she and that same boy had many years later when they were both adults. The grace of her story, despite all the wild twists and turns, captured my heart and gave me hope.”

“Returning The Bones” poses the question: When your country is at its ugliest, do you fight for the country you wish to see, or do you abandon it—and your community—and save yourself by leaving it all behind? Is it actually even possible to leave it all behind, or would such a move leave you homeless within your own skin? The story is also a reminder that, “Having the ability to make such a choice is a privilege that, due to dire circumstances, some people never get the chance to decide for themselves,” Hammond says.

Hammond hopes readers will be inspired by Bebe’s struggles and adventures—and feel the hope she ultimately felt as a result of not giving up on what (and whom) she loved.

Gin Hammond is an award-winning Harvard University/Moscow Art Theatre grad. She teaches, directs, writes and has performed onstage both nationally and internationally. “Returning The Bones” was adapted into a Gypsy Rose Lee and Gregory Award-nominated play after a decade of interviews with the main character, her beloved Auntie Bebe. Gin is also a voice teacher, dialect coach, and voice-over artist known for her work in video games such as DoTA, BattleTech, Dayton, and State of Decay. She is also co-founder of, a mobile meditation app specifically for actors.
The book was originally written as a play, which has been performed at the Skirball Cultural Center in Los Angeles, The Book-It Repertory in Seattle, and the Summer Play Festival (SPF) in Seattle.

Bebe was a pioneer in her field, worked with Dr. Martin Luther King, was among the first African American women to helm a hospital, received a degree in psychiatry from Yale, and was invited to President Obama’s first inauguration.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *