Actor, comedian, and TV star Wayne Brady loves her new book, so this emerging Longwood author must be doing something very right
Agnes Gomillion, author of The Record Keeper, published by Titan Books, had just arrived home on a red-eye flight from Atlanta after her book’s launch party in early June when she noticed an interesting Twitter message.
“Wayne Brady likes my book,” she casually told her husband, Herron.
“Wayne Brady! Wayne Brady!” he exclaimed. The name hadn’t clicked with Agnes.
“I didn’t realize right away who he was,” Agnes admits. “He bought my e-book – we hadn’t sent it to him. He read it in one day and thought it was extraordinary. We’ve become good friends ever since.”
The Record Keeper, a story set in a fictional post-World War III society, confronts racism in a dystopian future through the eyes of its black protagonist, Arika. Black lead characters in the science-fiction genre are extremely rare, and The Record Keeper is already being heralded as a significant new cornerstone of Afro-futuristic science-fiction. Throughout the novel, Arika must uncover her fierce heart to find the true meaning of freedom. It’s a story born out of the author’s personal journey, deep-rooted in spirituality and social activism. And it’s a story that is remarkably prescient.
To better understand Agnes’s tie to the book’s main character, Arika (coincidentally, the name of one of her sisters), is to understand her life growing up in Longwood. Her parents moved there when she was just a toddler. A self-described “quintessential middle-child,” Agnes possessed a vivid imagination often prone to flights of fancy.
“When I was very young, I believed I could fly,” smiles Agnes. “I’d jump out of trees, hoping to take flight. When my mom asked why I did that, I’d say, ‘God says if you believe, you can.’ I tried and tried again, then thought maybe I didn’t believe enough.”
Agnes tells of a happy childhood, describing Longwood with a small-town feel where everyone knew one another. She attended Longwood Elementary and Greenwood Lakes Middle School. But it was at Lake Mary High School where Agnes began to find her wings.
“I went from taking standard and honors classes to taking all AP classes going into my junior year,” she says. “That’s the kind of confidence I had in myself.”
Her confidence paid off. After graduation in 2001, Agnes applied to only one college, the University of Florida, where she earned a degree in English literature, a Juris Doctorate, and a Master of Laws in Taxation.
While in law school, Agnes met Herron Gomillion at a party. Herron had just graduated from Morehouse College in Atlanta.
“I was so focused on school all the time that I never had a boyfriend,” says Agnes. “But when I saw Herron, I saw his soul. I looked over at my sister, who was there that night, thinking maybe I’m drinking too much. We talked every day after that and got married in 2012.”
Both were driven people with big dreams, he to be a doctor, and she to be a writer. But like a good novel, Agnes’s story took some interesting twists and turns before her dream would be realized.
From the time she had penned her first poem in second grade, Agnes knew she wanted to be a writer. As the daughter of parents with successful careers who pulled themselves from poverty through education, Agnes dealt with the inner conflict of finding a more viable path to success than writing.
“I felt like I’d be betraying my parents if I had gone to New York to be a writer and wound up living in my car,” she says.
As a woman keenly interested in social justice, especially for marginalized youth, Agnes considered getting her degree in criminal law. But with the realization that she didn’t have the heart or capacity to help youth already in a complex system, she chose to specialize in estate planning, instead. At least there, she reasoned, she could help families preserve their finances so that they could take care of themselves.
In 2008, Agnes earned a coveted internship with one of Florida’s most prestigious law firms, giving her the inside track to a great job after graduation.
“I did very well at the firm, so when I got a call from one of the senior associates saying they could not hire me because of the struggling economy, I was shocked,” Agnes recalls. “I got off the phone and cried and cried. Then I said, ‘Thank you God, you saved me!’ I was filled with joy.”
Just then, like the heroine of a well-written novel, Agnes found her fierce heart and the unexpected freedom to take flight. She has since discovered the joy that comes with freedom to fulfill one’s destiny.
As for her next chapter in life, Agnes says, “I’m going to continue to tell the story of African-American people so that my children have a safer world to grow up in than I did. My parents gave me a mountain; I’m going to give my kids the Rockies.”
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