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Queen Sugar: The Book vs The Show

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Here is the spot to talk about the book Queen Sugar, and compare it to the television show, Queen Sugar.

The book can be freely discussed in here; spoiler tags are not necessary.

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I haven't read the novel, but I remember Ava mentioning that she'd added at least one character to the TV version. Which characters are not in the novel?

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I read the novel and watched the first episode of the tv series.  It doesn't even seem like the same story!  There are so many significant differences!  Someone who was female in the book was cast as a male, with a totally different personality!  The background circumstances, explaining why people are where they are are completely different ... the difference between an illicit affair in one and a heroic attempt to save someone in the other.  In another instance, someone who (in the book) played a certain role with 'eyes' for one character, is totally smitten by a different character (on the show).  After the first episode - which seemed to drag on forever - I don't know that I'll go back to the tv show.  

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I finished the novel a few weeks ago, and yes, the show is like a completely different story.

Some of the differences off the top of my head:

-Nova: This character does not exist in the book. Neither does her lover Calvin. Ditto Blue's teacher, Ms. Velez.

-In the book, Micah is a girl, though she is about the same age as Micah is on the show.

-Book Charley is a widow. We never meet Davis, and I don't even know if they go into what he did for a living, but I am pretty sure he's not an NBA star.

-Earnest: We never actually meet him. Charley learns of his death while still in California and is surprised to find out he has left the sugar cane farm to her.

-The farm: In the book, Earnest only leaves the farm to Charley. This ends up being a big point of conflict between her and Ralph Angel.

-Blue's mother: She is mentioned, but we don't see her at all. We are told that she died of a drug overdose. Ralph Angel reminisces about their life together a few times, and it's clear that they were both addicts.

-Violet and Hollywood: Book Violet is married but not to Hollywood (her husband's name escapes me at the moment). Hollywood is really quite shy in the book, and he has a crush on Charley. Also, Violet is pretty antagonistic toward Ralph Angel in the book. In fact, he whole family is.

Ava DuVernay has basically taken some of the elements of the book, and used them to create a whole different story. But I am more than ok with that because what she has created is so stunningly beautiful.

Edited by Gillian Rosh
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"taken some of the elements of the book, and used them to create a whole different story."

Then base the story upon the book but not title it the same as the book. Dead Until Dark is the book that the True Blood series was based upon. I enjoyed the books and I enjoyed the HBO show because I separated the two. In fact, the character that Rutina Wesley played in True Blood was white and not a central character in the books and her cousin Lafayette died on the first page of the second book but because Alan Ball based the show on the books he was able to take liberties. As an author I would hate that my main character was given second billing and a made up character was put in her place. That's just me. Saying that I am enjoying the tv rendition. It is really well acted and done. I just wish it was called "anything else" based upon the book Queen Sugar.

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On 9/9/2016 at 1:38 PM, Donnampw said:

I read the novel and watched the first episode of the tv series.  It doesn't even seem like the same story!  There are so many significant differences!  Someone who was female in the book was cast as a male, with a totally different personality!  The background circumstances, explaining why people are where they are are completely different ... the difference between an illicit affair in one and a heroic attempt to save someone in the other.  In another instance, someone who (in the book) played a certain role with 'eyes' for one character, is totally smitten by a different character (on the show).  After the first episode - which seemed to drag on forever - I don't know that I'll go back to the tv show.  

I went to my library's website to see if we had the book.  It was checked out, but I was able to read a brief excerpt and it didn't sound ANYTHING like the 3 shows I've watched.  If I want to enjoy the series, I don't think I'll read the book.  I'm surprised the author allowed such butchery to the book.  But when you're not a Stephen King or John Grisham or a Nora Roberts, I guess you can't afford to demand or limit certain screenplay adaptations to your work.

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It seems like Ava was in close contact Natalie Baszile as she was adapting the changes and Baszile was really ok with it.

Quote

"Hey, I just want to update you and let you know about some of the changes I've made to the book." She told me. I loved them because I understood that she had to now take the world of the novel and expand it so that she could sustain over 13 episodes. A feature [film] would've been the book. But to sustain that and complicate it even further, she would have to do those things. Writer to writer, that made sense to me. What was important to me was that she maintained the heart and spirit of the novel, that she continued the conversation that I started in the book. The themes — the plight of African-American farmers, the mother-child relationship, or how many black men are in prison — were all issues I was thinking about and had deliberately infused into the story. That was what I wanted her to continue and she has, and, in some cases, amplified. I can be okay with her changes because they were logical.

Her point about adapting the book into a tv series vs. a movie is well taken.  You can only sustain a book's premise over a multi-episode , multi-season tv show for so long before you do end up having to introduce changes that diverge it from the source.   A self contained two hour movie may have been closer to the book.

And the reality with traditional publishing is that different types of rights to a single work have to be negotiated separately when you sell a book to a publisher.  The 'book' is usually just the published, printed work, not the electronic or digital rights, and not the reproduction rights, trademark, intellectual property etc.  A lot of times those are owned by the publisher and can be optioned out separately and the actual writer has little control over how the work becomes adapted in other formats.  Big names can and do negotiate stronger contracts wrt controls over their works.  And a lot of times contracts can stipulate a period of time when the all the rights revert completely to the author so they have sole control over the work in all formats.  But a lot of times, once it has been optioned and sold for film or tv the writer has to sit on the sidelines like the rest of us and hope the adaptation doesn't lose all the spirit of the work.

But yeah, she sounds like is rather pleased.  And even with the changes it has increased her book's profile quite a bit.    Here is the full interview.

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So what did you book lovers think of the season? I never read the novel but heard a review of it on the "Black Chick Lit" podcast...and I don't think I would've enjoyed the book. At least not as much as I do the series. 

Of course, that was just one review. Oprah and Ava Duvernay obviously both loved the book, and they're no dummies. I respect both of their opinions on things creative (especially Ava). 

Although Ava had nothing but positive things to say about "Mo' Better Blues," a movie I also enjoyed but couldn't love 100% because of the way Spike Lee once again treated his black female characters. But's that another discussion for another thread. 

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I just finished the book and I liked it. I appreciate both the show and the novel. But good lord, if you think Ralph Angel is a mess on the show, he is worse in the book. A straight up never-do-well type. 

Charley and Ralph Angel's grandmother was in the book. They called her Ms. Honey and she let Ralph Angel slide on too damn much because she felt responsible for his sad upbringing. 

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I read the book after watching season 1.  I respect that they're different mediums, though for me the book managed to balance sympathy for Ralph Angel and holding him accountable for his behavior and actions.  I thought the series failed big-time on that, as I was so sick of Ralph Angel that I'm not sure I'll be tuning in for season 2.    

I enjoyed (and mostly preferred) the book overall, though I think the author kind of lost her way towards the end. I also don't recall "black men in prison" being a theme in the book, so not sure what she's talking about in the interview referenced upthread.   Making Micah a boy in the series distorted the importance of the mother-daughter relationship between Charley and Micah.  To me, the only book theme maintained in the series was the plight of the black farmer.

Edited by ribboninthesky1
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