Down Home Blues by Phyllis Dixon

DHB cover smallDown Home Blues is a story that asks the question am I my brother’s, (or sister’s) keeper? Is it always best to mind your own business?

Divorce, foreclosure, domestic violence, and an all-expense paid trip (also called prison) disrupt the Washington siblings’ perfectly planned lives, and they end up back down home in Arkansas.

Instead of serenity, sibling rivalries, divided loyalties and money squabbles resurface. Even the good news, that there may be natural gas on their father’s land, causes conflict. When their father, C.W. Washington, one of the largest landowners in the county, announces his engagement, barely six months after his wife’s death, his daughters fear Viagra is clouding his judgement (his sons say – go for it).

Homemade preserves and family dinners are welcome by-products of the move down home. Unfortunately, family members aren’t always singing in the same key. But just a few notes can switch a gloomy blues tune to the soundtrack for a good time. What song will the Washingtons play?

Is it always best to mind your own business and keep family secrets?   In the African American family in particular, there is a tradition of “what goes on in the house stays in the house.” Some say this practice contributes to closely knit families, others say this perpetuates dysfunction. Down Home Blues continues this conversation.



Ms. Dixon is the author of two novels, Down Home Blues, Forty Acres, and Let the Brother Go If… which she co-wrote with Ms. Dupree, formerly of the syndicated Tom Joyner Morning Show. She is a contributing author to Chicken Soup for the African American Woman’s Soul, and has written for American Legacy magazine and the Memphis Commercial Appeal. She is a graduate of the University of Wisconsin–Milwaukee and is a member of Delta Sigma Theta Sorority. She resides in Memphis, Tennessee. Visit for additional information.


Get to know Phyllis:


1.Can you sum up your book in 20 words or less?

Family drama that asks – am I my brother (or sister’s keeper)? Is it always best to mind your own business?

  1. Was it hard creating believable situations and issues or did you take them from real life?

People have commented that the characters and situations seem so real, in both of my novels. The situations and issues come from real life; although maybe not my real life. Someone asked Smokey Robinson (my favorite) how he came up with song lyrics, he said some are from his experience, some are from others’ experiences and some he makes up. I think that’s a good description of my writing process.

  1. What inspired you to sit down and actually start writing this book?


I have lots of stories in my head, but didn’t consider writing as a career while I was in school. I didn’t know any writers and rarely saw books by African Americans. Since I did enjoy reading, I opened a bookstore in the 1990’s. I met many authors and learned they were regular people. So I decided if they could do it, I could too. My first novel, Forty Acres was published in 2004. Since then, I have written magazine and newspaper articles and had a story in Chicken Soup for the African American Woman’s Soul.   This book came about due to readers’ questions for more about the Washington family.

  1. Give us some insight into your main characters or speakers. What makes each one so special?


The characters are special because they are people you know, or you may identify with one of the characters yourself. The stories are about relationships between men and women, the usual things, boys meets girl, boy and girl break up. But boy and girl may or may not get back together, and maybe they get back together, but they shouldn’t. In addition to the male/female relationships, the characters also deal with family relationships. What makes the characters special, is that you see their situation from multiple points of view. Sometimes things look different when you see it from another perspective.

  1. Are there under-represented groups or ideas featured in your book?  If so, discuss them.


Positive black men are featured in Down Home Blues. Sometimes it seems that African American men are only portrayed as thugs or preachers. Somewhere in between are everyday brothers that go to work every day, take care of their families and love their women. Those are the Washington men. Another underrepresented idea in fiction is the impact of incarceration on communities of color, and one of the main characters is dealing with those issues. Also, I explore domestic violence. How does it start? Why do they stay? What, if anything should friends and family members do? Again, something not often written about in fiction.

  1.  Do you read in the same genre that you write?

Not exclusively. I read contemporary fiction, but I also read lots of biographies. It’s interesting to see how people got their start, the choices they had to make along the way and how they felt about their accomplishments.

  1. Is there a message that you want readers to take from this novel?

Down Home Blues is told from different characters’ point of view. This is a reminder that events look different depending on your viewpoint, so let’s not be so quick to judge others. I guess that’s the underlying message, but really, I just wanted to write something entertaining. If people take away a message, that’s icing on the cake!


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