In 2012 I happened upon a facsimile of the first African-American cookbook while doing research on the history of sugar in the Longone culinary collection at the University of Michigan. The book was written by Malinda Russell in 1866. The cookbook opens with an autobiography by Russell explaining how cooking had become a way for her to support herself while she searched for Utopia in both Liberia and Michigan. The book is the only known document by Russell and her whereabouts after its publication remain unknown. At the time I was taking a course on "Alternative (His)stories" with Professor Tiya Miles. Professor Miles was extremely supportive of my alternative methods for conducting research, and I felt empowered to try and conduct an interview with the deceased by way of a psychic medium. During a trip to New York, I came across a psychic's shop in the West Village. The psychic read my cards, channeled Ms. Russell, and ultimately provided a kind of alternative interview for my research, while simultaneously participating in the creation of a new work.
Audio of the seance.