Preview – In My Backyard: Stories of Growing Up in Oakland

Some of you know, but many of you do not that I recently published a preview of my long awaiting collection of childhood memories. In My Backyard: Stories of Growing Up In Oakland- A Preview is 13 stories from my collection of dozens of stories I started writing back in the early 2000s.

I would see someone I knew from one of my old neighborhoods or classmate and the memories would come and I would jot them down in a journal. I have accumulated many stories and anecdotes over the last almost 20 years. I had been encouraged to send these stories out to the world ( a few of them have been published in various anthologies and journals) and in the last year have looked into publishers but have decided that this is the year I will finally publish them. While I am preparing to release a full volume in fall 2020, I have gone ahead and released this preview.

I hope you will enjoy these stories and will be excited about the rest come fall. Hopefully you will spread the words with others.

The Preview can be ordered at in paperback for $3.99 or eBook for $1.99.

In My Backyard – A Sampler

In My Backyard: Stories of Growing Up In Oakland

A Preview is a sample offering of my long-time compilation of “Oakland Stories.”

Full release is slated for Fall 2020.

The cover is my kindergarten class at Garfield Elementary in 1955, Oakland.
I am the little girl standing below the teacher on the right.

No Pictures Allowed: short story

No Pictures Allowed



Our group had been told to start on the bottom level which was dedicated to the beginning of the Black experience in America. An energetic young woman, an attorney, who obviously loved an took seriously her job, was our tour guide. She brought us from the 16 th century and on through slavery espousing her knowledge of the exhibitions and our history. After the tour I went on to other exhibits on that floor. Visitors were taking pictures and videotaping all along this tour soaking up the experience, at times looking solemly and even at times, wiping away a tear drop or two. And then we came to an exhibit that clearly stated, NO PICTURES ALLOWED.

The exhibit was of Emmit Till. I stopped at the edge of the exhibit which veered into a separate partition. I had read the stories and a book about the fourteen-year-old Black boy from Chicago who was visiting his mother’s family in Money, Mississippi. There were reports of disrespect to a white woman and this young boy, this manchild was lynched and beaten beyond recognition. There is an infamous photograph of thousands of people viewing Till’s body, raw and in the state he was found because his mother wanted the world to see the cruelty that had been done to her child.

I hesitated at the door. I put one foot forward and stopped when I saw a casket. I knew then that this was a replica of Till’s original body and casket. But I could not go another step forward. I stepped back. You need to see this, mind told me. But then, the next moment my spirit said, but why do you need to see it? Why do you want to view such a horrific sight? I made a decision that I was going to skip this exhibition. I just could not do it. I slowly continued to the next exhibit. I saw an elderly woman look up at the Emmit Till exhibition and slowly walked past it. It wasn’t just me.


Dera R. Williams is a published author of fiction, nonfiction and memoir, a griot who has co-authored a short story collection and a collection of childhood memories of growing up in Oakland.

Writing Days

Writing Days

authors black laptop computer on wooden tabletop in a school library with short story on screen

September 1st was the beginning of the Melody & Dera Get Finished Workshop.  Now is the time to put up or get up.  I turned in a proposal to the African American Museum & Library of Oakland (AAMLO) to share my growing up in Oakland stories.  Now I need at least 5 pages of my in-progress manuscript, The Enchantments, by Thursday.  But first I need to do some organization of my characterizations.

Here goes.

A Tale of Two States – excerpt

A Tale of Two States



Arkansas. The state where I was born. The place of my ancestors, family reunions, family weddings and celebrations and a place where those who have left come back to as their final resting place.

I had come on this journey this year 2019 in the month of June to commemorate my mother’s burial grave in the Rowland family burial plot at Batts Chapel Cemetery in the little town of Huttig in southern Arkansas. My mother left southern Arkansas to attend Philander Smith College, a small Historically Black Methodist-run college in the capital city of Little Rock. After graduating, starting her teaching career, married and had me and my brother, my parents decided they would make the trek which came to be called the “Great Migration” when thousands of African Americans moved from the south to the North, the Midwest, East and Western states.

My family left Arkansas in 1953 when my brother was just two months old and I was two years old. As much as my mother acclimated to California and made a life for herself, she was ever a southern girl at heart and always wanted to be buried where she and her family still have ties. The ‘old place’ where my grandparents raised their family is still standing on heir property and elder members of our family are receiving compensation for the lumber the beautiful pine and oak trees produce.

As we drove, two carloads of us, from Little Rock to Union County, about a 2 ½ hour drive, there was no denying the lush beauty of the natural forest of majestic pines towering along the highway. We drove past numerous small towns with small populations and being in the Bible belt there were churches prominent along the way. I became nostalgic watching the scenery before me.

Dera R. Williams is a published author of fiction, nonfiction and memoir, a griot who has co-authored a short story collection and a collection of childhood memories of growing up in Oakland.

Lit Crawl 2019 – Afrosurreal Writers Workshop of Oakland, CA

We’re in Litquake SF Lit Crawl 2019 this year!

A writers collective I am in, AfroSurreal Writers Workshop in Oakland, California, received notice last week that we are in a Lit Crawl 2019 featured spot.


Artwork by Alan Clark


Time Travel: A Literary and Poetic Exploration To The Next Dimension

AfroSurreal Workshop located in the Oakland/Eastbay wants to take audiences on a journey in the diverse ways we time travel. It may be a story set in the past or future, a cosmic universe, a graphic journey in other worlds or a walk through a Wakanda-like setting)


Dera R. Williams is a published author of fiction, nonfiction and memoir, a griot who has co-authored a short story collection and a collection of childhood memories of growing up in Oakland.