Rebecca Dwight Bruff is the author of Trouble the Water, the award-winning historical novel inspired by the extraordinary life of Robert Smalls.
Nine years ago, Rebecca visited the Lowcountry. It was her first experience here, and it was brief, but she made time for a carriage tour through the historic district of Beaufort. She heard a bit of the story of a man named Robert Smalls. Rebecca had never heard his name or his story. But his courage, heroism, contributions, and legacy intrigued her.
His story ignited Rebecca’s curiosity. Curiosity led to exploration, and exploration led to discovery. The story of Robert Smalls opened her eyes, mind and heart. So much so, she moved me across the country to share his story. Rebecca moved to Beaufort to research and write the book, Trouble the Water.
About Trouble the Water by Rebecca Dwight Bruff:
Inspired by the extraordinary true story of Robert Smalls’ life journey – from enslavement to Civil War hero to US Congressman – Trouble the Water is a narrative of many threads. Bruff navigates the rich tributaries of suffering, hope, courage, and redemption that define Smalls’ life. A witness to both privilege and suffering while being raised alongside his owner’s daughter and a dangerous son of a firebrand secessionist, Smalls, at the age of twelve, is sent to work in Charleston where he loads ships and learns to pilot a cotton steamer. When the Civil War erupts and the cotton steamer on which he is enslaved becomes a Confederate warship, Robert seizes the opportunity to pursue freedom for himself and the people he loves.
From his illiterate childhood to his thrilling escape to freedom, from his work to make South Carolina the first state to guarantee public education to his final days on the porch of his family home – Trouble the Water explores race, rights, religion, class, economics, family and freedom in a way that illuminates, exposes and educates – through the power and beauty of story.
Rebecca Dwight Bruff earned her bachelor’s degree in education (Texas A&M) and Master’s and Doctorate degrees in theology (Southern Methodist University).
An ordained elder in the United Methodist Church, Dr. Bruff focused on spiritual formation and cross-cultural partnerships. Discovering that “some stories are amplified while others are silenced”, Rebecca Dwight Bruff, realizing the power of storytelling, draws us into this most significant time in American history with an awareness of contemporary relevance through her award-winning historical fiction novel, Trouble the Water.
Rebecca Dwight Bruff ‘s awards include:
- Firebird Book Awards:
Winner, Southern Fiction
Winner, Social/Political Change
Winner, Young Adult Fiction
- 2020 Chanticleer International Book Awards:
Overall Best Book, 2020
- Feathered Quill Awards:
First Place/Gold Award, Debut Novel
First Place/ Gold Award, Adult Fiction
Bronze Award, Historical Fiction
- American Bookfest:
First Place/Gold Award, Fiction
Trouble the Water was adapted for the stage by THEATRICUM BOTANICUM’s Ellen Geer, debuting in July with performances until October 2nd in L.A. Longtime Theatricum member Gerald C. Rivers (who voiced the audio version of Bruff’s novel) masterfully directs the large cast and ensemble and narrates as the older Robert Smalls, which puts the play into context.
She is also the author of Stars of Wonder. Beautifully illustrated, Stars of Wonder, delights children and adults alike in this story of whimsy and wonder, curiosity and courage, and great love.
To learn more about Rebecca Dwight Bruff: