Cherry Hill woman writes book about August Wilson's love notes to her mother

A story heard first on KYW Newsradio

Cherri Gregg
February 14, 2020 - 7:48 am
Faye Coleman shows a photograph of her mother, to whom the late African American playwright August Wilson wrote a series of love letters.

Cherri Gregg/KYW Newsradio

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CHERRY HILL, N.J. (KYW Newsradio) — A Cherry Hill woman is sharing the story of a love affair between her mother and Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright and poet August Wilson — all documented in love notes. 

"I've had some love letters written to me, don't get me wrong, but I ain't never had a love letter written like that," said Faye Coleman.

Originally from Pittsburgh, Coleman is an engineer and new author now living in Cherry Hill. A few years ago, she says her mother, Patricia, told her about a love affair she had with Wilson, known for writing impactful stories about the African American experience, in the 1960s. 

At the time, Pat, as he called her, was a waitress at a restaurant on Wiley Street in Pittsburgh. Wilson was a budding writer, and a frequent customer. 

"August would come in every morning, and she would feed him, and he would write," Coleman said. "Coffee, eggs, grits — the normal breakfast — but she said, 'Whatever I put in front of him.'"

Coleman says he would sit there and write all day, and he and her mother developed a connection that lasted for years. 

She says the proof is in hand-written "love notes" that Wilson would leave behind for Pat. She kept her favorites.

All the letters have been authenticated and are featured in Coleman's book, titled "August With Love," after the way he signed each of them.

"There are some that were very deliberate and personal, and it seemed that some were emotional," Coleman said. "And it seemed like some were spicy."

She believes her mother could have been Wilson's muse for his play "Two Trains Running," about a diner on Wiley Street in Pittsburgh. 

"The cover of the book has a woman serving breakfast," Coleman noted with a twinkle in her eye.

Eventually the two parted ways. Coleman says her mother had no regrets. She read one of the letters at her mother's funeral. Eventually re-reading the collection of letters, she began to understand her mother in new ways.

"Not just seeing her as a mother, but seeing her as Pat Coleman," Coleman said.

"August With Love" shares the story of her mother's love for the playwright, as well as her journey to learn more about her mother through his love letters. Coleman will host a reading on Friday, Feb. 28, at 7 p.m. at the Cherry Hill Mall. The event is free, but registration is required. 

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