Regina Mixon Bates grew up a biracial child in Louisville’s West End. She said she and her parents and younger brother faced racism and discrimination, as well as the constant feeling of not fitting in with either race. Then at age 7, her mother died suddenly.
After losing her anchor and role model, Bates said she faced many struggles on her own, including sexual assault, the loss of her first husband just three months after her wedding and a battle with cancer. She also discovered that her mother had a whole different family before she was born.
Bates chronicles her life story and the story of her mother in her new book, “Against the Odds: A Story of Assurance, Strength, Love and Hope.” The author, who now lives in Atlanta, will read from her book on Thursday, July 18, from 6-8 p.m. at Griff’s, 130 W. Liberty St.
Bates’ mother, Aenne Senger Mixon, was born and raised in Germany. After World War II, she met and married an American soldier who took her to Florida. She had three children but was abused and manipulated by her husband. She later met and married Bates’ father, William Mixon, and made a new life in Louisville.
Aenne tried to keep her children, but various circumstances led to her not being in their lives as much as she or they would have liked, Bates recalled.
On her husband’s birthday, Aenne died of a pulmonary embolism, which 7-year-old Bates was told was “chest pain.” That began Bates’ life without her mother, raised by her father and his family in Louisville.
Bates began working on her book 10 years ago when she first started learning about her mother’s life. She started taking notes, and it later transformed into a full story.
“I was getting so much information on her life before she met my father and her life growing up in Germany, and it just fascinated me so much — all the stuff she was going through — and she just kept going and kept going through all of it,” Bates told Insider.
The book chronicles life in Germany during and after WWII, as well as the struggles her mother faced as a wife, a new American and a mother of three. At the end of each chapter, Bates added a section called “The Take Away,” advice on surviving through difficult times.
“A lot of times when we go through something, we don’t always know the best ways to handle things,” Bates said. “I just gave little tidbits of what I did or what helped me when going through things.”
She wanted the book to be more than just an inspiring story.
“I didn’t want it to be, ‘OK, here’s my story, read it,’ ” Bates explained. “It was meant to help inspire, but also to assist in working through challenges and helping people find their inner strength through whatever turbulence and challenges they may be going through in life.”
Bates went to the University of Louisville to study business and became an Ebony Fashion Fair model. She then worked in health care for several years before starting her own health care consulting business, eventually moving the business to Atlanta, where she’s been ever since.
Her first husband died of an aneurysm just three months after their wedding, and her employer only allowed her three days off work.
“I told myself I’d never work for a company like that again,” she said, setting herself up for a life of entrepreneurship.
Now happily married again, she owns several businesses, including a real estate agency and a mortgage brokerage, as well as her successful health care consultant business.
The last chapter in the book was written by Dr. Jada Jackson, a mental health counselor and author of “ReFrame: Developing the Right Perspective for Massive Success.” In the chapter, Jackson offers some wisdom about how to persevere through trauma and adversity. The two women had been models for Ebony Fashion Fair and are now close friends.
“I asked her to put together a chapter and workbook at the end of the book,” Bates said. “I thought it was a good ending to give some strategies to help cope with life.”
Bates’ first book signing in Atlanta was standing-room-only, so she’s pleased with the success so far.
Coming to Griff’s for a reading is definitely a homecoming for her. Bates’ uncle is friends with UofL basketball star Darrell Griffith, owner of the restaurant, so the two families have been friends for many years.
When Bates asked him for a chance to do a reading, Griffith was glad to do it, Bates said. “When I mentioned it, he was like, ‘Sure! Come on.’ “