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#Spotlight #GuestPost Freedom Lessons by Eileen Harrison Sanchez
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Book Title: Freedom Lessons (a novel) by Eileen Harrison Sanchez
Category: Adult Fiction (18+) , 245 pages
Genre: American Historical Fiction
Publisher: She Writes Press
Release date: November 2019
Content Rating: PG. This
book is a clean read. The use of the words Negro, colored and a one
time reference use of nigger, though not politically correct by today’s
standards, is era specific and not intended in any kind of pejorative
Chosen as a 2020 Pulpwood Queens Book Club pick
2019 Best Book Awards Finalist in Fiction (Multicultural)
“This powerful tale offers a beacon of hope that individuals can inspire change.”
Freedom Lessons begins in Louisiana 1969 as Colleen, a white northern teacher, enters into the unfamiliar culture of a small Southern town and its unwritten rules as the town surrenders to mandated school integration. She meets Frank, a black high school football player, who is protecting his family with a secret. And Evelyn, an experienced teacher and prominent member of the local black community, who must decide whether she’s willing to place trust in her new white colleague. Told alternately by Colleen, Frank, and Evelyn, Freedom Lessons is the story of how the lives of these three purportedly different people intersect in a time when our nation faced, as it does today, a crisis of race, unity, and identity.
School desegregation is something we all learn about in history class; perhaps we even remember the striking image of Ruby Bridges being escorted to and from school by the U.S. Marshals. But for most of us in 2019, that’s near the extent of what we understand about that tumultuous time.
Eileen Sanchez, the debut novelist behind Freedom Lessons (She Writes Press, November 12, 2019), draws on her own remarkable experience as a young, white teacher in the Jim Crow South during desegregation, to write her immersive work of fiction inspired by those events. The result is an unusually authentic exploration of a snapshot in history through the eyes of characters that are relatable and unmistakably human—living lives and navigating relationships against the backdrop of extreme societal upheaval. Sanchez has woven a beautiful story not just about desegregation as an abstract concept, but about the people who lived it—and asks us to question our assumptions about that time, and the issues it has left in its 50-year wake.
Author Guest Post
The Story Behind the Story
by Eileen Harrison Sanchez
Nearly seven years ago I began to seriously write a novel. It started as a writing critique on an ordinary Monday morning. The multi-genre group had copies of my eight-page attempt at memoir. My essay told the story of the 1969 November day I moved into a trailer classroom on the back lawn of the white elementary school with my second-grade class of thirty black students. The segregated black school I taught in had been suddenly closed at the end of the previous day. Why? The Civil Rights Law of 1964 mandated the integration of the public schools in the small rural Louisiana town I worked in. School boards had to comply or lose federal funds.
My essay was ready for critique from the group. After I finished reading, I looked up to see shocked faces and to hear surprised reactions from this group of white writers in a suburban NJ town. I was hoping to learn how to write a memoir. I was not prepared for the instructor, herself a published author, to say, “I think you have a novel.” This novel took five years of research; critique writing workshops, numerous edits, rewrites and revisions. During this time, I gained confidence in my voice and my story. I became my own agent and found a publisher for a self-imposed deadline of 2019, which is the 50th anniversary year of the events that I have fictionalized in Freedom Lessons (She Writes Press).
Meet the Author:
Eileen Harrison Sanchez is now retired after a forty-year career in education. She started as a teacher and ended as a district administrator. She has been writing part time for seven years with a writers group in Summit, NJ. Eileen is a member of the Historical Novel Society, Philadelphia Stories Writers Community, Goodreads American Historical Novels Group, and several online writers’ groups. A reader, a writer, and a perennial—a person with a no-age mindset—she considers family and friends to be the most important parts of her life, followed by traveling and bird watching from her gazebo.
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