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 sense.
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.
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.
connect with the author: website ~ facebook ~ twitter ~ instagram
Q: How did you do research for your book? Creating characters and learning who they were was a huge challenge because two of my main point of view characters are African American. It took a great deal of research to understand Frank and Evelyn. I began a personal black history study and wove what I learned into their background and their lives. I read non-fiction and fiction books. Librarians helped me find local and national newspaper articles of the exact time and several doctoral dissertations that studied the events called The Crossover. I also did personal interviews of people that experienced the time and revisited the town.
Q: Which was the hardest character to write? The easiest?
Colleen was the hardest to write. It was difficult to convey the emotions I felt as I revisited a challenging time in my life. The easiest? It’s Frank. Five years ago, I was able to visit the town and the school I taught in. The visit filled some of the history of the people and the community. One of the opportunities allowed me to meet the current principal of the school. The school had been reopened and now serves as a middle school. She had been away in college the year of the mandated integration, but she told me some of her own family’s experiences. The stories about her brother who was a high school senior in 1969 helped me to personalize and build a deeper background for Frank. He became the character to tell the story from a student’s point of view. I created a family for Rachel, one of Colleen’s second graders. Frank became Rachel’s brother, the eldest son who was deeply impacted by his father’s death in a suspicious fire. Frank and his parents had been counting on a football scholarship for him to be able to attend college. But when the schools were integrated the football team spots were already filled by the white students. He wasn’t able to play and lost his chance for the scholarship. He struggled with the unfairness but maintained the core values from his parents.
Q: What is your writing dream? To have published my story. How close do you think you are to achieving it? I’m there, it’s all the icing on the cake now.
Q: How do you maintain that equilibrium between writing what you want and what your readers want? I have to write what I want to write; readers have ideas and I must respect what they like about how I write or what I write about.
Q: How long did it take you to write “Freedom Lessons”?
Five years. Slow and steady. I tend to write in chunks of time. The discipline of writing every day for an hour doesn’t work for me. I get immersed in the research and the “telling”. Some writers can turn out books very quickly but that’s not how mine happened. I wrote 10-20 pages a week for three years with a writing group. We each read our pages aloud to the group and then received feedback. I had to learn to show not tell. I had to learn how to let the story roll out through the characters.
Sep 28 – Cover Lover Book Review – book review / giveaway
Sep 28 - Jazzy Book Reviews – book spotlight / author interview / giveaway
Sep 29 – All Booked Up Reviews – book review
Sep 29 - Pen Possessed – book review
Sep 30 – Rockin' Book Reviews – book review / guest post / giveaway
Sep 30 - Rajiv's Reviews – book review
Oct 1 – Locks, Hooks and Books – book review / author interview / giveaway
Oct 2 – eBook addicts – book spotlight / guest post / giveaway
Oct 5 – Book World Reviews – book review
Oct 5 - Momfluenster - book review / giveaway
Oct 5 - Jackie's Book Reviews - book review
Oct 5 - Hall Ways Blog - book spotlight / author interview / giveaway
Oct 6 – Library of Clean Reads – book review / giveaway
Oct 6 - Books and Zebras – book review
Oct 7 – My Fictional Oasis – book review
Oct 7 - She Just Loves Books – book review / giveaway
Oct 8 – Literary Flits – book review / giveaway
Oct 8 - Divas With A Purpose - book review / author interview
Oct 9 – On My Bookshelf – book review / author interview / giveaway
Enter the Giveaway: