What a timely story to be reading right now. While this is a work of fiction, the author has written this story based on her own experiences during her time teaching in a Louisiana school in 1969. I loved the different perspectives that this story provided, and I found myself deeply moved by the characters!
The story provides three alternative views, and I really liked reading each one. We have Colleen, a young white teacher who has a lot to learn about how the southern residents live. Then there is Frank, a black high school football player, and finally, Evelyn, a black teacher who has been around a while.
I really liked Colleen’s view on the students, school, and education system. I liked that she is appalled at the lack of actual integration that has happened, and yet she is surprised. Her situation and experiences were such a raw view of lopsided and unfair the system was, and still is honestly. She was such a sweet, authentic person, and you can’t help but be drawn to her.
Overall, I thought this was an absolutely fantastic story. It’s hard to read, there are racial slurs, and obvious racism in some of the characters. They will make your skin crawl and your blood boil. But I think we need that as readers, and humans. Reading experiences that help us view the world differently will make us more conscientious and aware. This was a wonderful book, and I highly recommend it!
To Read or Not To Read:
I would recommend Freedom Lessons for readers that are interested in reading about different perspectives during school integration in the late 1960’s.
Where to Find This Book:
Freedom Lessons by Eileen Harrison Sanchez is available at these sites:
Told alternately, by Colleen, an idealistic young white teacher; Frank, a black high school football player; and Evelyn, an experienced black teacher, Freedom Lessons is the story of how the lives of these three very different people intersect in a rural Louisiana town in 1969.
Colleen enters into the culture of the rural Louisiana town with little knowledge of the customs and practices. She is compelled to take sides after the school is integrated—an overnight event for which the town’s residents are unprepared, and which leads to confusion and anxiety in the community—and her values are tested as she seeks to understand her black colleagues, particularly Evelyn. Why doesn’t she want to integrate the public schools? Frank, meanwhile, is determined to protect his mother and siblings after his father’s suspicious death—which means keeping a secret from everyone around him.
Based on the author’s experience teaching in Louisiana in the late sixties, this heartfelt, unflinching novel about the unexpected effects of school integration during that time takes on the issues our nation currently faces regarding race, unity, and identity.
Just the Facts:
Freedom Lessons by Eileen Harrison Sanchez
Genre: Historical Fiction
Page Count: 264 pages
Publisher: She Writes Press
Pub Date: November 12, 2019
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.
I was provided an advanced reader’s copy of this book for free. I am leaving my honest review voluntarily.