Format: Paperback, 245 pages
Publication: November 12, 2019 by She Writes Press
Synopsis: 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.
This is such an important book that I truly believe everyone needs to read. Parts were difficult, as there are racial slurs, blatant racism, and police brutality, but I believe that makes it even more important. I think it would be a great book for students to read in class when learning about segregation and the civil rights movement. While the book is fictional, I actually learned quite a bit from it. Of course, I knew the basics of the history of segregation, but this book taught me quite a bit about the smaller details. It was so much darker and deeper than we’re taught at school.
The book is told through alternating perspectives, focusing mostly on Colleen, Frank, and Evelyn. Colleen is a white teacher who is new to town, Frank is a black football player, and Evelyn is a black teacher. There were hardly any characters – excluding the racist characters, cops, etc. – that I disliked. Though a bit cold at first, Evelyn was actually a really sweet, caring woman. Frank was hardworking and dedicated when it came to both his family and future, which I truly admired. I loved Colleen’s view on racism as a whole, the integration (or lack of), and most of all, her students.
This book shows how messy and unfair the world was for people of color, not only in the past, but in today’s time as well. This book opened my eyes even more to the terrifying reality of racism and police brutality. Even if things are different from the way they were decades ago, it’s still a severe problem that minorities deal with on a daily basis.
This truly was an amazing read. I was constantly reminded of The Freedom Writers Diary while reading this book. Colleen and Erin Gruwell are so similar in the sense that they do everything they possibly can to help their students grow and change. The way characters interacted with each other and formed bonds was heartwarming and actually felt realistic. It flowed really well, and it was such a quick read that I couldn’t put down.
Disclaimer: I received a free copy of this book via iRead Book Tours. This did not influence my opinion in any way.
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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.