FICTION

Freedom Lessons

She Writes. Nov. 2019. 256p. ISBN 9781631526107. pap. $16.95; ebk. ISBN 9781631526114. F
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DEBUT In 1969, Colleen Rodrigues leaves New Jersey to teach in Louisiana while her husband, a Cuban immigrant and Vietnam veteran, takes a position on an army base. Colleen deals with racism toward her husband and a public school system that has found a loophole in the Brown vs. Board of Education decision of 1954 and the Civil Rights Act of 1964. The schools offer “Freedom of Choice,” and as none of the black students willingly choose to attend the white schools, segregation continues. The narrative is told through the voices of Colleen, who becomes the only white teacher at the black elementary school; Frank, a black high school football star who lost his father to racial violence and yearns for a college scholarship; and Evelyn, the experienced black teacher who is assigned to be Colleen’s mentor despite feeling that a white woman cannot teach black children. Racial tension comes to a head when the school system is forced to integrate immediately or lose federal funding.
VERDICT Debut novelist Sanchez has crafted a moving and timely story, based on her own experiences, about school integration in the South in 1969 and the issues that still linger today. This powerful tale offers a beacon of hope that individuals can inspire change.

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