I listened to this epic e-book during my commute in DMV traffic over a period of 10 days. I immediately got hooked on the rich character performances (all narrated by author Earl Sewell!) and the lush historical descriptions of life in rural Mississippi. This says allot mainly because I’m not a ebook enthusiast. The story and performances captured my attention so much so that I was enjoying my hour commute to/from work because I could escape into this story and characters.
I don’t want to give away too many parts of the story because there are so many events that take place and you will definitely be surprised. The story’s protagonist, Lenny Gray is pregnant and trapped in a loveless marriage while trying to learn who she is as a person and woman. Sewell describes vividly Lenny Gray’s struggle with her husband Curly and her, survival during disease, famine and devastating poverty. As described by the book’s synopsis, Lenny Gray has known from an early age that she is meant to live a better life, but she is hemmed in by the limits imposed on women and particularly African-American women. Lenny Gray is a survivor and represents the resilient African-American women of that time who were tough and determined individuals who withstood the unspeakable. It is these rich character traits that are often overlooked in historical fiction where African-American drive the story.
Working in K-12 education as a school librarian for over 20 years, Lenny Gray is a book that I would recommend as a class novel read for my grades 8th-12th classes. This book would be best used in ELA/English and U.S. History classes. I would also recommend this book for collegiate African-American Studies or History courses because it provides an alternative view of life during this time but through the unique lens of an African-American.
My hope is that publishing houses will recognize that African-Americans do want to read historical fiction books that feature their life experiences. Hopefully this book, ‘Lenny Gray,’ will be the catalyst in advocating for change.