The critically acclaimed debut novel from pioneering actress and writer Denise Nicholas tells the story of one young woman's coming of age via the political and social upheavals of the civil rights movement. Nineteen-year-old Celeste Tyree leaves Ann Arbor to go to Pineyville, Mississippi, in the summer of 1964 to help found a voter registration project as part of Freedom Summer. As the summer unfolds, she confronts not only the political realities of race and poverty in this tiny town, but also deep truths about her family and herself. Drawing on Nicholas' own involvement in the movement, Freshwater Road was hailed by Newsday as "Perhaps the best work of fiction ever done about the civil rights movement."
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(229mm x 152mm x 30mm)
Publisher: Agate Publishing
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US Kirkus Review »
One of the civil-rights movement's most iconic projects, Freedom Summer 1964, is revisited in this first novel by an actress who was also a participant. Celeste Tyree is a 19-year-old light-skinned black woman from Detroit who has come to Mississippi as a volunteer. She does so without telling her father Shuck, a prosperous bar owner who fusses over her dangerous mission. Movement headquarters sends Celeste to the small town of Pineyville, scene of a 1959 lynching, near the Louisiana border. She stays with Geneva Owens, a dignified, intensely religious widow, in her tumbledown home (there's an outdoor spigot and an outdoor toilet). Celeste must sleep on the floor after the windows are shot up. By day, she teaches five children in the black church; at night, she prepares adults for voter registration. Registration at the county office yields the book's climax. Dynamic community leader Reverend Singleton is hurled to the floor by the sheriff, who puts a gun to Celeste's head. They are briefly jailed and their church is burnt to the ground, yet, on their third attempt, they register three voters, a small but significant victory. Despite overheated language, Nicholas conveys the pervasive fear; the confrontations with the white power structure are effective; and she enlarges her picture of freedom fighters battling bigots with a thuggish fellow volunteer and a tyrannical black father. Still, Freedom Summer 1964 has been amply documented in print and on screen and Nicholas falls short in presenting the subject in a fresh light. She focuses on Celeste's troubled relationship with her mother, living with her second husband in New Mexico, and on her identity issues. Celeste's internal struggle goes unresolved and acts only as a distraction from the nightmare of being black in Mississippi. A painful journey over well-trod ground. (Kirkus Reviews)
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Author Biography - Denise Nicholas
Denise Nicholas is an actor who starred in hit American TV shows Room 222 and In the Heat of the Night. Freshwater Road is her first novel.