Freedom’s Just Another Word
by: Caroline Stellings
Publisher: Second Story Press (September 2016)
Set in 1970 Saskatoon, Saskatchewan, Freedom focuses on the life of “Easy”, short for Louisiana, a biracial blues aficianado who is dead set on escaping her tiny town to make it big in the Blues world. Obsessed with Janis Joplin, her life changes when a chance encounter with the legend leaves her with an invitation to Texas and the slimmest of chances at stardom. Now, all she has to do is find a way to get there and not lose herself in the process.
At just 232 pages, this is a quick read and as I’ve said before (if you follow me on twitter @srmilesauthor) we can’t say we’ve made it until the shelves are full of girls about black girls on road trips. Admit it, it’s a thing. Girl gets a pal, they go out in search of a concert or a guy or the ocean, hijinks ensue. Tons of them line the shelves with pictures of blond girls in a convertible with their hair blowing in the wind on the cover. This isn’t that, and thank goodness for it. We get to know Easy, who is sassy and headstrong, but still silly and blind to things that should be obvious. We get to follow her on an adventure that probably wouldn’t be possible in today’s connected world. Though, traveling by car to recently desegregated Texas might be more dangerous than embarking on a road trip without your cell phone these days.
Race is a factor in her everyday life (micro agressions by her neighbors and outright racism are presented in a few well placed scenes), but I feel the heart of the story lies in the difference between dreams and reality and youth and maturity. We see things differently from afar. Janis on the cover of her albums is quite different from Janis on the stage of a bar in Austin with blood seeping from fresh track marks on her arm. So what do we do when we see our dreams up close? That’s what we get in the book, what happens when reality comes into view? Is it still worth the obsession? What are we willing to give up for it?
This book is perfect for:
- People who love memoirs about America’s recent past
- Music lovers
- Suckers for a road trip story
- Easy’s parents move to Canada because of an incident that happened in their hometown. What kinds of repercussions could they have expected if they stayed?
- Many people are upset over the new interstate system and its effect on Route 66. What were they really afraid of? What beloved aspect of your life do you see disappearing before your eyes? What will your children never know about?
- Easy’s obsession with Janis Joplin recognizes that Janis is broken in many ways, but she doesn’t recognize the same thing in Marsha. Mother Superior seems to see something there. Why do you think she suggests that Marsha, Easy and Roy make the final leg of the trip?
- Easy decides not to sing at the bar. Do you think she made the right decision?
- Discuss what kind of life you think Easy had after the close of the book.