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My Writer's Journal

Behind the Books: Jubilee Journey

JUBILEE JOURNEY, 1997; paperback, 2007
After WHITE LILACS was published, I went on to work on other books, but a couple of things got me to thinking about it again a few years later. One was an interracial marriage and the birth of a biracial child in my family. What would Erin's life be like? How would she identify? What challenges would she face?

About the same time, people who read and enjoyed WHITE LILACS had begun to ask, "Whatever happened to Rose Lee Jefferson?" And I began to wonder about that, too. To answer the question, I decided to write a companion book, not a sequel that continues Rose Lee's life as a young girl but to pick up the story seventy-five years later with a whole new generation. In 1996 Rose Lee, now 86, writes to her great-granddaughter and invites her to attend the Juneteenth Jubilee in Dillon, Texas. Emily Rose Chartier is thirteen, growing up in a biracial family in Connecticut when she receives the invitation, and she and her brother begin their own journey to visit the great-grandmother she's never met.

One of the great benefits of living in Denton, Texas, was the use of the library at the University of North Texas, where I had access to oral histories had been collected from residents of Quakertown--the real name of Freedomtown in my novels--that provided me with plenty of material from which to weave a new narrative. By the time JUBILEE JOURNEY was published, that biracial child who had inspired the book had been joined by a baby brother. The book is dedicated to them: Erin, who is in college now; she has her mother's beautiful dark skin, huge brown eyes, and seriously curly hair; and Joe, a senior in high school, blue-eyed and brown-haired like his dad. They have stories of their own to tell.

Jackets paintings for both books were done by well-known artist Jerry Pinkney. The books were reissued in paperback with new and very different covers in 2007.

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