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Reader Experience

 

—EILEEN SANCHEZ, Philadelphia Art Museum patron and educator who taught in Louisiana in 1969, the year of federally-mandated desegregation

 

“How do we understand our history? Reading about characters that touch our minds and hearts is one way. Atticus Finch tells us to 'consider things from another person’s point of view…climb into his skin and walk around in it.' Meet C.J. from The FOG MACHINE. Reading history from C.J.’s fictional point of view provides thought-provoking talking points about Civil Rights history for book clubs or classrooms of students.

“Philadelphia Art Museum has a permanent exhibit on African American artists. Two of the pieces represent the Negro women who were domestics in the 1950-60's. As the docent was telling the stories of these women who worked for families that wouldn’t allow them to eat the food they prepared nor use the china or utensils in the kitchen, I thought, ‘I know someone who experienced this servitude. But how could I?’

“Then it came to me—I ‘knew’ C.J. from The FOG MACHINE. In 1959 C.J., a young black woman, leaves her home and employers in Poplar Springs, Mississippi so that she can earn more money as a domestic in Chicago. Susan Follett has met Barbara Kingsolver’s challenge to create empathy for a fictional stranger. C.J.’s character is so well developed and her story so engaging she became someone I know. And I was staring at her in ‘C-Ration’ by Lorna Simpson.

 

 

“When I looked at Willie Cole’s ‘Reversed Evidence,’ the rows of flatiron scorches reminded me of C.J. staring at the brown shape of the iron across the white sleeve of her employer’s shirt—distracted by worry due to overhearing a KKK meeting at one the other houses where she works.


“Crystal Janelle Evans is twelve years old when she starts to work for white families. Over the next ten years you witness her resilience and fortitude as she matures. I had this experience at the Philadelphia Art Museum months after I read
The FOG MACHINE. I don't recall ever having a character from a novel resonate months later.”
 

Photo Resources
Photos taken 2015 by Eileen Sanchez

 


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