• Lafourche Parish Public Library

Lynette's Pick: Under the Tulip Tree by Michelle Shocklee


Seven years into the Great Depression, Rena is an unemployed newspaper reporter. Eager for any writing job, Rena accepts a position interviewing former slaves for the Federal Writers’ Project. There, she meets Frankie Washington, a 101-year-old woman whose honest yet tragic past captivates Rena. As Frankie recounts her life as a slave, Rena is horrified to learn of all the older woman has endured—especially because Rena’s ancestors owned slaves. While Frankie’s story challenges Rena’s preconceptions about slavery, it also connects the two women whose lives are otherwise separated by age, race, and circumstances.


Set in 1930s Nashville, this story draws us into a simpler time in the midst of the Great Depression. Lorena Leland's birthday is October 29th, 1929, the same day that the stock market crashes and changes her life forever. Seven years later Rena's banker father has escaped into alcohol, her sister has married a charlatan, and is trying to raise their three children, and her mother is trying to keep the family afloat working as a seamstress. Twenty-three-year-old Lorena is an unemployed news writer, but through the Federal Writers Project, she accepts a position interviewing former slaves. It is here that she is introduced to 101-year-old Mrs. Francis “Frankie” Washington.


Lorena keeps secret whom she is interviewing. Frankie generously shares the story of her life and wisdom with the young white woman. It is a story of bitterness and hate blended with determination and triumph. In the telling Frankie learns how her story can impact others and give her final freedom. Lorena is horrified to learn of all the older woman has endured, and it changes forever how she sees the world and herself, especially after discovering her family owned slaves.


While Frankie’s story challenges Rena’s preconceptions about slavery, it also connects the two women whose lives are otherwise separated by age, race, and circumstances. These two unlikely characters form a bond of friendship, admiration, and respect in an era of racial division and injustice.


I enjoyed this book’s audio version using the Hoopla app. This beautifully written story and its memorable characters remained with me long after the last word was read. I give it 3 stars for skillful communication of the power of forgiveness through very relatable and imperfect characters.


Availability: eBook & eAudiobook in hoopla Rating: *** Stars (I liked it) Reviewer: Lynette, Programming Librarian

 

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DISCOVER MORE WITH NOVELIST APPEALS! Under the Tulip Tree


GENRE: Christian Historical Fiction

TONE: Haunting; Heartwrenching; Thought-Provoking

TIME PERIOD: Depression Era (1929-1941)

SUBJECT: African American Senior Women; Centenarians; Racism; Secrets; Senior Women; Slavery; Teenage Girl Journalists


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