Freedom’s Just Another Word
Second Story Press
Available September 6, 2016
Summary (from Goodreads)
The year Louisiana – Easy for short – meets Janis Joplin is the year everything changes. Easy is a car mechanic in her dad’s shop, but she can sing the blues like someone twice her age. So when she hears that Janis Joplin is passing through her small town of Saskatoon, Saskatchewan, Easy is there with her heart – and her voice – in hand. It’s 1970 and Janis Joplin is an electrifying blues-rock singer at the height of her fame – and of her addictions. Yet she recognizes Easy’s talent and asks her to meet her in Texas to sing. So Easy begins an unusual journey that will change everything.
One of my favorite things about Caroline Stellings is her ability to tell a story with huge emotional layering. At its surface, this is a really simple tale about a girl who has a dream and takes a road trip. The backdrop of America in 1970 gives the story some added intensity. I loved that Janis Joplin makes an appearance, and even more that Easy talks so much about Billie Holiday and Bessie Green as influences of her music.
The power punches come in the characters. I don’t want to give anything away, but there were several moments where things unfolded in this perfect way. Like when you make complex origami and on the last step, pull the piece into its final shape, so that suddenly it transforms from being a bunch of sequential folds to a crane or dragon or something so much more than paper. That’s how it felt reading Freedom’s Just Another Word. Like being part of a transformation.
I loved that meeting Janis didn’t suddenly propel Easy to fame. It was a significant moment on her journey, and she learned a lot about herself and others through her encounter. But she had so much more to learn and to give. She just also had to find the courage to take those steps.
At any rate, I wholeheartedly recommend this book. (Check content to make sure it’s okay for your readers as there is some language.) If you enjoy fiction about music or musicians, definitely get yourself a copy of Freedom’s Just Another Word. I loved it.
Easy was raised by African American parents. Her mother is white and her father is black. Where she lives in Saskatoon there aren’t very many black people. She experiences some prejudice as a child. When she drives through Texas, she’s threatened and thrown out of a restaurant because of her race. There’s some discussion about places it’s unsafe for her to go, especially at night. Some places won’t let her in, others treat her coldly.
Profanity/Crude Language Content
Extreme profanity used infrequently.
Easy wonders how her mom forgave her father for having an affair with a white woman.
Easy meets two nuns and helps them buy a car. One is judgmental and cynical. The other is kind and welcoming to Easy. Later she meets a Reverend Mother who shows a great deal of compassion for the people around her, which moves Easy.
A man threatens Easy’s life if she doesn’t leave his restaurant.
Easy meets Janis Joplin and her gang. They clean out a liquor store, many of them already drunk. Janis wants Southern Comfort, and Easy finds it for her. She reflects on Janis’s hard living way of life with some sadness. Later she meets another heroin addict. When Easy sees Janis again, she talks to her about him. Janis seems sad about the man’s predicament, but expresses no desire to change her habits. Not long afterward she’s found dead of a heroin overdose.