REVIEW FROM KIRKUS REVIEWS ON STILL MARCHING ON
Outskirts Press Inc. (430 pp.)
$27.95 paperback, $6.99 e-book
ISBN: 978-1-4787-7198-2; March 9, 2016
A resolute college student rails against discrimination and injustice in the South in this third novel in the Frankilee Baxter series by Stephenson (The Southern Chapter of the Big Girl Panties Club, 2013, etc.).
Frankilee is well known for her steely determination. In previous novels, she helped save a girl from abusive parents, and dealt with burglary, kidnapping, a shooting, and heated racial issues— all taken in stride as part of her formative years. In quieter moments, she continued her fervent hunt for a steady boyfriend. The third installment opens in 1960 with Frankilee transferring from Athena College in San Antonio to the University of Texas in Austin, along with her black roommate, Eleanor Wilson. Although the university is deemed to be integrated, they are met immediately with racial hatred. A landlady turns the two away screaming, “What do you mean, bringing this nigra girl to my front door?” They are pelted with tomatoes by fellow students who tell Eleanor to “go back to Africa” and hurl vicious insults at Frankilee. The women are rescued by Calvin Morris, Frankilee’s old basketball coach and love interest, setting the tone for the remainder of the story: a blend of endearingly quirky romance and determined resistance to Southern bigotry. Choosing to return to the expensive Athena against her mother’s advice, Frankilee pushes to become an integral part of the civil rights movement, and attempts to gain a voice in the institution by becoming the editor of the college newspaper, her relationship with Calvin developing all the while. Stephenson possesses the rare ability to make a reader want to actively root for the protagonist. Frankilee is political, stubborn, and fiery, but she is also loyal, witty, and warm. It is difficult not to fall in love with her. Despite excavating the abhorrent and often nonsensical nature of racism, the novel displays an effervescent humor and offers some delicious caricatures: “Mr. Hatham is a banty-rooster of a man with reddish hair carefully combed to hide no hair. He has an inflated chest and prancing feet.” This elegant and intuitive writing, loaded with wisdom and charm, is prevalent throughout. The book delivers an astute examination of American race and gender politics, with a generous serving of love and laughter. In this compelling and insightful tale, a strong Texas heroine passionately advocates civil rights.
James Moore, Ph.D.
In ‘Marching On,” Frankilee Baxter is fundamentally the same wonderful, perplexing, and often perplexed character that we came to know and love in “Dancing With Elvis” and “The Southern Chapter of the Big Girl Panties Club”. In this third novel of the series, author Lynda Stephenson expands upon the theme of integration as it developed in the 50’s and early 60’s. The struggle for civil rights in the South becomes the central factor in Frankilee’s personal struggle to establish her worth and purpose in life. More than ever, she is an idealist who pays dearly for pursuing social and moral goals that clash with purveyors of deeply entrenched bigotry. Though tempered by her comical girlhood blunders, Frankilee at the same time leads the patient reader down (or up) a primrose path seriously darkened by physical and emotional pain.
Looking for structure, Frankilee attempts to summarize her life in literary terms: as classical comedy, which ends with a wedding, rather than as tragedy, which ends in death. Yet more specifically one might say that her willful suffering bespeaks a more complicated persona than one finds in Jane Austin or Emily Dickinson, two of Frankilee’s heroines.
Nor is Frankilee’s journey deeply tragic in the Shakespearian sense of an uber-complicated Hamlet. Her sacrificial cause is rooted in the powerful utopian dream of idealists such as John Lewis and Martin Luther King, Jr. Buttressed by the somewhat enlightened progressives among her friends and family, her optimistic belief in a more just world seems realistically achievable.
Marching On is the story of a small town girl in the throes of becoming a world class woman. She entertains us with an overlay of buffoonery, but she is defined by her capacity for love, including love for her friends, for her family (no matter how obtuse or obnoxious); for her man, and, most importantly, for the unvarnished Truth, however awkward or undignified that makes her feel. In her own personable way, Frankilee Baxter embodies the correct side of our unfolding history.
William Chapman, Ph.D.
Another outstanding book by Lynda Stephenson. Great character development, and very authentic to the period. If you were a college student during the 1960’s you can really identify with the subjects dealt with in this book. The civil rights movement, the freedom riders, the limited professional opportunities for women college graduates, and the predetermined expectations of parents for their children, especially girls. Frankilee, the main character, takes on all these issues with wit, humor, passion, and, yes, her rebellious ways. Ms. Stephenson’s previous book in the Frankilee Baxter series focuses on Frankilee’s freshman and sophomore year; in this book the focus is her junior and senior year. She is more mature, more thoughtful, and more concerned about social inequality. She truly grows into adulthood. Obviously, this is a great book for anyone that was a young adult in the 1960’s, but if you have parents or grandparents that lived through that period and you want to know what they experienced and what life was like, then this book is for you. FINALLY, THE BOOK HAS A GREAT ENDING
I have loved all three of Lynda’s books and recommend to any one, any age. I sent a copy of “Still Marching On” to my 16 year old granddaughter and this is the text I received “This is Em and OMG I LOVED the book so much. It is my new favorite book”. This book touches all ages and is beautifully written. As someone who was a teenager during the civil rights movement, Lynda was spot on as to the horrible treatment of blacks during this era. Keep writing on Lynda.
Coleen Grissom, Ph.D.
Probably publishers are targeting this as “young adult” fiction, and it would be an eye-opening history lesson of life during the ’50s and ’60s to that age group, but I recommend it even more highly to those of us who lived in America, particularly in the south, during those decades.
Stephenson creates vivid scenes with both admirable and despicable character and captures the racial unrest, the hypocrisy, the insensitivity toward those of a different ethnicity, the expectations and social pressures on the college-aged, and a bit of the cruelty of which we humans are capable.
I like a novel to engage me, and this one surely does. I encourage you to peruse its pages because I do believe you will laugh, cry, grit your teeth, and maybe even bow you head in shame as you recall your own experiences during the years so well created in this fine novel.
This third novel in Stephenson’s series about Frankilee Baxter is refreshingly honest about the tumultuous civil rights era of the 1960s. While finishing college and falling in love, Frankliee also develops a strong social conscience and participates in sit-ins and the infamous Freedom Rides. The story starts well and gets better and better throughout. A winner.
Carol S. Headrick
Each Lynda Stephenson book gets better. This one is the best with a perfect combination of serious history and humor.