FEATURED EBOOK

 

Based on true events, The Drowning of Stephan Jones tells the harrowing story of one small town’s brush with homophobia Sensitive Carla Wayland certainly doesn’t know anyone who is gay, not in her small hometown of Rachetville, Arkansas. While everyone says homosexuality is a sin, Carla doesn’t know what to think. But her mother, the town librarian, always stands up for what she knows is right, even when it isn’t popular, and Carla loves her for that. Then Frank Montgomery and Stephan Jones, a gay couple, move into town. Tempers flare, and the town’s friendly residents—led by the Baptist preacher, Reverend Roland Wheelwright—soon show their true colors. Carla is horrified, but even Andy Harris, her longtime crush and now boyfriend, seems to agree that homosexuality is an abomination, to be wiped out. When Andy and his friends take their cause a little too far, will Carla be able to defy the majority and speak up for justice? This ebook features an illustrated biography of Bette Greene including rare photos and never-before-seen documents from the author’s personal collection.

 

ABOUT Bette Greene

  • BIOGRAPHY

    Bette Greene was born in Memphis, Tennessee, on June 28, 1934, and grew up across the Harahan Bridge in Arkansas cotton country, thirty-five miles west of Memphis. Bette’s first twelve years were spent in Parkin, Arkansas, a town of 1,100, with two streets and no stop signs, in the very buckle of the Bible Belt.

    With the birth of the family’s second child, Marsha, the care and protection of four-year-old Bette became the responsibility of the family servant and housekeeper, Ruth, with whom Bette came to share a child-mother bond. Ruth, a long-suffering, spiritual black woman, engaged Bette’s precocious curiosity with stories and songs. In Ruth’s arms, Bette knew unconditional love, but also felt the fear and anguish instilled by the nightriders of the Ku Klux Klan.

    Bette’s elementary school classroom was a place of despair: She and her classmates, many of whom were the shoeless and hungry children of sharecroppers, learned straight from the chalkboard with no access to books. When the last bell of the day rang, Bette knew many of her fellow students would join the black children  in the cotton fields, working until dark.

    At age seven, Bette, tired of the ten-mile walk to the nearest library from her small town, was allowed to travel to Memphis to visit her grandmother. After riding the train alone from Parkin to Memphis, Bette was met by her grandmother, Tilly, and a chauffeur, and driven to the Peabody Hotel. Tilly, the family matriarch, took Bette into her world. Their love and trust for each other grew over many lunches and conversation punctuated with Yiddish phrases.

    On one such occasion, Tilly gave Bette a four-inch-thick dictionary. The gift fed Bette’s voracious hunger for knowledge, and she promised Tilly that she would learn every word. That same year, at Tilly’s request, Bette wrote a letter to Pope Pius XII begging for his help in locating Tilly’s brothers, missing in battle in Lithuania during World War II.

    At age eight, Bette submitted an account of a Parkin barn fire, complete with burning cows, to the Memphis Commercial Appeal. The story was published and Bette received her first byline—and twenty-four cents—making her the youngest professional journalist of her time. Bette’s experience growing up in the only Jewish family in a suffocatingly small Southern town would later inform her award-winning novel Summer of My German Soldier.

    After entering the University of Alabama in 1952, Bette became a consistent betting winner, putting her money on Coach Bear Bryant’s Crimson Tide. But when the English faculty ruled that Bette could not be admitted into the creative writing program until she completed courses of English grammar, Bette said,  “Bye, bye ’bama!”

    In 1953, Bette began school at Memphis State University. She became feature editor for the Tiger Rag while also writing for United Press International and publishing stories worldwide.

    Then, in 1954, Bette took her tuition money and fled to Paris, France, enrolling at Alliance Française and spending a year studying French, life, and love.

    In 1955, Bette returned to Memphis and began work as a freelance writer for the Commercial Appeal. At the same time, she turned down an invitation from Colonel Tom Parker to write about a new talent he was managing, an unknown singer named Elvis Presley, as it was known that the Colonel didn’t pay. Bette soon left for New York City and entered Columbia University to study writing. She quickly became Columbia’s “rising literary star” and was offered a significant publishing deal for her first novel, Counter Point, My Love. Unhappy with the novel, rather than accept the deal she tore up the manuscript and watched it burn in her fireplace.

    Bette married Dr. Donald Sumner Greene, a neurologist from Boston, in 1959. Leaving her Southern roots, she moved to Brookline, Massachusetts, where her two children, Carla and Jordan, were born. In the security of their family home, Bette wrote Summer of My German Soldier while studying creative writing at Harvard University.

    In 1973, after thirty-seven rejections, Summer of My German Soldier was published. The novel garnered numerous awards and honors, including the first Golden Kite Award from the Society of Children’s Book Writers, and the Massachusetts Children’s Book Award. The novel was also named a New York Times Outstanding Book and an ALA Notable Book, and was a National Book Award finalist. Summer of My German Soldier was translated into ten languages.

    The television film Summer of My German Soldier would go on to win the Humanitas Prize for human dignity, meaning, and freedom in 1978, and that same year, Esther Rolle won an Emmy for her performance as Ruth. The screenplay was written and adapted by Bette Greene and Jane-Howard Hammerstein.

    In 1974, Bette published her second novel, Philip Hall Likes Me. I Reckon Maybe. It was named an ALA Notable Book and a New York Times Outstanding Book and collected numerous additional honors including the Newbery Honor, the Kirkus Choice Award, and the Child Study Association of America’s Children’s Book Award.

    Inspired by her readers, who demanded more adventures of Beth Lambert and Phillip Hall, Bette Greene wrote two more books in the Phillip Hall trilogy: Get On Out of Here, Philip Hall and I’ve Already Forgotten Your Name, Philip Hall!

    In 1978, Bette published her sequel to Summer of My German Soldier, Morning Is a Long Time Coming. In 1983, Bette was awarded the keys to the City of Memphis. That same year she published Them That Glitter and Them That Don’t, a novel inspired by the real lives of Loretta Lynn and Dolly Parton, which received the Parents’ Choice Award.

    In 1991, Bette published The Drowning of Stephan Jones. This book, based on the true story of the death of Charles O. Howard in Bangor, Maine, was banned, censored, and challenged by school boards, libraries, and parents across the country. To this day, the Eckerd Wilderness Camps use The Drowning of Stephan Jones as bibliotherapy, giving copies to campers who have been victims of abuse.

    By 2010, Bette Greene’s readers had taken it upon themselves to create a Facebook page for her, as well as a page for Summer of My German Soldier, which includes performance videos about the love between Patty and Anton and even rap songs about Hitler.

    In 2011, three years after the death of Dr. Donald Greene, her husband of fifty years, Bette discovered a manuscript for a book series long-forgotten in her computer titled Verbal Karate. She trademarked the title and earmarked a percentage of the book’s income for the Phoebe Prince Anti-Bullying Foundation, and returned to her island home and writing sanctuary to begin the final edits of Verbal Karate.

    As a twenty-first century master author with four decades of fans worldwide, Bette Greene uses electronic media platforms and social networks to reach out and embrace her readers.

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