The Real Education of TJ Crowley (Paperback)

The Real Education of TJ Crowley By Grant Overstake Cover Image

The Real Education of TJ Crowley (Paperback)

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Coming of Age in a Time of Change - The Real Education of TJ Crowley
"When you know better, do better." - Maya Angelou
"A deftly crafted, thought-provoking, and solid work of YA historical fiction." - Midwest Book Review


In the explosive summer of 1968, a white teen from a bigoted family is forced to take sides when a Black family and their teenage daughter move into the house next door, setting the stage for a heart-pounding story of racial awakening in a time too similar to our own.


The assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. sparks violent protests across the nation and Wichita, Kansas, is no exception. The new Fair Housing Act should open doors of opportunity for Blacks, but instead they face hostility and violence moving into all-white neighborhoods.. Nevertheless, Dr. Robert Washington and his family will not be deterred from crossing the red line to their dream house. But their neighbors, the Crowleys, have ties to the Ku Klux Klan and are hell-bent on keeping the Washingtons from making themselves at home.


The summer before junior high has been a real bummerl for TJ. His dad unexpectedly takes off and his brother joins the army to fight in Vietnam, leaving TJ alone in the house on the hill with his racist, unhinged mother Kate. As riots erupt under the nightly curfew, they lock their doors tight. Kate drowns her fears with alcohol, while TJ keeps watch at the living room window as firebombs light the sky.


Next morning, early, the doorbell rings, and Kate loses her mind about the strange man standing on her porch. She calls her old flame,"Uncle Ray" a convict and Klansman, " who quickly arrives to harass and intimidate the Washingtons. To calm Kate's nerves, smooth talking Ray talks TJ into helping to build a privacy fence on the property line. Despite the barrier, TJ can still hear his future classmate, Ivy, practicing her cheerleading routines, and the doctor singing spirituals in his converted garage.


As summer fades into fall, it's time for TJ and his dorky best friend, Eric, to move up to junior high school. As rebels with long hippie hair, tie-dye clothes, and a brief dabble with drugs; TJ's wrong-headed beliefs are being challenged in social studies class and rap sessions with new classmates: Ivy, the self-assured soul sister from next door; and Andy, the brainy new Black kid from Birmingham, Alabama.


Ignoring his mother's orders, TJ bravely visits the doctor's home. His education continues as he enters their house and gains a newfound perspective. As the school year continues, TJ is banned from the basketball team due to his poor grades and behavior. But the doctor gives him secret backyard shot put lessons, and TJ joins the track team. With the doctor's coaching, his progress is amazing, and he and his team makes a great showing at the city championship track meet turns out great for TJ and his team


Just as TJ's life is finally starting to turn around, Ray, knowing all about TJ's secret visits with the Washingtons, returns to Wichita with a vengeance In and TJ's world is thrown into chaos. In a dramatic and gripping conclusion, TJ is faced with a life-altering decision and must choose between ignorance and knowledge and decide which side of the fence will make him feel truly at home.


Author Grant Overstake is a Wichita native who has written two novels on important themes for young people. His premier novel, Maggie Vaults Over the Moon, received widespread critical acclaim for its focus on grief and recovery from loss. Grant began his writing career at 18 years-old at his hometown newspaper, The Wichita Eagle. He went on to attend the University of Kansas School of Journalism, where he won the William Randolph Hearst Award for Excellence in Newspaper Writing, considered the Pulitzer Prize for college journalists. At 24, he was a Staff Writer for one of the top "writer's newspapers" The Miami Herald, and later edited and managed several award-winning Kansas newspapers. Today, Grant shares his writing know-how and life experiences as a Teaching Artist for Arts Partners of Wichita, including co-leading a recent summer writing workshop for disadvantaged youth at StoryTime Village. He also facilitates Artist's Way creativity workshops and memoir writing classes for adults at various locations, including Watermark Books and Cafe in Wichita.
Product Details ISBN: 9781732304703
ISBN-10: 173230470X
Publisher: Grain Valley Publishing Company
Publication Date: November 5th, 2018
Pages: 382
Language: English
“I am thoroughly impressed! Couldn’t put it down.” – SARAH BAGBY, OWNER OF WATERMARK BOOKS & CAFE

“The Real Education of TJ Crowley is a nostalgic and haunting work of fiction. Anyone who remembers the late 1960s will find the story warm and familiar and deeply unsettling. Even those who did not grow up in that time will connect with the struggles of having to reconcile the values of their home with the realities of the world around them. The story is a window into a time and place that seems so distant, and yet so familiar.” – JAY M. PRICE, PH.D., DIRECTOR OF THE LOCAL AND COMMUNITY HISTORY PROGRAM, WICHITA STATE UNIVERSITY

“Set in an explosive moment in America’s racial history, this coming-of-age history prompted me to consider my own moral courage. What choices would I have made if I were in TJ’s shoes? I was on the edge of my seat, turning the pages and rooting for TJ as he navigated his young life with increasing clarity.” – DEBBY IRVING, AUTHOR OF WAKING UP WHITE

“Too often, the conversation about race omits the role of whiteness in the equation. The Real Education of TJ Crowley is the perfect book to spur frank discussions about whiteness with teens and young adults, offering insights into the fear and hate of white supremacy and a model of how a white person can change and challenge what they think they know about race. This book will provoke meaningful discussions in the classroom.” – JENNA CHANDLER-WARD, CO-FOUNDER OF TEACHING WHILE WHITE

“Raw, deliberate and honest, The Real Education of TJ Crowley is not a reassuring read. But the book is about potential, about what happens when people are seen as people, not as a “word.” This is a book that demands discussion. Read it in a group and talk genuinely about history and its important connection to current society.” – MARGUERITE PENICK-PARKS, PH.D., CO-EDITOR OF EVERYDAY WHITE PEOPLE AND A GUIDE FOR WHITE WOMEN TEACHING BLACK BOYS

“Grant Overstake’s The Real Education of TJ Crowley is a remarkable book that takes on the choices faced by a young white teenager caught up in the racial maelstrom of desegregation in the American hinterland.
Brought to life by a series of finely drawn characters, the book offers readers, particularly teens, a chance to think about some of the most important issues facing our society today. I heartily recommend it. – MARK POTOK, FORMER SENIOR FELLOW, SOUTHERN POVERTY LAW CENTER