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When University of Michigan sopho Celeste Tyree travels to Mississippi to volunteer her efforts in Freedom Summer she's assigned to help register voters in the small town of Pineyville a place best known for a notorious lynching that occurred only a few years earlier As the long hot summer unfolds Celeste befriends several members of the community but there are also those who are threatened by her and the change that her presence in the South represents Finding inner strength as she helps lift the veil of oppression and learns valuable lessons about race social change and violence Celeste prepares her adult students for their showdown with the county registrar All the while she struggles with loneliness a worried father in Detroit and her burgeoning feelings for Ed Jolivette a young man also in Mississippi for the summer

10 thoughts on “Freshwater Road

  1. says:

    Freshwater Road by Denise Nicholas is a mesmerizing novel set during Freedom Summer in 1964 when young people from all over America were converging on Mississippi to register black people for the vote It follows Celeste Tyree an idealistic carefully raised black University of Michigan sopho who is swept up in civil rights issues on her campus and decides to join the movement and go to Mississippi to put her beliefs into action It also follows her father Shuck a bar owner in Detroit a numbers man and self professed 'race man' who believes in progress and the future of black people who is both furious and terrified when he learns that his precious daughter has already gone down to Mississippi The urge to protect his daughter clashes head on with his belief in advancing the rights of black Americans One of the best novels ever about the Civil Rights Movement Nicholas besides being a well known actress screenwriter and veteran of the Civil Rights Movement herself she was in the SNCC and one of the founders of the Free Southern Theater is an amazing novelist The lyricism of place her fully formed and uestioning characters the wonderful originality of each scene brings each part of this dramatic story vividly aliveOne of my favorite scenes occurs early on in Shuck's bar where all the regulars are discussing recent events in Mississippi Each of the customers has their own take on race history in Detroit on Emmett Till whether one should go down to the South and fight for civil rights or to attend to the fight right there in Detroit Then Shuck opens a letter and it's Celeste telling him she has gone down for One Man One Vote It's a real thing of beauty Great multi character dialogue scenes are the toughest thing to do in fiction writing but Nicholas is able to do it brilliantly plumbing the differences of opinion bringing us up to date on the history both in the South and in Detroit the range of opinions while showing us the personal relationships between characters and Shuck's dreams and fearsWho's in Mississippi? Millicent jerked around leaned on the bar top like she might slide down to Shuck and Posey save whoever it was in Mississippi Shuck's daughter Posey poured Shuck another drink brandishing the elegant bottle of Crown RoyalShuck felt the uestion marked faces of hs regulars all turn to him stare like they'd just heard some apocryphal madness The regulars knew his kids had watched them grow upIris her little curls and scalp parts looking like a road map to nowhere glanced at the lush Negro images on the walls Well baby you got a problem now She finished her drink and lit a cigarette holding it like one of the elegant New York looking women in the wallpaperShit's going on all over the country She could come here and be in the Movement Everything ain't that great right here Shuck didn't know if the words came out of his mouth or not but he sure thought them hard The only thing to do with Mississippi was to leave it to run away from it as fast as you could Or better yet blow it off the map of the United States Not one Negro person had to die in that place for the point to be made Then a gnawing thought took hold More than likely that paintbrush wielding blue jeans and sandals wearing white boyfriend had something to do with this decision Shucks teeth clamped down until his jaw muscles hurt Just like a white boy to lead his daughter to hell a hell he than likely would survive without a scratch but where she could die in a split second He was white He could fade into the woodwork of Mississippi or any place else for that matter Celeste couldn't'Now see that's what I mean You can't control these kids nowadays That girl's had the best of everything for the day she was born and look at her Iris sucked on her cigarette now the authority on raising children satisfied as if she and Shuck had something in common because her seventeen year old son had already been arrested for stealing a carAnd the character of Celeste principled but vulnerable well meaning but freuently naive her real courage in undertaking the dangerous work registering voters in a rural community in Mississippi her overcoming her own ingrained sense of privilege as much as confronting the violence is something I think of often these daysCan't recommend this book highly Timely and terrific

  2. says:

    I did not realize how dangerous the Civil Rights Movement was in Mississippi this book has opened my eyes to the depth and widespread racism that lay inherent in the South during the 60's far intense than history books ever painted it in my mind Great read

  3. says:

    In 1964 Denise Nicholas while still a student went to Mississippi as a volunteer for the One Man One Vote Movement Over 40 years later she used her experiences as a springboard for the events in this absorbing novel I started reading it out of respect for the author who I met on a train earlier this year but found myself caught up in the propellant plot and the gorgeous prose Her literary style is vibrant with the history she experienced firsthand Thanks to her clarity humor and compassion she has crafted a story that should have received as much attention as the much lauded The Help which has hovered on the best seller lists for almost two years Celeste Nicholas's fictional counterpart has lived her entire life in Michigan and what she goes through during that steamy tension laden summer reawakens the reader to those times and reminds one of the bravery of the mostly young volunteers whose mission was to educate Mississippi's black residents in order that they might register to vote The idea is that if they can get voters in the most oppressive areas the softer states will follow Celeste's assignment is a small town where she sets up a school for the children coaches adults The immediacy of her situation is fleshed out in her struggles to adapt to the southern way of life and most particularly her attempts to maintain her standards of cleanliness in a house without indoor plumbing The characters come to life and situations are presented with no clear cut resolution making the reader impatient to know what happened to these people further down the line Everyone supposedly has one book in them; let's hope this isn't the only one Denise Nicholas has in her

  4. says:

    This book was such a mixed bag for me There were parts that were wonderfully written the descriptions of the racism during Freedom Summer and the fear the volunteers felt seemed very true to me and therefore was very moving However there were parts of the book that I was just like blah blah blah there is no point The whole situation with Celeste maybe not being her father's child but rather the product of an affair her mother had why even put that in this book Same with the romance with Ed It just didn't fit wasn't detailed enough and thus weighed down the book I would have rather those pages been used for something else Maybe a better history of Matt or one of the other supporting players I also didn't like the way that Sissy's death was hinted at as being caused by her father or maybe the Klan or maybe just an accident Such a tragedy being better described and at least partially solved would have left much of an impact for me as a reader

  5. says:

    This is a wondul historic fiction novel about Celeste Tyree an idealistic University of Michigan African American student who takes the summer off and heads to Mississippi to work for the voting rights of the black population there Set in the early 60's the novel is the story of the voter rights movement and the violence and cruelty that the black people in the south endured until they earned the right to voteCeleste goes to Pineyville Mississippi where she runs the One Man One Vote office She holds a childrens education class in the mornings and an adult voter preparation class in the evening She has lived a very sheltered life in Michigan so the sualid conditions og the poor black folks takes her by surprise She is also surprised by the segregation that still exists This is a strong book about the fight of blacks to gain the right to vote Many folks were beaten and killed until the right to vote was given to all citizens The excellent writing is by actress Denise Nicholas in her 1st book that has been published

  6. says:

    This book was beautifully descriptive and a great snapshot of Freedom Summer Although it was terribly hard to stomach the hatred and violence worse yet that it represented REAL events and attitudes it was also a beautiful reminder that there are courageous dedicated selfless people willing to follow their moral compass no matter the stakes I was fascinated to know that the author took part in Freedom Summer and therefore had keen insights into this pivotal time in both Mississippi and our country

  7. says:

    It was tough for me to rate this book It's about the Civil Rights Movement specifically the Mississippi Freedom Summer campaign orchestrated by the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee SNCC Because I've studied both SNCC and Freedom Summer the biggest problem I had with the book was that the plot twists just weren't very surprising for meNow if you aren't someone who teaches about the Civil Rights Movement and you've never read In Struggle by Clayborne Carson or any of the other books about SNCC you'll probably feel differently about the plot and enjoy some uality readingFreshwater Road has several good points I can mention The characters in Mississippi are varied and believable Celeste the main character is a pleasantly complex young lady with both fears and courage Reverend Singleton also stood out for me as someone to empathize with Likewise for Sister Mobley When the chips are down they rise to the occasionAnother strength of the book is the way author Denise Nicholas makes the summer heat in Mississippi a character in the story She won't let the reader forget that they're in Mississippi in the midst of summer living in an old house that wasn't in good shape even when it was a new houseIn spite of these good points I had some other concerns besides just familiarity with the plot The action in Detroit with Celeste's father Shuck receives several chapters but has almost no bearing on the story 98% of the story would have transpired exactly the same had those chapters never been written and the 2% that did change was hardly a critical 2% In addition several events in Celeste's personalfamily life that the reader expects might be a big deal are mentioned once or twice but not followed up onBeyond that the story suffers from the overuse of adjectives and I've never met a college student who could tell so much about others just from the look in their eyesFinally I enjoyed the Mississippi ending of the book but found the Detroit ending rather unsatisfactory Too bad This was close to being a really good book

  8. says:

    I coincidentally read this book at the same time the movie The Butler which I saw came out in the theater and while I found it at times to be wordy lengthy and a bit too descriptive I did enjoy the story of Celeste Tyree if enjoy is the correct word to be used when reading about the Freedom Project Page after page I felt tired sore rundown hot and sticky along with Celeste and the author did a very good job describing the events that took place in two summer months This is a good read book for those who may want to read about the Freedom Project from the sixties but also understand it is a book about the abuses and horrific behavior of those people mistreating African Americans More importantly it is an interesting read about one young woman from the North and several locals of Pineyville Mississippi trying to make a small change with voters rights I would highly recommend it

  9. says:

    As far as content this book was a great read I could actually visualize how things were in Mississippi during the Civil Rights movement I could imagine the fear of the black people and when Sissy died i felt it in my heart However this book was not an easy read I can read books usually within a day or two It took me a week to read this book

  10. says:

    Freshwater Road was number one on my personal reading list in 2009 I was totally immersed in the story from the beginning to the end This is definitely one of the better novels written about the Civil Rights Era It has a lot of texture within the story line It is a well written novel