diversity and my books, part 3, the Sixties Trilogy

[Note: this is a February series on the diverse themes and characters in Deborah Wiles’s books. I’m publishing the series during Black History Month, with the full knowledge that my books are written from a white person’s point of view (as I am white), and that every month is Black History Month. For more on that, see this essay by Michael Harriot at The Root. To read about the need for diversity in children’s literature, explore We Need Diverse Books online, whose mission statement is “Putting More Books With Diverse Characters Into the Hands of More Children.” You can buy the books I mention below at your local independent bookstore, at Amazon or B&N, or check them out at your local library. More about each one (including a buy option) is at the links I provide below. Part 1 of this series, Freedom Summer, is here. Part two, about the Aurora County books, is here.] I grew up in the 1960s as a child of rock candy, fizzies, Leave it to Beaver and the Andy Griffith Show, the suburbs, the American South, and the U.S. military; as well as the assassinations of JFK, MLK and RFK, the Civil Rights Movement, the Vietnam War, large scale protests against and for the War and civil rights, women’s rights, gay rights; heated political debates and elections, fights for integration and segregation — the year my school district was set for busing, my parents moved us to an apartment, ostensibly so the house would sell better in the spring (we were being transferred by the air force the following year) but probably so we wouldn’t have to change schools (and maybe more) — and the sure sense that I had no idea what anything was all about. We didn’t talk about these things at the dinner table.

We didn’t talk about them at all. No one said, “We don’t talk about these things,” but it was understood, in the way that my African-American friend Bill Lee told me once, “No one in my family said, ‘Don’t walk across Baker Park; it belongs to white people,’ but you just knew not to do it.” He did it anyway, as a kid, and he was arrested. You can listen to Frederick Alderman Bill Lee’s oral history — a history I took when I did grant-funded oral history work years ago — at the Historical Society of Frederick County, Maryland, or at the C.Burr Artz Library’s history room, where most of the oral histories I did in those years are archived.

It was doing those oral histories, listening to all those different voices from many cultures and time periods, combined with growing up summers in Mississippi and listening to the kinfolks talk talk talk and tell the same stories on the front porch at my grandmother’s house every year, and listening to Annie Mae tell me stories of her childhood in the African American community right next door but a world away, as I sat next to her on the glider and learned to shell butter beans from my great-grandmother’s garden into a white enamel pan, that turned me into a storyteller and a writer of fiction. That, and wanting to know more. So, as an adult, I went back to the Sixties.

[[Below, some scrapbook pages from the finished Countdown.]] Now I had the chance to research and write about those days I lived through as a curious kid who had so many questions and who didn’t yet know how to think critically or make decisions based on facts instead of emotions, and who had — somehow, now, as an adult — the opportunity to publish these Sixties stories in a documentary format that I completely made up. Fiction, non-fiction, biography all in one book. Or, three books, in order to tell the story properly of a tumultuous decade that changed… everything. Countdown, Revolution, and Anthem — the three books of the Sixties Trilogy — were edited by David Levithan and published by Scholastic Press in 2010, 2014, and 2019. They are documentary novels, the first of their kind, that use primary source documentation (selected by me and beautifully designed by Phil Falco in strategically-placed scrapbooks) along with a fictional narrative to tell the story of the 1960s for young readers and their adults.

I centered my own experience in each story, because, again, that’s the only story I can adequately tell, that of a white kid in the Sixties. But you can’t write historical fiction about the Sixties without including others who did not look like me. So they are there, and in Revolution particularly, they have a subplot that is integral to the story.

[[Below, some scrapbook pages of Revolution as they are being designed and revised.]] To create Ray and his family and friends, who live — literally — on the other side of the railroad tracks from white Greenwood, Mississippi, I pulled on Annie Mae’s stories from years ago in Mississippi, on stories told to me by several in the African-American community in Greenwood, including Mary Edwards (we decided, while wandering a cemetery with her kin in it, that we must be related by last name, as my maiden name is also Edwards and both our families are from Mississippi) who grew up on the Wade Plantation in Greenwood; Sylvester Hoover, a historian of black history in Greenwood; and others, most important among them the story of Silas McGee, who is the real Ray.

[[Below, Silas McGee telling me his story. It had taken me years to find him, and then, at an elementary school in Greenwood, security guard Glenda said, “Oh, I know him. I’ll call him right now. And she did. And he came.]] [[Below, more scrapbook pages for Revolution we’re working on.]] I listened to Silas McGee tell his incredible, unbelievable story of courage in 1964 Freedom Summer, as we stood outside an elementary school in Greenwood one spring day, and I knew that whatever I wrote about Raymond, whatever I’d research, whatever I was told second-hand, was an imitation of the life Silas had lived, that every black Mississippian had lived in 1964, when Freedom Summer volunteers “invaded” Mississippi to help blacks register to vote in the coming presidential election.

I could identify with Ray’s feelings of rage and terror and injustice, as I had experienced those feelings myself — this is how I wrote about John Henry in Freedom Summer — and I could use my extensive research, my interviews, and early readers to help me, but I could never inhabit Raymond’s skin. I had not lived his story.

Still, Ray belonged in the story. My drafts told me so. The story began to sing the day I let Raymond have a say, as if he’d been there, in the wings, waiting. Because he had. I sent a few revised chapters to my editor, with Ray’s voice added, and my editor came back with “More of this, please.” Because suddenly the story had come alive, with the juxtaposition of Sunny and Ray’s stories. Of COURSE we couldn’t tell the story of Freedom Summer in Mississippi — even from a white girl’s perspective — without Ray, and without all those black citizens who fought for the right to vote, for equal justice under the law in all areas of their lives.

[[Below, some shots I took of 1. Driving toward Greenwood, Mississippi, headquarters of SNCC in 1964 Freedom Summer, 2. The Confederate Monument on the Courthouse grounds, and 3. The Leflore County courthouse in Greenwood, where so much of the action takes place in Revolution, and where so many tried to register to vote in 1964.]]

It scared me to write some sections of the story from Ray’s point of view. But when I talked with Mary and others in Greenwood and heard them say “tell my story,” or “tell my mother’s story — she tried to register…” I knew I would try. I had sat at their tables, I had grown up with their stories, but what did I know? I knew the landscape Ray grew up in, for one thing, for it was mine as well. I knew about white privilege in those Sixties days from living it myself and becoming aware of what it had to be like to be able to swim in that pool in Mississippi when no black kid could — something that never occurred to me until the pool closed. I knew I was about to stretch and grow as a writer. I knew I had my art form. I knew I had skills. I knew Ray had showed up; I would not refuse him.

I’d included a biography of Fannie Lou Hamer in Countdown, Book 1 of the Sixties Trilogy, and I’d included stills of the Civil Rights Movement, as well as a mystery for Franny to solve about her big sister JoEllen, as I knew the book had to bridge from 1962 to 1964 (originally 1966, but that’s another story for another time), and that Revolution would stand in for the Civil Rights Movement in the Sixties, which had to be all about… well, the struggle for civil rights.

I knew that JoEllen would be on those front lines, another white person’s point-of-view, and one that was years ahead of Sunny’s, my teenage protagonist in Revolution. Sunny wants a mother so badly, and thinks she has found a mother substitute in JoEllen, who has a few things to teach her not only about human rights, but about the mother right under Sunny’s nose.

I didn’t shy away from exploring the dark side of white supremacy in Revolution. I included it in the scrapbook sections (“Why You Should Join the KKK” and more). I gave it a voice in Byron de la Beckwith, who was from Greenwood, and who killed Medgar Evers, and in the men in the White Citizen’s Council who might or might not also have been Klan members.

They are all represented, in Revolution, along with racist relatives, and kinfolks on the fence about race, and those who helped behind the scenes — and on the front lines — to change history.

I also included black characters who worked tirelessly in Mississippi that summer and who were arrested, beaten, and jailed, including Stokely Carmichael (who became Kwame Ture) and Bob Moses, and many others who were in Greenwood and across Mississippi with SNCC and CORE, and I included a biography of Cassius Clay before he became Ali, as well as a story about the Wednesday Women, black and white, who came to Mississippi from New York City once a week to meet with black and white women in Greenwood, for support and encouragement and to bridge the gaps inherent in racism and classism.

The result was a patchwork of voices in Revolution, working together in a throughline that led to one violent night of reckoning for Ray and for Sunny and for change. And there’s some baseball thrown in for good measure. It was a good year for Willie Mays. Also the Beatles. Step-families. What makes a community? What tears it apart? I explored many themes.

I also experiment, in Revolution, with a relationship that Parnell, Sunny’s uncle, has with the Army recruiter who has come to town. I don’t have anything particularly defining to say about identities and that relationship in the book, but just as I was learning to write about black characters in Ruby and Little Bird, before I could understand how to write about them more fully in All-Stars and Cakes, I was doing the same thing with Parnell and his recruiter friend in Revolution that I would flesh out more fully with different characters in Cakes with Archie and Norwood Boyd, and with Flo and Eddie, two men who own the Cottages at Avila Beach, in Anthem. Parnell makes an appearance in Anthem as well, living in the Castro in San Francisco, a man who has been battered by a character who has been elusive throughout the book.

Is Parnell gay? Is Archie, is Norwood, is Flo, is Eddie? In each case I haven’t said. I leave it up to the reader (and one astute Anthem reviewer), for now, because I’m learning, I’m experimenting in creating authentic characters who exist outside my experience of my own identity, who aren’t the main story characters but who lend heft and meaning to the whole. For me, they are partners in the world of their story, whatever that identity might be, and I can paint them as such, as I think about them and invent their lives.

“Is Peach, in Each Little Bird that Sings, gay?” a reader wrote to ask me. “Does Drew, in Countdown, have an emotional or developmental challenge?” You can see Drew’s development in that regard quite clearly when he reappears, five years older, in Anthem. Does it matter to the story if you know these things for sure or not, if you can name them or label them? It does not. What matters is that you fall in love with these characters, identify with their hearts, and let their stories inform your heart and take you where you need to go. All hearts are the same color, identity, and ability.

By the time I got to Anthem, and we were making a leap from 1964 to 1969, I knew I would need my scrapbook images to help us cover the assassinations of 1968, the Newark, Watts, and Detroit Riots, the Summer Olympics and those black-gloved, black-power winners, and so much more to just get us to Summer 1969.

And, as I plotted a road trip novel across America, my 1969 Rand McNally Road Atlas at my side along with heaps of books and research materials and interviews, not to mention having the huge and important conversation that had started about diversity and inclusion since Revolution’s publication, and the emergence of We Need Diverse Books and #ownvoices and the very real need for inclusion in children’s literature to guide me, I knew I was writing in not only new territory for me, but in a much more inclusive and aware way about race and culture and my place as a white person in the conversation.

I planned accordingly. I wove into the narrative all I was learning. And, I made sure I had outside, expert readers for the book to advise me.

My protagonists, Molly and Norman, are white, as am I, and along the way they confront their privilege in the way kids would have seen it in 1969 — the way I came to a dawning awareness about it, too, through experience and curiosity and stumbling mistakes and misconceptions and apologies and re-calibrating and trying again and wanting to learn and continuing to stumble forward as they meet Ray in 1969, and as they sit around a campfire on the llano at the New Buffalo commune in New Mexico, and as they meet partners Eddie and Flo at Avila Beach and travel with them to San Francisco.

I stayed centered in Molly and Norman’s white, hetero, privileged, and frankly, innocent (naive? ignorant? they are young…) existence, while also allowing them to be human beings who crater from time to time, who have their own share of grief and loss and rage and resilience and frustration and victories — all opportunities to become more than who they were at the start of the book.

I became more than I had been, as I wrote the book. Awareness is an amazing gift, and responsibility. It changes everything. It changes how I tell stories. Willingness is another gift, and stumbling is a foregone conclusion. I am still learning. Still centering my own experience in each story I write. And still working hard to give my readers as inclusive and diverse an experience as I can, without trying to take the story away from those we need to hear from, those #ownvoices and diverse creators themselves. Only they can tell the authentic stories of their experience. I have always felt this way.

This is an exciting time to be publishing books for young readers, and to be a part of that great wash of stories that are here and are coming. We need every single one of them. More voices of color. More voices of diversity. More voices of inclusion. I want to read them all. I want to share them all. And I want us all to be lifted up and informed and awake and aware because of all these stories. What a time we live in.

Next: one last post in this series, this one about what’s ahead for diversity in my writing, including Kent State.

ANTHEM is coming, chapter 47

ANTHEM, Book 3 of the Sixties Trilogy, publishes on October 1. Each of the book’s 47 chapters begins with a song from the Sixties to set the tone, mood, and scene. Every day between now and October 1, come have a listen and read a snippet from each chapter. On October 1, these posts will be archived with a link at ANTHEM’s webpage for #teachingAnthem1969

This is Chapter 47 (day 1):

Written by Paul Simon
Performed by Simon & Garfunkel
Recorded at Columbia Studios, NY, NY 1968
Drummer: Hal Blaine

And so they journeyed home together….
They drove through a summer when men would walk on the moon and kids would throng to a farm near Woodstock, New York, and Wavy would be there telling them, “What we have in mind is breakfast for 400,000!” and people of all colors and shapes and identities would march against injustice of all kinds in an effort to bring down the established old order and re-establish the ideals of liberty and justice, equality and opportunity, safety and kindness for all.
The future of America drove home.

Without giving away just who drove home, you know that they do go home, and the circle completes itself, although our characters are much changed… and, perhaps, so are readers, for that is the magical, mysterious quality of art. And of America.

ANTHEM is love letter to America, in all its shapes and forms, all its people, and all its incarnations, trouble and good times alike. At our best, we are one nation, indivisible, and that’s what I wanted to explore.

I wanted to take readers through the time that… well, as Gail Zappa puts it in ANTHEM’s last scrapbook: “In 1965, half the population of the western world was under 25. You have an evolution and a revolution in consciousness when you have a situation like that.”

But that was then, this is now, I hear you say. So to Gail Zappa’s statement, I added one from Little Richard that ends the book: “It’s not the size of the ship; it’s the size of the waves.”

So I leave you with Simon and Garfunkel’s “America.” Substitute friends for lovers, and you’ve got, “Let us be friends, we’ll marry our fortunes together.” Yes. That’s what I want for America. And that’s ANTHEM’s over-riding theme. We’ve all come to look for America.

Here are a few more stills from ANTHEM’s scrapbooks that highlight our struggles and our triumphs as a people… work that continues today, work that we are lucky to be engaged in, in a country where we can still make change. Where we can still demand the best for America.




And a last still that will lead us to the next book, KENT STATE, which publishes in April 2020:

Chapter 47. Of 47 chapters. Thank you for coming along. Publication day is tomorrow! xoxoxo Debbie

ANTHEM is coming, chapter 46

ANTHEM, Book 3 of the Sixties Trilogy, publishes on October 1. Each of the book’s 47 chapters begins with a song from the Sixties to set the tone, mood, and scene. Every day between now and October 1, come have a listen and read a snippet from each chapter. On October 1, these posts will be archived with a link at ANTHEM’s webpage for #teachingAnthem1969

This is Chapter 46 (day 2):

Written by Robert Lamm
Performed by Chicago Transit Authority
Recorded at Columbia Recording Studios, NY, NY  1969
Drummer: Danny Seraphine

Cars rolled past them on the quiet street. The morning was bright and cool. The fog was burning off. It would be a good day for a journey.
“Music is the rhythm of our humanity,” said Eddie. “It’s the soundtrack of struggle and peace, birth and death, love and war, joy and pain. Music is the heart you open and the family you choose.”

When I hear “Beginnings” now, I think of the many 2am mornings I sat here trying to finish ANTHEM, trying to get this chapter right, trying to sum up the themes, characters, plot lines, symbolism, you name it… trying to get it right. Trying to touch what I’d wanted to say about 1969, and about the Sixties Trilogy as a whole… about the Sixties, about my own young life in those years, and about the nation as it struggled through those days.

“Beginnings” is what came to me. “Only the beginning/ only just the start.” Exactly. That was where to end, at the beginning, as storytellers know, as life shows us, too. Each ending is a new beginning.

As Molly and Norman come to the end of their journey — the beginning of the next trip — they gain a new rider for the miles home, along with a new understanding of who they are, what they mean to each other, and how they want to think about the world they are inheriting.

I wanted to include Chicago in ANTHEM, with their brassy, jazzy, upbeat sound… they were just getting started on their own journey in 1969, and bands everywhere would soon want to include horns in their line-up, including my husband’s… he was the self-proclaimed band geek who played the sousaphone in the St. Andrew’s Parish High School marching band in Charleston, South Carolina, and the trombone in concert band, and he was my inspiration for Norman. No wonder I love Norman so. I used to go to Friday night football games just so I could watch Jim in the band.

We have one ANTHEM chapter left, a very short one, and I’ll blog about it tomorrow… then it’s pub date for ANTHEM, and I’ll catalog all these song/chapter posts at the ANTHEM webpage.

If you are local to Atlanta, you might come on Tuesday night, October 1, to ANTHEM’s book launch, hosted by the Georgia Center for the Book and DeKalb County libraries, 7pm, at the Decatur Library at 215 Sycamore St., Decatur. I’ll be there and would love to see you.

All three Sixties titles will be available to purchase, thanks to bookseller Little Shop of Stories, and of course they will be at your local library as well.

The Sixties Trilogy turned into an 11-year project with Scholastic Press… what a risk they took, to being these documentary novels to readers young and old, everywhere. I’m grateful to them for their support, and for three gorgeously beautiful books. Phil Falco’s design wizardry and David Levithan’s editing skills created something special out of the stories I wanted so much to tell.

The end of the Sixties Trilogy gives us a new beginning as well… Kent State will be published in April, 2020… more about that book soon. Meanwhile:

Chapter 46.

ANTHEM is coming, chapter 45

ANTHEM, Book 3 of the Sixties Trilogy, publishes on October 1. Each of the book’s 47 chapters begins with a song from the Sixties to set the tone, mood, and scene. Every day between now and October 1, come have a listen and read a snippet from each chapter. On October 1, these posts will be archived with a link at ANTHEM’s webpage for #teachingAnthem1969

This is Chapter 45 (day 3):

Written by Jerry Ragovoy and Bert Berns
Performed by Janis Joplin/Big Brother and the Holding Company
Recorded at Columbia Studios, Los Angeles, CA and NY, NY 1968 
Drummer: Dave Getz

Molly glanced at Norman. “Where are we going?”
“Fillmore West,” Norman told the driver. “Corner of Market and South Van Ness.”
“What’s happening?” Molly asked. 
Norman rummaged in his pocket. “I bought these today,” he said, “at a pawn shop. The poster was in the window.”
Molly snatched the tickets from his hand. “Iron Butterfly! You love them!”
Norman almost laughed. Someone excited for him. It was a good feeling.
“Barry would love this,” said Molly. “Turn around!” she told the driver impulsively. “Norman you should take Barry!”
“Never mind,” Norman told the driver. “To the Fillmore, please.”…
“Norman, really…” said Molly….
“No.” Norman gritted his teeth. “I don’t want to do anything with Barry right now. Maybe never…. I want to take you… We’ll have this to talk about for years and years…”
“We’ve already got a lot to talk about. A lot. For years and years.”
“I want this, too. One day I might have to go to war. If I’m drafted, I will go. And I don’t want to sit over there thinking about how I could have taken you to see Iron Butterfly in San Francisco but instead I took Barry, who didn’t care two hoots about me….” He’s selfish. I appreciate you, Molly. Come to the concert with me.”

Hearts are breaking everywhere in Chapters 44 through 46. When I was trying to write LOVE, RUBY LAVENDER, my first novel, my editor, Liz Van Doren, at Harcourt Books, kept saying, “Let her heart break.”

It took me several drafts to take her advice to heart (ha) and do that. It opened up the story. We hate to break our beloveds’ hearts, and yet that’s what fiction is about, isn’t it? Let’s see characters in impossible situations, physical and/or emotional, and let’s see what they do, how they fall apart and put themselves back together, and thereby create a roadmap for us to do the same thing in our own lives, with our own heartbreaks.

In A LONG LINE OF CAKES, the fourth Aurora County book, which was published last year, I did such a good job of letting Emma’s heart break that my editor (David Levithan at Scholastic) asked me if I wasn’t going to put that thing back together that Emma tore up, so readers could see it at the end?

Well… no. Because Emma could put her heart back together emotionally by that point, and the physical didn’t matter as much. And that’s what’s happening here, with Norman, as he begins to determine he’s not going to spend any more emotional energy on Barry.

Norman is waking up to what’s right in front of him, the cousin who traveled across the country with him, who navigated them to San Francisco, who is a royal pain in the neck as well as –who knew? — suddenly, a fierce and loyal friend. Let the record show that Norman’s heart breaks, and he lets it. And he makes the decision to move forward.

“Piece of my Heart” and Janis were important to include in San Francisco chapters of ANTHEM, as Big Brother et al were a San Francisco band and I wanted you to hear that San Francisco sound, along with “Evil Ways” and Santana (Chapter 43), and, early-on in ANTHEM, CCR and “Bad Moon Rising” (Chapter 4).

You’ll also find, as we hurtle to the end, a repeat of Chapter 2’s Iron Butterfly and “In-a-Gadda-da-Vida” in Chapter 45, which serves as Norman’s theme song in ANTHEM. Norman finally gets to hear the Butterfly live — remember the drum solo? Watch what happens. I’m bringing it around full circle for Norman.

Iron Butterfly did play Fillmore West in late June 1969, on the very date I have Molly and Norman there. It’s details like this that delight a researcher when she’s trying to make a story come together and be true to actual events. Far out. Or, as Norman would put it, “Groovy!”

Fillmore West 1970 — the research on Bill Graham and the bands who played the Fillmore — and its locations — was its own amazing rabbit hole…

Chapter 45.

ANTHEM is coming, chapter 44

ANTHEM, Book 3 of the Sixties Trilogy, publishes on October 1. Each of the book’s 47 chapters begins with a song from the Sixties to set the tone, mood, and scene. Every day between now and October 1, come have a listen and read a snippet from each chapter. On October 1, these posts will be archived with a link at ANTHEM’s webpage for #teachingAnthem1969

This is Chapter 44 (day 4):

Written by Jake Holmes
Performed by Led Zeppelin
Recorded at Olympic Studio, London, England 1968
Drummer: John Bonham


“I’ve lived without family for over a year,” says Barry. He stabs a noodle roll. “It’s not so bad.”
Molly looks stricken. “You don’t mean it.”
“It was pretty bad for us,” I say.
“I don’t care if I never go back home,” says Barry. I can feel Molly steel herself across the table.
After a leaden pause, Jo Ellen asks Barry, “Did your attorney tell you about your draft notice?”
“Who’s being drafted?” asks Colonel Chapman.
“I am, evidently,” says Barry. “Yeah, she told me.”
“Your physical date is July second,” I say.
“I don’t plan to report,” says Barry.
Molly has taken a sip of her soup. She chokes on it.
“It was Mom’s idea to bring you home,” she says, coughing. “She said we would figure out what to do as a family.”
“No way am I going home to let Dad scream at me again!”
Colonel Chapman leans his elbows on the table. “I personally know young men — or knew them — who would be happy to have their parents scream at them again, if they could be here, on this planet, alive.”

This scene goes on for another two pages. It was a pleasure to write. Dinner-table scenes are full of possibilities. Get everyone around a table, talking and eating, airing their grievances, pressing their points, and move the story forward.

I learned to do this with EACH LITTLE BIRD THAT SINGS. I had an ensemble cast for that book, the largest I’d ever created at that point, and I needed a way for them all to be heard in conversation. A dinner table — or, in the case of THE AURORA COUNTY ALL-STARS, a ball field; or in the case of A LONG LINE OF CAKES, a gathering at an old man’s house and an impromptu picnic — accomplish so many storytelling tasks.

The dinner table scene in COUNTDOWN, where Uncle Otts waves Life Magazine and says, “We won’t have another Thanksgiving if we are all blown up!” or the dinner scene in REVOLUTION where the reader understands Memaw’s character and Uncle Vivian’s politics, and suddenly the relationships between all the characters and Sunny, our hero, comes into view…

These scenes contain a ton of dialogue, and dialogue accomplishes three major tasks in a story: 1. It provides information. 2. It characterizes. 3. It moves the story forward.

Even a small scene, like the one between Sunny and Laura Mae, the hired help, gives us so much information, and provides all kinds of emotional resonance, whether they are in the kitchen alone or sitting in the back of the car and suddenly, gazing out the window, Laura Mae reminisces about Emmett Till. Dialogue is rich territory.

So in Chapter 44, sitting at the big round table at Sam Wo’s in Chinatown, it all comes together. They process what happened earlier in the chapter, secrets are revealed, personalities are confirmed, backstory is given, exposition is laced in, and resolutions are begun for characters who are about to exit the stage.

There is so much confusion, and Molly is certainly dazed by now, but at the same time, this confusion is making a path for clarity… that’s how it works.
Dinner-time (or gathering) scenes are big payoffs for the reader. Nothing is so rewarding to write in a novel as dialogue.

As for Led Zeppelin and “Dazed and Confused,” the song title was perfect for what I wanted to accomplish in this chapter. Led and I (hahaha) were never close, but I knew the song, and knew how crazily-right it sounded for Molly with its psychedelic-rock overtones that mimic the Hendrix that Barry so loves. Molly is at a crossroads, just as the country was, in 1969. So much was being born:

While so many were also dying:

Dazed and confused. Yes, we were.

Chapter 44.