Thursday, December 10, 2009

Clayton State University's Hollowell Publishes 'The Forgotten Room': Legislation Introduced to Protect Children from Misuse of Seclusion

/PRNewswire/ -- Dr. Mary Hollowell, an associate professor of Teacher Education at Clayton State University, recently published "The Forgotten Room," a book covering an ethnographic case study of a public alternative school which highlights solitary confinement.

"I've tried to write the kind of education book that I've always liked to read -- a chronology of a school year from start to finish that sucks you in, sweeps you along, and spits you out," explains Hollowell. "'The Forgotten Room' is a unique and somber story of students on parole, and it reveals what happens to them and their hardworking teachers when they are put in crumbling school buildings and overcrowded conditions. It's dark and gritty. I saw students threaten and assault teachers. We had lockdowns, SWAT team visits, gang fighting, drug dealing, and students on rampages, but we also had oases of peace in the classrooms of exemplary teachers."

During her study of this school she discovered the "forgotten room" used for solitary confinement. She noted and photographed the graffiti written in blood covering the walls of this room.

"I have been an advocate against 'school seclusion,' as it is called, ever since. Seclusion rooms are allowed in Georgia public schools provided they are big enough for children to lie down, have good visibility, and have locks that spring open in case of an emergency such as a fire. The small, dark solitary confinement cells that I have seen, though, are double-bolted on the outside and do not meet these criteria," Hollowell expresses. "This week I learned that U.S. Reps. George Miller (D-CA) and Cathy McMorris Rodgers (R-WA) will introduce new legislation to protect all children in schools from misuse of restraint and seclusion. If my book 'The Forgotten Room' can play any part in the process, I will be satisfied."

For her book Hollowell used her own black and white images to accompany the text. Each chapter opens with a provocative photo of the deteriorating facility or neighborhood. Her work is featured as the cover image as well.

The 2009 Laura Ingalls Wilder Award winner from the American Library Association for lifetime contributions to children's literature, Ashley Bryan, wrote the foreword for Hollowell's book.

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Friday, December 4, 2009

Give the Gift of Southern History this Holiday: West Georgia Novelist Explores the History of Racial Tensions in Forsyth County in 'Soul Purpose'

Give the Gift of Southern History this Holiday Season: West Georgia Novelist Explores the History of Racial Tensions in Forsyth County in 'Soul Purpose'

/PRNewswire/ -- Soul Purpose, a historical fiction novel written by Dr. Kele Sewell, tells the story of the fiery racial discrimination of the 20th century in Forsyth County. The author weaves two stories throughout the book: life in Forsyth County during 1912, when all black residents were burned out of the city following the death of a white girl; and from 1965 to present day, showing a county that did not have a single black resident until years after civil rights leaders marched through, protesting the hatred that dominated for so long.

The narrative set in the early part of the century gives life to the story told in history books of Mae Crowe, a young white girl who was raped and murdered. Her father, the local district attorney, sentenced two black men to a public hanging for the crime. Race riots broke out, and eventually all black residents were forced to leave the county to sell their homes for a fraction of their value or they were burned down by the Klan.

The modern-day part of Soul Purpose focuses on the transformation of Kelly, a young white boy raised in Forsyth County whose adult influences were his father, who was an alcoholic and racist; his grandfather, a preacher who taught hate at home and from the pulpit; and his mother, who taught the importance of viewing individuals as equals--no matter the color of their skin. Kelly's life could have gone toward ignorance and hatred or toward understanding. Thanks to his mother's influence, he befriended a black psychiatrist and his son. Over time and through this friendship, Kelly is able to break the cycle of racism that plagued his family's history.

"I was raised in Forsyth County and my experience was very similar to that of Kelly, the lead character of the present day storyline," said Sewell. "I was racist because I didn't know any better. Racism was all around me, at church and at home. In my adult life I've learned how wrong I was. I struggled for years with the blind discrimination of my youth and came to the conclusion that I had to write this story to bring to light the pain that ignorance has and can cause."

Sewell's ground-breaking novel artfully blends fact and fiction to give the reader a greater understanding of racism spanning the last century. Its message is a significant, social commentary about the necessity of healing deep racial wounds, both real and imagined, to bring about change.

In honor of Hosea Williams' efforts to integrate Forsyth County in the 1980's, Sewell will donate a percentage of proceeds from Soul Purpose to the non-profit Hosea Williams Feed the Hungry organization.

Soul Purpose is available online at and and in Georgia retail outlets including Borders in Douglasville and Humpus Bumpus books in Forsyth County.

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