I wasn’t going to write about this, because no one wants to be the petulant author who complains about a review. Don’t worry, I’m still not going to complain about the review, but I do want to join the discussion it generated.
Elizabeth at Underage Reading wrote a rather negative review of Stonewall. What’s good about it is that it resulted in a string of comments which are exactly the sort of comments the book is supposed to generate … especially in classrooms. Was the Civil War about more than slavery? Was the South evil? Etc…
Elizabeth’s big complaint was Stonewall Jackson. I don’t want to spoil the book, but we’ve cast him in a pretty favorable light. To summarize Elizabeth’s comments: Isn’t that going pretty easy on a guy who fought to uphold slavery? It’s a good point.
But Stonewall Jackson — like the Civil War — is pretty complicated. As my co-author Michael Hemphill likes to say … it’s not all black and white, but shades of gray.
For instance, did you know that an African-American church in Roanoke has a stained glass window of Stonewall Jackson?
Here’s the explanation courtesy of my alter-ego, newspaper columnist Tom Angleberger, who tackled this topic in March, 2006, in the Roanoke Times:
The… window, as several readers told me, can be found in the Fifth Avenue Presbyterian Church.
This is particularly surprising because Fifth Avenue is a historically black church.
How is that possible, you ask. Reader Graelen Stike has the answer to that, too, with some help from Pam Young at the Roanoke Library’s Virginia Reading Room.
The church’s first pastor, the Rev. Lylburn Downing, wanted to honor Jackson, who had created a Sunday school for slaves and free blacks, Stike explained in an e-mail.
Downing’s parents had attended the Sunday school and, later, Downing was able to go to college thanks to the assistance of Jackson’s in-laws, John and Margaret Preston.
To honor both Jackson and the Prestons, Downing dedicated the window in 1906. (Stike recommended the book “Civil War Tales” by Gary Walker for more information.)
Now, personally, I’m not ready to absolve the real Stonewall Jackson … however, in a fictional work, with the aid of time-travel, I was able to give him a “shot at redemption.”
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