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DeKalb author Jonathan Grant has made a generous donation of his works to DeKalb County libraries. On Wednesday, Grant, co-author and editor of the award-winning The Way It Was in the South: The Black Experience in Georgia, presented Kim Hill, manager of the Tucker-Reid Cofer Library branch, with hardcover first editions of that work. He also jump-started the library system’s collections of his new novels Chain Gang Elementaryand Brambleman.
“Both novels deal with important issues,” Grant said. “I think of them as ‘book club books.’ Chain Gang Elementary will be of special interest to readers.” The former Evansdale Elementary School PTA president’s timely, poignant tale of war between a PTA president and a grade school principal has struck a chord with parents and educators. In addition to receiving high praise from critics, Chain Gang has been dubbed “Required Reading” in PTO Today.
Brambleman, the Forsyth County saga, is an outgrowth of Grant’s work on The Way It Was in the South. The novel focuses attention on one of the most horrific acts of racism in U.S. history and its repercussions “unto the third and fourth generation”—the mob-driven expulsion of more than 1,000 blacks from Forsyth County, Georgia in 1912. As a result, Forsyth remained virtually all-white for nearly 100 years. The world’s attention fell on the county in 1987, when Hosea Williams and Oprah Winfrey pointed out the county’s racist past, which still hadn’t died down completely—a fact Williams found out the hard way when he was run out of town during his first protest. (He returned a week later with 20,000 friends.)
In all, Grant has donated over two dozen of his books to DeKalb County. “Librarians’ acquisition budgets have been cut to the bone in recent years,” Grant said. “I want to do what I can to help them out. My mother and grandmother were librarians, so I’ve always known how important libraries are. I did a lot of work on all three of these books at the Decatur library, so consider this a partial repayment.”
Grant noted that once upon a time, DeKalb libraries had twenty copies of The Way It Was in the South. “Their holdings have dwindled to only seven,” he added, “so I wanted to get them back up to strength.” Written mainly by his father, Dr. Donald L. Grant, the monumental manuscript for The Way It Was in the South was left uncompleted and unpublished at the time of the professor’s death. Jonathan, his youngest son, took over the project, editing and completing it. The work won Georgia’s prestigious “Book of the Year” award when it was published and was named Editors’ Choice at American Heritage magazine.
“It’s one of the most valuable books on Georgia history that’s ever been published,” Grant said. “I want to do my part to make sure it stays in DeKalb Collections.”