One of the best things about Chain Gang Elementary–maybe THE best thing, once I put my ego aside–is its transformation in the hands of many readers. What I wanted not to be a story about me (Thank God!) becomes, as people read it, about them. If you read the review and confession by Kelley Nettle’s in her popular Kelley’s Break Room blog, you’ll see what I mean.
The book almost read like a true story, even though the plot contains lots of movie-like twists and turns, because it referenced things we see in the news today about PTA embezzlement (gasp!), testing scandals, immigration issues and zero tolerance. In Mr. Grant’s own county in Georgia, the former superintendent has been indicted on racketeering charges, the school system has been put on probation by its accrediting agency and all nine members of the school board have faced a hearing of inquiry into their removal en mass by Georgia’s governor. Chain Gang Elementary is definitely fiction, but it kind of reminded me of historical fiction, where you are entertained but learning things that may be true at the same time. Such a good combo.
It also brought to mind the movie and book, The Help. Remember the group of ladies who wanted to help the children in Africa but turned their nose up against integration in the South? Lots of characters in this book would belong in that group.