WASHINGTON, DC, Nov 8 – L.M. Elliott was awarded the 2018 Grateful American Book Prize for her historical novel, Suspect Red, which recalls the Red Scare that swept through the U.S. in the 1950s. “More important,” says David Bruce Smith, co-founder of the Prize, “it captures the imaginations of young readers and shows them how riveting history can be.”
And, says Smith, the focus of the Grateful American Book Prize is to “encourage middle schoolers–in particular– to read factual, intriguing stories that inspire a love of history—and– a head start towards becoming responsible and productive citizens.”
The prolific Laura Elliott, agrees. As she described it, Suspect Red is about a complex, dangerous era in America.
The years from 1950 to 1954 spawned the term, McCarthyism. Senator Joseph McCarthy manipulated Americans into believing Reds [communists] were everywhere. And, he launched a campaign against individuals who he deemed were either communists—or–communist sympathizers. Innocent people were persecuted. It was a scary, divisive time when mistakes were made at the highest levels of government and society.
But, in Elliott’s words, “the American system eventually worked when pushed by brave and calm citizens.” And, that’s an important lesson for our children to grasp.
Elliott is a teacher at heart, who takes as much time as possible, to go into the classroom and talk about her work. She says she’s “been thrilled” by the insightful and often healing dialogue among students that Suspect Red has generated. High schoolers and students in lower grades understand—and identify with–the novel’s themes immediately.
“After all, the cliques, king-of-the-hill bullies, detrimental labeling, social shunning, and viral gossip of adolescence are so akin to the hysteria and finger pointing of McCarthyism,” she says.
The author has the distinction of being the first to receive the Prize—and– an Honorable Mention for another work, Hamilton and Peggy! A Revolutionary Friendship, simultaneously.
Peggy Schuyler was the daughter of George Washington’s spymaster, Iroquois nation negotiator, and liaison to French troops.
“Her story also drops us into elements of our Revolution that are often overlooked during its study in high school—the Battle of Saratoga and all that led to it; our reliance on American Indians like the Oneida for help; the heart-wrenching and vicious civil war aspect of neighboring loyalists against patriots; what it was like for towns to welcome and try to sustain armies (including the French); and how critical a role ordinary yeomen and civilians played in intelligence gathering,” says Elliott.
She also says she is grateful for having been selected for the Prize; she believes that, going forward, “it will give all authors of historical fiction an incentive to create works that will captivate young people. And, it will encourage them to take the time to really research and infuse their works with accurate facts and lesser-known, but oh-so-touching anecdotes. I’ve also found, that once hooked by a historical novel, readers often become devotees of the genre. The more they read, the hungrier for more they become.”