It may have taken him over 40 years to get his book published, but San Francisco author Joseph Sutton is proud and excited about his latest novel A Class of Leaders. Set in 1969 at a black ghetto high school in South Central Los Angeles, the names have been changed but the words of the students are taken from Sutton’s real life experience as a teacher.
“I was 29 in 1969,” said Sutton. “I was single, young and idealistic. So much was happening back then: drugs, the sexual revolution, Black Power, the Vietnam war…it was a very turbulent time in our nation’s history and I got caught up in it as a teacher.”
The novel is written with actual student comments taken from an “Ideas and/or Complaints” box that Joshua Sampson, the teacher-character in the novel, has set on his desk. “I really had an ‘Ideas and/or Complaints’ box for the students to freely express themselves,” said Sutton. “Each day they would write down what they thought about the subjects we discussed in class. The comments concerned the powerful social and cultural changes that were taking place as seen through the eyes of African-American students.”
When asked why it took so long for A Class of Leaders to get published, Sutton answered, “I kept sending it out and it kept getting rejection after rejection. I also kept revising it over the years—at least a dozen times. I always thought it deserved publication and never gave up on it. Finally, after forty years, it found a publisher.”
Jonathan Farrell, Sunset Beacon
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