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The Blue & Gray Press | November 20, 2017

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Prof to Debut First Novel: Watkins to Hold Reading in Combs

By LAUREN ORSINI

In a first day of school nightmare worse than you can imagine, twelve-year-old Dewey Turner has to go to school with shoe polish stain covering his face.

This is just one of the scenes from Down Sand Mountain, a new book by Associate Professor of English  Steve Watkins. The novel, published by Candlewick Press, came out Oct 14 and has already been short listed for the Newberry Prize, an award given to top works in young adult fiction.

“It’s received glowing reviews and has been called not just a young adult novel, but a multi-generational novel. It’s both historical fiction and a book that speaks to contemporary readers who like a good story,” Watkins said.

When writing his new book, Watkins combined fiction with events from his childhood in Florida.

“I wrote about things that shaped my life- civil rights, the Vietnam War, growing up in a warm and supportive small town that at the same time was racist and oppressive,” Watkins said.

It was a weird dichotomy that stuck in my head. It’s an unwritten, unexplored history of the South.”

Watkins will read from his book today at 5 p.m. in Combs 139. A catered reception will follow in the Williams Street house. Copies of the book will be on sale for $16.99.