This entry was initially posted in August of 2011. Mr. Grant has informed me that the book is currently free on IBooks. Click here to download the book.
With its tale of PTA embezzlement and a testing scandal set against a backdrop of immigration issues and a bitter culture war, the plot of Chain Gang Elementary (Thornbriar Press, $16.00, ISBN 978-0-9834921-0-8) eems like it’s been lifted straight from today’s headlines.
Jonathan Grant insists his newly published novel isn’t a recent concoction, however. “I’ve been working on it off and on for more than ten years,” the Atlanta author states. “It’s just more timely now than ever. I saw the potential for testing scandals and rampant embezzlement, along with an unraveling of No Child Left Behind. And I’d like to say, if it’s not too late, ‘Hey kids, don’t cheat. Don’t steal. That’s grown-up stuff.’”
In explaining the book’s plot, Grant says, Chain Gang Elementary is an account of a war between parents and administrators at a suburban grade school, with casualties. And jokes. ”How did the book get its title? The author states, “It’s the unfortunate nickname Malliford Elementary gets after its principal institutes some ‘old-school’ discipline, enraging parents.”
Grant began writing the novel when he was a PTA co-president at DeKalb County’s Evansdale School. “I wanted to write a non-fiction book—a how-to guide for parent leaders. Then I saw Murder at the PTA Luncheon. No, actually, while studying the subject, I came across this phrase, or something like it: ‘Every good school is fundamentally the same, but every bad school is unique.’ This got me thinking: Hmm. Unique is more interesting. Being a novelist, I decided instead to tackle the subject as a cautionary tale, a “how-not-to” guide for parent-educator relationships.”
As for being autobiographical, Grant laughs and says, “No way. I had a much better time of it than the book’s protagonist does.” Indeed, the book starts on an ominous note: “In the twelfth year of his marriage, sixteen months before the shooting, twenty-one shopping days until Christmas, and eight hours before he reckoned for the tenth time that his wife didn’t love him, Richard Gray met a woman who would have roughly the same effect on his life a tornado has on a trailer park.”
Click here to learn more about this remarkable book.
About the author: Jonathan Grant is an award-winning writer and editor (The Way It Was in the South: The Black Experience in Georgia). He publishes Colleges (www.georgiacollegesblog.com), a news website covering educational issues. Grant grew up on a farm and graduated from the with a degree in English. He is a former newspaper journalist and served as a government spokesman. He lives in suburban Atlanta with his family and has been PTA president at a five-star School of Excellence and an elected member of his local school council.