Please join me in welcoming Jennifer L. Wright back to the blog today to talk about ragtime, redemption, and her new historical novel The Girl From the Papers!
THE GIRL FROM THE PAPERS by Jennifer L. Wright
GENRE: Historical Fiction (Christian)
PUBLISHER: Tyndale House
RELEASE DATE: August 8, 2023
Inspired by one of America’s most notorious couples, Bonnie and Clyde, Jennifer L. Wright delivers a riveting tale set during the public enemy era of the Great Depression.
Beatrice Carraway has dreams. Although she’s aged out of the childhood pageant circuit, she’s intent on carrying her talents all the way to the big screen—if only she can escape the poverty of West Dallas first. But as the Great Depression drags the working class further and further under, Beatrice struggles just to keep herself, her mother, and her younger sister afloat. After a string of failed auditions, she feels defeated.
And then in walks Jack Turner. Though Beatrice is determined to pull herself up by her bootstraps, Jack has decided on a different path out of the gutters. It isn’t long before Beatrice is swept into an exciting and glamorous life of crime beside the man she loves. Keeping one step ahead of the law, she sees her dreams of fame come true when her name and picture are plastered in newspapers across the country. Yet as their infamy grows, the distance between them widens. While Jack begins seeking bigger payouts and publicity, Beatrice starts to long for a safe, quiet life and something deeper to fill the emptiness in her soul. But when the danger of Jack’s schemes ratchets up, Beatrice fears her dreams—and her future—will end up going down in a hail of bullets.
affiliate links used
Ragtime and Redemption
from Jennifer L. Wright, author of The Girl From the Papers
The 1920s are perhaps best remembered as a time of excess.
The United States had entered World War I in 1917 as a nation deeply in debt. It emerged, however, at the dawn of a new decade, as Europe’s largest creditor. The gross national product increased from $69 billion to $93 billion in just three short years, with aggregate wages rising a further $15 billion. In short, money was flowing—and Americans were intent on spending it.
Public infrastructure exploded, and by the middle of the decade, over two-thirds of American homes had electricity. This meant hours of manual labor could be replaced by the hum of vacuum cleaners, refrigerators, and washing machines. This newly discovered free time increased demand for luxury items such as radios and telephones, which could be found in almost 20 million American homes by the decade’s end. It also left more time for travel and leisure, giving rise to dance halls, movie palaces, and amusement parks.
Still, perhaps the most dramatic shift that accompanied America’s newfound wealth was the ever-evolving role of women. Less work at home led many women to seek employment elsewhere, and the number of females in the workplace rose dramatically in the 1920s. Women were discovering independence and self-sufficiency, many for the first time, as they found their ability to participate in society’s “consumer culture” no longer hindered by their husband’s purse strings. This newfound freedom also led to the casting off of other traditional women’s norms. And while this wasn’t necessarily a bad thing, a new form of female ideal began to rise in their absence: “flappers,” those infamous girls who wore their hair short and their dresses shorter, ignored Prohibition laws, and sought good times above all else.
Across the country, previously accepted religious morals were also rejected. Church attendance was down. And, although turning away from Christ was not the standard for all, it cannot be denied that, throughout the 1920s, there was a pervasive attitude of pride, self-reliance, and the pursuit of pleasure previously unseen in America’s streets.
Until the fall came.
When the stock market crashed on October 29, 1929, over $14 billion was lost in a single day. In the weeks, months, and years that followed, unemployment skyrocketed. Businesses shuttered. Homes were foreclosed. Gone were days at amusement parks or nights in jazz clubs. Those hours formerly used for recreation now became focused on survival.
And the local church was there to meet the need.
Private charities and relief organizations, many of them Christian-based, responded to the crisis by opening soup kitchens, offering temporary shelter, helping with job searches, and caring for poor, starving, and orphaned children. Although under immense strain themselves, many pastors and church organizations refused to buckle under the weight of the enormous need, instead opening their doors, hearts, and wallets in any way they could. Before Roosevelt’s New Deal programs entered the picture, local churches were often the only form of relief available to a large portion of the population.
There were two very distinct responses to this charity. One was gracious humility, accepting Christian hospitality even if you had previously rejected the church itself. Many people chose this, either returning to faith or else coming to faith for the first time during the most difficult years of the Depression. The world had failed them, they believed; going forward, they’d have to find something outside the world to endure its troubles.
Still others flat-out rejected the church’s offer to help. Like their counterparts they, too, believed the world had failed them; however, they refused to believe any other institution—be it physical or spiritual—could be the source of their salvation. In their minds, their only hope was themselves.
And thus came the rise of the “public enemy” days of the Great Depression, when pride met desperation and fueled a massive crime wave across the United States. John Dillinger, Baby Face Nelson, and Pretty Boy Floyd became household names, their exploits splashed across newspapers from New York to California. In a culture marked by scarcity and despair, their crimes were often met with a mix of fascination, admiration, and horror. But perhaps no other criminals conjured up as many differing emotions as the “Texas Rattlesnake” and his “Suicide Sal”: Clyde Barrow and Bonnie Parker.
Genuine products of their time, Bonnie and Clyde witnessed the overabundance of the 1920s and adopted the prideful attitude that went with it—only to be struck down when poverty swept through the 1930s. By all accounts, both were raised in Christian homes with a firm foundation of faith. But when adversity struck, it was not their beliefs to which they clung; it was anger, outrage, and a sense that, to get what they wanted, their only option was to take it for themselves—at the end of a gun, if need be.
And with disastrous results.
My novel The Girl from the Papers explores what could have happened if Bonnie and Clyde had chosen a different response to their harsh circumstances. Although we may not be living in the jarring juxtaposition of the 1920s and the 1930s, our lives will still be filled with hills and valleys. By considering the life of Beatrice Carraway, I hope readers will be encouraged to examine how they will respond when the things of this world let us down and God offers mercy, as He inevitably, unfailingly does. Will we accept it . . . or will we continue down the road of pride and self-sufficiency?
Will we choose ragtime or redemption?
Jennifer L. Wright has been writing since middle school, eventually earning a master’s degree in journalism at Indiana University. However, it took only a few short months of covering the local news for her to realize that writing fiction is much better for the soul and definitely way more fun. A born and bred Hoosier, she was plucked from the Heartland after being swept off her feet by an Air Force pilot and has spent the past decade traveling the world and, every few years, attempting to make old curtains fit in the windows of a new home. She currently resides in New Mexico with her husband, two children, one grumpy old dachshund, and her newest obsession—a guinea pig named Peanut Butter Cup. Connect with Jennifer at her website.
Other Recently Featured Books by Jennifer L. Wright
Tyndale House is offering a print copy of The Girl From the Papers by Jennifer L. Wright to one of my readers! (US only. Void where prohibited by law or logistics.) This giveaway is subject to Reading Is My SuperPower’s giveaway policies which can be found here. Enter via the Rafflecopter form below.
on instagram? Enter this giveaway too!
What about you? What makes you want to read The Girl From the Papers by Jennifer L. Wright?