We can’t let Black History Month pass without recognizing the inspiration for our books, Anna from Atlanta and Anna of Iowa. Outside of Marshalltown, Iowa, Anna Washington is not likely to be widely recognized for all the lessons she taught those blessed to know her during her lifetime. We are honored to preserve some of them in our book series, dedicated to caregivers.
The idea for the books by co-authors Catherine Team and Beverly Smirnis began as stories that were told to Catherine by her father and grandfather about Anna, a real-life fascinating woman—in fact, the first black woman anyone in the town could ever say they knew.
Catherine’s grandfather knew the doctor in town that was father to Fritzy, the physically challenged child that Anna moved to Iowa to care for. Catherine’s father was one of the errant children that Anna “punished” for making fun of Fritzy by threatening to tell their parents unless they would come over after school to read to Fritzy. Her father shared that, yes, all the youngsters were afraid of Anna because she was large, loud and insistent, but that they also didn’t mind having “the best cookies they had ever tasted,” homemade of course by Anna and served to them during the punishment period.
Catherine herself was a caregiver to both of the men who spoke about Fritzy during their own dying days years later. She recognized that the stories they told needed retelling, so that Anna and the life lessons that she taught could be preserved. She asked her friend Beverly to help her organize and create a storyline to weave the story, which became a two-book historical fiction series in the process.
Both books are peppered by Anna’s observations about people and everyday life. She had keen ability to size up what people were all about. She made the most of every day and saw a purpose in every circumstance.
Anna’s lessons and themes include:
God grades us all! Everyone deserves respect and dignity.
Race and handicap are as limiting as you allow them to be.
The sin of omission is still a sin.
Certain choices can dictate a life path, but consequences will be determined by your attitude, understanding and willingness to forgive
Love has many forms. In a relationship, intense focus on some and neglect of others is a recipe for failure.
Days are precious. Savor your health, your life, each meal on your table. Don’t take for granted your ability to walk, read, drive a car.
History always repeats itself. Remember that freedom did not come without a price.
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basic themes above for your consideration.