Yankee Girl in Dixie – Editorial Review


Title: Yankee Girl in Dixie

Author: Theresa Schimmel

Genre: Historical Fiction


Set in 1972 Pensacola, Florida, Yankee Girl in Dixie is a historical fiction novel that draws from the true events that occurred following mass desegregation movements in the American south. Our story takes off when two teachers are forced to confront their community’s challenges head-on because of its effects on their students.

Cassie Cunningham is a special education teacher assigned to Fielding Elementary School. As she gets to know her students and settles into her school, she is saddened by the poverty, racism, and segregation that permeates the community. When Cassie meets Grant Lee, a local high school teacher, she feels a spark she hasn’t felt in a while. But since she’s dealt with her husband’s recent passing, Cassie isn’t sure that she’s ready for a new romance.

Readers will notice immediately how accurately the setting is depicted. Schimmel takes into account the many layers affecting the culture at the time that would influence the book’s atmosphere, such as the effects of integration and desegregation, persisting racism, the looming presence of the Ku Klux Klan, economic divides, and the ongoing Vietnam War. In addition, the specific details like local vernacular, timely clothing, food, and popular culture are effective in building a rich setting.

One of the main plots of the story centers around student protests at Grant’s school. As tensions rise to eliminate pre-Civil War relics in classrooms like the Confederate flag, a Rebel mascot, and the Dixie song, Grant begins to question his role in a problematic system that employs him. Readers will get tangible examples and a raw, real perspective of institutionalized racism in motion. Though the first third of the novel is a slow start, the tension from the student protests finally reaches its first peak at the one-third mark, setting the stakes for the rest of the book.

The book is very character-driven and dialogue-heavy, which can get tedious to read, at times. There are two main storylines in this book, one centers Cassie, and the other centers Grant. While Grant’s storyline is consistent and steadily builds momentum, Cassie’s storyline is more scattered, and its direction isn’t as clear. Rather than the two stories intersecting and weaving together, they feel separate, with Cassie and Grant’s relationship being the strongest factor linking them.

There are many moments in this book that will make readers emotional, and this is by far the book’s strong point. Schimmel does an exquisite job of creating emotional, heart-wrenching scenes. Firstly, there are a number of dream sequences in the book. Each one captures the ephemeral, disorienting, and often poetic nature that dreams have. Secondly, over the course of the novel, readers explore Cassie’s students’ personalities, friendships, and home lives. The students’ special education needs are written about tastefully and tactfully, and there is plenty of space dedicated to highlighting their strengths and talents. Readers will surely grow attached to the students as they learn about their home lives, which are often disheartening and saddening.

Yankee Girl in Dixie’s dynamic characters will tug at readers’ heartstrings, and its rich setting will transport them back in history. Yankee Girl in Dixie is a raw and emotional historical fiction novel centering on the tumultuous social-political climate of the 1970s American south. From romance lovers to history buffs, Yankee Girl in Dixie offers a multifaceted, intersectional story that readers from all walks of life will enjoy.



This Editorial Review was written by the Book Review Directory staff. To receive a similarly honest, professional review for one of your own books, click here.

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