An Interview with Sherry Garland About A Line in the Sand
Richard F. Abrahamson, Ph.D. and Linda M. Pavonetti, Ed.D.: Your family has had deep roots in Texas for five generations. In fact, Lucinda Lawrence is patterned after your great-grandmother. How did these Texas ties influence you as you wrote Lucinda's diary?
Sherry Garland: I think being a fifth generation Texan made me feel more like an ambassador for Texas than I would have felt otherwise. The events and people I wrote about had breathed the same air, walked the same ground, and seen the same sights that I have. My own family's history follows that of Texas, and at times I felt like I was writing about them. For example, my grandmother (born in 1876) remembered riding in a covered wagon as a child and being frightened of Indian raids. Several scenes reflect my memory of my grandparent's farm. I used to watch my grandmother make soap in a big black iron kettle. My grandfather used to kill a hog every fall, but being a very gentle person, hated it. If I had never lived on farms myself or seen the sights of Texas, I know I would not have been able to write this story with as much passion.
RFA & LMP: In doing the research on the battle at the Alamo and events leading up to it, what did you learn that surprised you most?
SG: I think the first thing that surprised me was the youthfulness of the defenders of the Alamo. Travis was only 26. Santa Anna and Houston were both 40, and Davy Crockett, at 49, was considered old. Secondly, I learned that Mexico had just cause to fight the Texans. I learned that there were heroes on both sides of the Alamo walls, that many Mexican soldiers faced death as proudly and bravely as the Texans. Lastly, I learned that the tragedy of the Alamo could have been avoided altogether. Sam Houston had ordered Bowie to blow up the old mission fortress and evacuate the Texan army from San Antonio. Had it not been for Travis and a few other stubborn men, the battle of the Alamo would have never happened.
RFA & LMP: For the most part, the women in your book are strong and resilient. In fact, you have Davy Crockett remark, "I've never met a braver lot than Texan wives and mothers." What did you admire most about the Texan women?
SG: What I admire most about the Texan women was their "pioneering spirit." They left their homes and families in the States and traveled by boat or wagon across hundreds of miles. They endured hardships and made sacrifices almost beyond imagination by today's standards. But most importantly, they kept their families together. Though often illiterate themselves, they wanted schools for their children. They worshiped and instilled values in their children. I especially admire those women in Gonzales who lost their husbands at the Alamo; who carried the added burden of being widows with no means of support. But like the young widow, Sydnie Kellogg, who gave birth in the back of a cart in the pouring rain during the Runaway Scrape, they survived by strength and willpower.
RFA & LMP: How did you find out about the custom of the salty egg?
SG: Many of the customs mentioned in this book were passed on to me from my ancestors. Another custom to foretell who a girl would marry was to look into the well at high noon on Mayday (May 1). Supposedly a girl would see the face of the fellow she would marry. My grandmother swore she saw my grandfather's face in the well when she was a teenager. A third way involved a special plant called lovelocks, that curls around weeds in the summer. A girl would take a piece of it, put it on a different weed and give it the name of a boy she liked. If the lovelocks lived, that is the boy she would marry.
RFA & LMP: If you could ask young readers one question after they finished reading Lucinda's diary, what would that question be?
SG: I would ask readers if they learned something new about Texas history, if they have changed their idea of what the Battle of the Alamo was all about.
RFA & LMP: What is one thing you hope young readers will take with them after reading A Line in the Sand: The Alamo Diary of Lucinda Lawrence?
SG: Of course, I want them to enjoy reading the book and feel like they were there in 1836. But also, I hope they have a better understanding of the causes of the Texas Revolution, of the lives and times of the settlers, and the hardships the families endured. I hope they gain a sense of the courage and sacrifice that it takes to stand up for an idea you believe in. I hope that one day, if they are faced with a situation that requires deep conviction and courage, they will remember the Alamo.
Interview conducted by Richard F. Abrahamson, Ph.D., Professor of Literature for Children and Young Adults, University of Houston, Houston, Texas, and Linda M. Pavonetti, Ed.D., Assistant Professor, Oakland University, Department of Reading and Language Arts, Rochester, Michigan.