The Fog Machine

Since she was twelve, C.J. has worked to put the dream of a better life within her younger brother Charlie’s reach. When he threatens to drop out of high school, his parents send him to Meridian to live with his sister Metairie for the summer and work on a garbage truck. Spying a pretty girl in the school yard on his way home from work, Charlie begins hanging out at the Meridian Freedom School where Zach, unaware that he is C.J.’s brother, works to draw him in. Crisis ensues within the Evans family when Charlie asks to quit his job in order to attend the school fulltime. Metairie and her husband fear for their economic well-being if the boss finds out why Charlie has quit. C.J. is called home from Chicago to help. In Meridian, face-to-face with Zach again and seeing a turnaround in Charlie, C.J. must choose between the fear handed down by her momma and daddy and the hope Charlie has been learning. Ultimately, she realizes that everyone has the right to a dream. Like freedom, though, a person’s dream must come from inside them. No one else wishing and hoping it will make it happen. Just as she could not define Charlie’s dream, Zach cannot define hers. Only she can weigh family against love.

Idealistic to a fault, Zach thinks differences don’t matter and expects everyone to live as he does. When he leaves Chicago for Mississippi, despite C.J.’s fear and begging him not to go, his plan seems beyond question. After the summer, he will come home to her and declare his love, and they will move forward together. But her unexpected arrival in Meridian, where the Summer Project has imposed a strict taboo against interracial dating, causes him to realize that things are not as simple as he had believed. Now, he must decide whether wanting to be with C.J. so badly and believing in them so absolutely are enough, or whether it is best to let her go to find her own dream.

About The Author

susan_photoSUSAN FOLLETT grew up in the epi¬center of the civil rights move¬ment: Mississippi in the sixties. Me¬ridian, MS, had one TV station and one newspaper, each owned by the same man. Parents, white and black, were intent on protecting their chil¬dren from harsh realities.

When the first African Ameri¬can stepped into the Highland Park pool on the same day Neil Armstrong stepped onto the moon, she was at¬tending summer journalism camp at the University of Mississippi. Her graduating class at Meridian/Har¬ris High School was the first under federally mandat¬ed desegregation.
Armed with a masters’ degree in computer science from Mississippi State University, she left Mississippi. Her career in corporate technology management, coming at the height of the women’s movement, took her to the Twin Cities of Minneso¬ta, the Bay Area of California, and Portland, Oregon.

A television documentary Ms. Follett saw as a young adult, about the March from Selma to Montgomery, haunted her, rais¬ing questions about the time and place in which she grew up. She returned to Mississippi time and again for the stories, turning an adult eye on her childhood under Jim Crow, wondering what she would have done had she been older when James Chaney, An¬drew Goodman, and Mickey Schwerner were mur¬dered in the summer of 1964.

She now lives in Minnesota with her husband and two children.

The Fog Machine is the story of what if. It cap¬tures history lest we forget or never even know it. Ms. Follett relates the title to the mission statement of the William Winter Institute for Racial Reconciliation which describes prejudice as “systemic and institu¬tionalized.”

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