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Author Entertainment Series – Susan Beckham Zurenda

April 4 @ 6:30 pm

Impoverished high school junior Hazel Smalls and affluent senior Sterling Lovell would never ordinarily meet. But when both are punished with in-school suspension, Sterling finds himself drawn to the gorgeous, studious girl seated nearby, and an unlikely relationship begins. Set in 2012 South Carolina, the novel interlaces the stories of Hazel, living with her homeless family in the rundown Red Rose Motel; Sterling, yearning to break free from the expectations of his wealthy parents; and recently widowed Angela Wilmore, their stern but compassionate English teacher.

Hazel hides her homelessness from Sterling until he discovers her cleaning the motel’s office one morning when he goes with his slumlord father to unfreeze the motel’s pipes. With her secret revealed, their relationship deepens. Angela, who has her own struggles in a budding romance with the divorced principal, offers Hazel the support her family can’t provide.

Navigating between privilege and poverty, vulnerability and strength, all three must confront what they need from themselves and each other as Hazel gains the courage to oppose boundaries and make a bold, life-changing decision at novel’s end.

Gripping and richly drawn, The Girl from the Red Rose Motel explores the complex bonds between adults and teenagers and the power of the families we both inherit and create. Inspired by the author’s experiences teaching in a South Carolina high school, the novel is also an unflinching, authentic look at the challenges faced by America’s public school teachers and the struggles of the thousands of homeless children in motels who live, precariously and almost invisibly, amid the nation’s most affluent communities.

Meet The Author

After teaching literature, composition, and creative writing to thousands of high school and college students for 33 years, Susan Beckham Zurenda turned her attention to putting a novel in her heart on paper, the genesis of which was a short story that won the South Carolina Fiction Prize a number of years ago. Her debut novel, Bells for Eli (Mercer University Press, March 2020; paperback edition March 2021), has been selected the Gold Medal (first place) winner for Best First Book—Fiction in the 2021 IPPY (Independent Publisher Book Awards), a Foreword Indie Book Award finalist, a Winter 2020 Okra Pick by the Southern Independent Booksellers Alliance, a 2020 Notable Indie on Shelf Unbound, a 2020 finalist for American Book Fest Best Book Awards, and was nominated for a Pushcart Prize for 2021. Susan has won numerous regional awards for her short fiction, including being a two-time winner of the South Carolina Fiction Prize, and has been published in numerous literary journals. Her second novel, The Girl From the Red Rose Motel, will be published September 5, 2023, by Mercer University Press. Susan received her undergraduate and graduate degrees in English. She lives in South Carolina with her husband Wayne and two Boston Terriers.

Contact

UGA Griffin Continuing Education

770-229-3477

Location

Stuckey Auditorium

111 Stuckey Drive
Griffin, Georgia 30223