Lynda Stephenson's first novel, Dancing with Elvis, introduces the irreverent teenager, Frankilee Baxter, who is both charming and sharp-tongued. Published in 2005, fifty years after Brown vs. Board of Education, Dancing with Elvis was chosen by Book Sense for Teen Readers and was a finalist for the Oklahoma Center for the Book Award. It was named an International Reading Association Book Award Notable. In addition to other accolades, the book received the Delta Kappa Gamma Young Adult/Adult Award in 2007. Born and reared in the West Texas Panhandle, Stephenson attended Trinity University in San Antonio and then received her Master's Degree and doctoral work in English from the University of Oklahoma. A former English professor at East Central University, Ada, Oklahoma, she is a prolific writer of poetry, essays, and short stories. She currently lives with her husband, Gene, in Edmond, Oklahoma.
The Southern Chapter of the Big Girl Panties Club: A Frankilee Baxter Storyby Lynda Stephenson
Sassy, Witty, And Painfully Honest, Frankilee Baxter Will Steal Your Heart With Her Nerve And Verve...The year is 1958, and schools in the South are rebelling against the 1954 Supreme Court decision in Brown vs. Board of Education. In the beginning, Frankilee Baxter, a freshman at Athena College, is not concerned with racial issues. Instead, she is determined to improve her looks, pledge a sorority, find a steady boyfriend and make her name as a journalist at the college newspaper. Her plans are changed, however, when she befriends Eleanor Wilson, the only Negro student on campus. Eleanor is the daughter of a northern minister who is a prominent leader in the NAACP. When life becomes almost more painful and confusing than they can bear, Frankilee and her friends in the dormitory form The Southern Chapter of the Big Girl Panties Club, and they invite Eleanor to join. The BGPC members stand together to protect Eleanor from acts of discrimination. The story also deals with the blossoming love of Frankilee for Trace Godwin, a popular star basketball player and the pledge trainer of his fraternity. When a boy in Trace's fraternity is seriously injured during a campout, the narrative takes a dark turn of mystery and deceit. More complications arise when Frankilee spends Easter weekend with Trace's wealthy, dysfunctional family. A quirky story of love, discrimination, forgiveness, and redemption, The Southern Chapter of the Big Girl Panties Club follows Frankilee and her friends during their freshman year.
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Reviewed by S.E. Sward for Readers' Favorite The protagonist of Lynda Stephenson’s novel "The Southern Chapter of the Big Girl Panties Club" is a sometimes sassy, sometimes sarcastic, and always unpredictable sixteen-year-old girl from Clover, Texas, named Frankilee Baxter. The story opens in 1958 on the first day of freshman orientation at Athena, a small liberal arts college on the outskirts of San Antonio. From the beginning, Frankilee knows that her freshman year at Athena will be history-making because a Negro student has enrolled there for the first time ever. Frankilee is curious about Eleanor Wilson, whose father is a northern minister and prominent leader in the NAACP, but she is initially more concerned about growing breasts, pledging a sorority, getting a boyfriend and joining the campus newspaper than she is about the Civil Rights Movement and integration. In a moment of pique after her rather dumpy, unattractive roommate Pickles is not asked to join any of the campus sororities, Frankilee forms an independent sorority with Pickles and Sty, their other roommate. Frankilee dubs the newly formed sisterhood the Big Girl Panties Club (BGPC) because her grandmother always told her to put her big girl panties on and deal with things whenever Frankilee complained about life’s injustices. Soon, the membership of the BGPC increases to include Eleanor and her roommate Wanda after Frankilee realizes that they are being ostracized by the rest of the student body. When social ostracism gives way to menacing harassment, Frankilee finds herself caught between what is right and what is easy. The pace of the novel picks up as the year progresses and Frankilee begins sussing out the truth behind several mysteries. "The Southern Chapter of the Big Girl Panties Club" is at its heart a coming of age story. Forced to confront prejudice and bigotry on a number of fronts—the Hick-from-the-Sticks image of small-town girls; the assumption that college coeds are only interested in getting an M.R.S. degree and will not need or want careers of their own; the sexual double standard; racism and anti-Semitism—Frankilee struggles with her own hypocrisy, recognizing that she cannot always swim against the current even with the best of intentions. At times Frankilee is hot tempered and outspoken. Her thoughts are often interspersed with corny interjections like "Mercy Maud!", "Good gadfry!" and "Ye gods and goldfish!" Dazzled by a handsome upperclassman named Trace Godfrey, Frankilee is repeatedly torn between her physical attraction to him and her intellectual revulsion of his violent behavior and bigoted attitudes. A reader who was not a teenager in the 1950s may well want to strangle Frankilee each time she talks herself out of dumping Trace or find it odd that an aspiring career woman would be happy to do her college boyfriend’s homework, but in many ways Frankilee is a protagonist readers will be able to relate to whether they grew up in the 1950s or later. Whether we like it or not, we all have a little Frankilee Baxter in us.