Jane is dressed in a pink and white hi-lo skirt, a lace cami, and a brown menswear vest. Her cowboy boots are red. It’s 1967. Illustrated on the cover of Sweet Jane, a novel by Joanne Kukanza Easley, the 16-year-old fantasizes about this outfit as what she’ll wear when she marries Jeremy; but of course, she doesn’t.
Joanne Kukanza Easley had the vision for the cover long before Sweet Jane was completed. She knew Jane’s identity would be characterized by hippie-ish clothes; however, more so by the alcoholism of her mother and the negligence of her father. Feeling desperate for love and purpose, Jane leaves them and the West Texas plains of nearby Odessa behind. When her hitchhiking journey ends, she’s at the Monterey Pop Festival, the impetus for the Summer of Love. Eventually, she would live in San Francisco’s Haight-Ashbury district, a hippie community during the 1960s counterculture years. Music, sex, and drugs – Jane was fully immersed.
She survived, and she grew up. Jane married, went to graduate school, and sought help from AA, but the suppressed demons of her past had not been fully acknowledged. It would be her mother’s death 17 years later, and her attendance at the funeral, where dredging up past events and the healing process began.
Especially explored in Sweet Jane is the mother-daughter relationship, with self-acceptance being an essential theme. Readers are finding commonalities in their own lives and the dysfunction to be cathartic. Others love the descriptions of the Summer of Love and how famous and familiar musicians are weaved in. Joanne Kukanza Easley was so thorough with her prose that interviewers have asked her if she was there! Also complimented, are her colloquialisms and her depictions of West Texas, both implanting the reader into the story. A special honor for Joanne was the naming of Sweet Jane as a Finalist in the 2019 Faulkner-Wisdom Writing Competition.
Joanne Kukanza Easley was born in Chicago, Illinois, but now calls Texas home. She lives on a small ranch with her husband, three little rescue dogs, and plenty of wildlife. Views of the Hill Country from the windows of her home inspire her while writing full time – her method mostly as a pantser until she ties it all together as a plotter for her endings. Joanne’s next novel, Just One Look, is wrapping up. It’s set in her native Chicago and tells the story of a girl who fell in love at age 13.
Sweet Jane events and social media promotions keep Joanne busy; however, her next project, Lauren Eaton, is in the works, too. Lauren Eaton was the AA counselor in Sweet Jane. What will her story be?
Thank you, Joanne, for sharing part of your stomping grounds via this postcard. It tells me a little bit more about the big state of Texas in this big country of ours! I googled Bandera General Store and see that it goes way back. Do you go there for your Blue Bell ice cream treats? 🙂 Best Wishes,