Title: Alice + Freda Forever – A Murder in Memphis
Author: Alexis Coe
Pages: 208 Pages
Publisher: Houghton Mifflin
In 1892, America was obsessed with a teenage murderess, but it wasn’t her crime that shocked the nation – it was her motivation. Nineteen-year-old Alice Mitchell had planned to pass as a man in order to marry her seventeen-year-old fiance Freda Ward, but when their love letters were discovered, they were forbidden from ever speaking again.
Freda adjusted to this fate with an ease that stunned a heartbroken Alice. Her desperation grew with each unanswered letter – and her father’s razor soon went missing. On January 25, Alice publicly slashed her ex-fiance’s throat. Her same-sex love was deemed insane by her father that very night, and medical experts agreed: This was a dangerous and incurable perversion.
As the courtroom was expanded to accommodate national interest, Alice spent months in jail – including the night that three of her fellow prisoners were lynched (an event which captured the attention of journalist and civil rights activist Ida B. Wells).
After a jury of “the finest men in Memphis” declared Alice insane, she was remanded to an asylum, where she died under mysterious circumstances just a few years later. Alice + Freda Forever recounts this tragic, real-life love story with over 100 illustrated love letters, maps, artifacts, historical documents, newspaper articles, courtroom proceedings, and intimate, domestic scenes – painting a vivid picture of a sadly familiar world.
The history of LGBT rights is so very complex and diverse that you would be forgiven for not knowing everything there was to know about it. With every book that I read that has an LGBT theme I learn something new. This is exactly what happened with me when I read Alice + Freda Forever.
Alexis Coe has created a fictional account of a real life event that took place in the 19th Century in Memphis – a place notorious for its lack of acceptance of anything that deviates from “the norm.” It focuses on the tempestuous relationship between two young women Alice Mitchell and Freda Ward.
When her love was spurned by Freda, Alice attacked and killed her. She was broken hearted and killed Freda in a crime of passion. For her crime, Alice was sent to an asylum where she died a few years later.
Coe has cleverly told the story of Mitchell and Ward in a sensitive way and by doing so has not only looked at the development of LGBT history/rights but also looked at how women were treated and how anything that didn’t fit into society’s strict regulations was seen as a reason to believe a person was mentally unhinged.
Accompanying the story are the real letters sent between the lovers and illustrations to help paint a visual picture. Alice + Freda Forever is a truly fascinating read.
Alice + Freda Forever – A Murder in Memphis by Alexis Coe is available now.
For more information regarding Alexis Coe (@AlexisCoe) please visit www.alexiscoe.com.
For more information regarding Houghton Mifflin (@HMHCo) please visit www.hmhco.com.