The Letters

How A Mixed Race Child Learned About His French Mother And Heritage

Non-Fiction - Memoir
480 Pages
Reviewed on 09/06/2021
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Author Biography

Daniel Freeman is retired and enjoys working in his garden, flying via X-Plane simulator, photography, and traveling the world. He has spent the majority of his adult life as a science educator. As a K-5 science specialist for a major Florida School District- he designed and developed the first-two stand-alone dedicated elementary science classrooms in the State — developed through a $100,000 grant by the Monsanto Corporation.

He holds degrees in Zoology, Elementary Education, and Instructional Technology as well as a certificate in Geographical Information Systems (GIS). He has taught students from grade 5 through doctoral level in such diverse topics as earth-space science, physics, chemistry, systems thinking, meteorology, and environmental and science education courses.

He has worked as a naturalist and director at the 120 acre Roy Hyatt Environmental Center. His doctorate dissertation, "Web-based Science Training in A Northwest Florida School District," was a pioneering endeavor in designing one of the first all-inclusive courses for K-12 teachers in the use of NIH image processing and analysis software.

As an Instructional Specialist, he served the U.S. Navy in Financial Management. Working for U.S. Army, he was involved in designing and developing interactive multimedia and distance learning medical courses. And, working for the Department of Defense Dependent Schools, he served as a Science Specialist.

    Book Review

Reviewed by Rabia Tanveer for Readers' Favorite

The Letters: How a Mixed Race Child Learned About His French Mother and Heritage by Daniel Freeman, EdD is the story of the author as he finds out why he always felt like the odd man out in his family. His father was an African-American man who fought for his country and when he died, a box of secrets was opened. When he passed away, Daniel went to his childhood home where he found two trunkfuls of secrets that his father had kept from his family. He found pictures and letters in French and as each letter was translated, he learned so many secrets that his father kept from Daniel. He found out who his real mother was, where she came from, and how he had a whole family he never knew about. What will Daniel do with this information? Will he reach out to the woman that gave birth to him?

I cannot even imagine what Daniel went through. I don’t know how he got the heart to move from one picture to another and read one letter after the other. He experienced something heart-shattering and he had to deal with the information just after he lost his father who he loved a lot. He pushed through it all, he welcomed the information and used that to ground himself. Daniel’s journey reads like a letter to a dear friend and that friend is you. The narrative reads like a dialogue between the author and, as the reader, you will experience his emotions and his journey first hand. The pictures he shared offered a fascinating look at an era long gone, but still exists in the images. He also shares the actual letter translations, which drew a much clearer picture of what his father was going through in that phase of his life. I really enjoyed this book. It was fun, surprisingly quick to read, and enjoyable to boot! The narrative is smooth and the author has done a great job of sharing his story while respecting his father, his birth mother, and the woman he grew up calling his mother.

K.C. Finn

The Letters: How A Mixed Race Child Learned About His French Mother and Heritage is a work of non-fiction in the memoir and autobiographical sub-genres and was penned by author Daniel Freeman. Suitable for adult readers of any sensitivity level, this intelligent autobiographical work chronicles the journey of discovery which the author undertook in exploring his family tree, after discovering that the mother who had raised him was not his birth mother. The work is presented with a series of letters between his father – an African-American draftee in the second World War - and his birth mother – a Frenchwoman the author had never known.

Fans of memoir writing and true-life stories will not fail to be captivated by this highly emotive and compelling read. Author Daniel Freeman truly pours his heart onto the page, and it is admirable to see the level of raw emotion that sits passionately beneath every line of eloquent prose. The writing style is immersive, yet informative, and there is a clear sense of structure to the work which makes it easy to become engaged with it. The letters and additional content within the work enhance the experience of time, place, and personality extremely well, and give us the true sense of history and family attachment which the author is experiencing. The formatting of the work arranges the letters well within the wider context of the story, and overall I would highly recommend The Letters as a work that explores the emotional ties we have to our heritage and identity.

Jamie Michele

The Letters by Daniel Freeman, EdD is the extraordinary memoir of the author's family history, which had for decades been quite intentionally shrouded in mystery. Freeman was told on a break at home from his university studies that his father had been previously married and the woman he believed to be his mother was, in fact, his step-mother. The news was shocking: Freeman had a mother named Sophie in Paris, and also had two sisters there. As details were piecemealed out regarding his biological mother, sporadic and infrequent visits were made. It wasn't until the passing of his father and some rummaging through old boxes was he able to understand the dynamic of his lineage and the story behind the veil he'd been unable to see beyond for most of his life.

Reviewing memoirs can be tricky, partly because they are deeply personal and partly because they tend to not be as riveting to readers who don't know the author at all. The Letters is able to buck these with a story that reads as comfortably as a fictional saga as it does a non-fiction biography. Of particular interest to me was Daniel Freeman's sympathetic approach toward dissecting the letters, which were a mish-mash of French and English, chronicling the early romance of his mother, a white Parisian, and his African-American father. The correspondence ebbs and flows with almost prophetic premonitions—his mother wanting to rush a marriage out of fear it was the only chance—through to a betrayal that destroyed a young family. This is an incredible work for its literary merits and the story itself, which is instantly engrossing and a beautiful labor of love on Freeman's part.

Christian Sia

The Letters: How a Mixed Race Child Learned about His French Mother and Heritage by Daniel C. Freeman, Ed.D. is a compelling memoir that powerfully documents the love, the joys and thrills, and the heartaches experienced between the author’s father and a Frenchwoman, a mother he never knew. The premise of the book establishes the background that sets it on an emotional roller-coaster. The author is about to discover who his mother really was and in an unexpected way. It is after the death of Frank, his father, in 2002 and at the age of eighty that the author stumbles on a bundle of letters and file folders of government correspondence. The letters contain correspondence between his father and mother, and curiously, there is a vinyl record that turns out to be an audio letter from his father and mother to him.

In this memoir, the author takes readers on an exploration of a family life he never knew, of a mother who’d been in the shadows for years. They are poignant and intriguing, and it is hard not to shed tears of joy, at times, and experience the emotional pain of the author. Readers are introduced to Frank during WWII, an Afro-American draftee enlisted during the war. From courtship to strong and burgeoning love, through marriage and separation, the reader is pulled into a story that is as enticing as it is entertaining. The unfiltered letters offer powerful glimpses into the souls of the lovers and allow the cultural nuances to come out through the narrative. I loved the epistolary style, which provides authenticity to the writing and allows the characters to come out neatly through the writing. While The Letters is a personal story, it has a strong appeal to fans of romance and readers who find interest in well-crafted and emotionally rich stories. Daniel Freeman allows his characters to speak through the art of letter writing.

Vincent Dublado

Daniel C. Freeman profoundly captures a piece of time like a butterfly in a jar in his moving epistolary memoir, The Letters. This is the memoir of a family he never knew he had until later in life when his adoptive mother reveals that he has another family in France with two biological sisters. The story traces its roots back in 2002 when, after his father’s passing, Freeman discovers a bundle of letters along with other file folders in a private storage facility that his father kept in a garage. Many of these personal letters were ten to fifteen pages in length and were written in French. And so begins the unraveling of a deep, personal exchange between the author’s father and biological mother, P. Frank and Sophie respectively. We travel back with P. Frank and Sophie from World War II up to the divisive decade of the 1960s. Their correspondence begins with intimacy and candor that evolve into facets of struggles that will shape one man’s ability to face all odds.

In the current world where email is encroaching upon the traditional postal mail, The Letters by Daniel C. Freeman is a much-welcome respite from all the junk messages that get into our inbox. The attraction of this memoir is obvious. It gives readers the opportunity to experience a two-way communication that addresses only what matters, based on actual letters, that the world needs to pay attention to. The added attraction is that the translation allows the characters to present their true selves so that readers are not that far removed from the context and essence of the exchange, thereby intensifying readers’ empathy. The influence of this book is not purely literary but historical as well.