They met as graduate students in Ann Arbor in the 1960s. Together they risked their lives in Mississippi, found career paths unimagined by their mothers, embraced the major social movements of their time, and stayed close friends, despite distances, until Donna’s death in 1980.
Sing Me Awake is the story of two young American women, Linda and Donna, who both chose to be involved in making a difference in the fast-changing world of the 1960s and 1970s. It was a time span that included the California farm workers’ strike, the civil rights movement, the assassination of heroes such as Martin Luther King Jr. and Robert F. Kennedy, the protest against U.S. military involvement in Southeast Asia, the rise of Black Power, and eventually the rise of women’s liberation.
Linda and Donna met in the early 1960s in Ann Arbor, where the two young women were students at the University of Michigan. In 1966, trained by the Congress on Racial Equality (CORE), they made frequent trips to Mississippi to march with Dr. King and to partake in the dangerous work of black voter registration.
Their friendship lasted until 1980, when they both lived in Seattle and where Donna died of a brain tumor. During their years of friendship, they were not always together. Donna, who was the more adventuresome of the two, traveled more and wasn’t an ideal correspondent. But the friendship survived separation, and their shared ideals and activism kept them on similar paths. Those paths converged in Seattle, where the two women campaigned together against Donna’s cancer.
Now, as Linda recalls their fifteen years of friendship, and the causes they espoused together, Donna returns over and over with imagined commentary from the other side. Donna in death has become a better correspondent than she was in life. And she remains what she was in life: a buoyant, witty, energetic, and laughing soul.
Sing Me Awake is interspersed throughout with poems and excerpts of poems by writers author Katz, who is herself a poet, especially admires. Each of these poetic passages was chosen for its resonance with the theme and the story of this formative friendship with a remarkable friend.
“In a tribute vibrant with the friendship it celebrates, Linda Katz sings the reader awake. The compelling details of time, place and feelings take us with these two women from their college days to the Civil Rights struggle, into the years of family and careers and, finally, to one’s brave death.… This moving, well-told, and often funny, story is more than ‘a good read,’ though it is that. Sing Me Awake is about lives that matter, to one another, and to the larger world.”
—Jeanne Lohmann, poet and author of Home Ground
“Linda Katz’s accomplishments as a prose stylist and storyteller show in her debut, which captures a time and place in our history and serves as a beautiful, honest elegy for her close friend.”
—Michele Leber, book reviewer for Booklist and Library Journal