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Local author’s debut novel takes a stand against racism

A longtime western Illinois educator has turned to book writing in retirement. His debut novel is about race and discrimination, set among middle school age children.

Joel Estes said “Stand” started out as a short story about a white boy who made a stand against racial prejudice. He shared it with a fellow educator, who told him he couldn’t write such a story because it would never happen.

“I took that as a challenge to write the book that explains how that possibly could happen,” Estes said.

“This could happen, and things like this do happen.”

He wants students to know that they can stand for something and do the right thing, even if it’s difficult at times.

And he believes the book’s message should resonate with people of any age because we should all strive to be life-long learners.

“It doesn’t matter if you’re a kid in middle school or a 69-year old retired educator, we all need to continue to grow and understand that the process is the most important thing. We have to work every day at getting better about our relationships with other people. That’s what the book is really about,” he said.

Estes is emeritus faculty at Knox College. He retired from Knox four years ago.

During his career, he also served as an elementary school teacher, coach, and administrator. He retired from public education in 2012 as assistant superintendent for Galesburg District 205.

“In my previous positions, all of them in education, I wrote a lot. It was just things that I was required to write – reports to the board, reports to the state board of education, things for the college,” said Estes.

“I decided that when I retired I’m going to write something that I want to write and write for enjoyment.”

Joel Estes
Peter Bailley
courtesy photo
Joel Estes

Coming to Macomb to talk about “Stand”

Estes will be in Macomb on Thursday, April 11 to speak to middle school students, many of whom have been reading the book.

He got into education to help kids, and said that when you’re a teacher, “it becomes part of your core and fiber.”

“Any chance that I get to be around children – it’s just life-affirming and it feels really great,” he said.

While in Macomb on April 11, Estes will also give a presentation at Western Illinois University. It begins at 4 p.m. at the Horrabin Hall Theater.

Publishing the book

“Stand” is self-published. Estes had hoped a major publishing house would pick it up, but had no such luck.

A friend then suggested he self-publish instead of allowing the story to languish on the shelf.

“Amazon has a self-publication platform that lots of authors use. Once you self-publish on that platform, then Amazon distributes it,” he said.

One drawback, he said, is that independent bookstores won’t touch a book published by Amazon “because Amazon is the behemoth that undercuts small, local, independent bookstores.”

He plans to republish “Stand” using the IngramSpark online self-publishing platform, which he said works with small, independent bookstores to market books.

Since releasing “Stand,” Estes has also published a picture book, “Last Pick.”

Tri States Public Radio produced this story.  TSPR relies on financial support from our readers and listeners in order to provide coverage of the issues that matter to west central Illinois, southeast Iowa, and northeast Missouri. As someone who values the content created by TSPR's news department please consider making a financial contribution.

Rich is TSPR's News Director.