Our book about some of the Peoples Temple students we knew at Opportunity High is now in its sixth draft. We knew these young people as students, poets and athletes. Ron was the baseball coach for the team the Peoples Temple kids played on, with some of those players going on to become part of the Jonestown basketball team. I taught Creative Writing and published their poems.
And Then They Were Gone begins in 1976 when these students first entered, describes their impact on the school, and follows the trajectory of their journey as they began to leave for Jonestown in the spring of 1977. Via the storytelling mode, Ron and I share the research, reading and interviews which helped us understand more about their lives in Jonestown.
Former students, fellow-teachers and Jonestown survivors have helped us fill out the story. Developmental editing by Stephanie Baker has been a great help to Ron and me, and the book will soon go to a copy editor. We are now looking for a publisher. Writing the book has been a long, sometimes difficult but fulfilling journey, and we appreciate all the people who encouraged us, enlightened us, and shared their experiences with us. We hope you’ll find the book gives a new perspective on the Jonestown story, as these teenagers, so resilient and so full of dreams, undergo the growth and tumult of adolescence within the context of both Opportunity and Jonestown.
As I work on the final draft, Ron is compiling photographs for the book: some of his own, some by an Opportunity student, Mary Delema, and some from newspapers and the California Historical Society files. Any suggestions for agents or publishers would be most welcome.
(A sample chapter from the book And Then They Were Gone appears here. A Peoples Temple timeline which will appear in the book is here. Judy Bebelaar can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Ron Cabral can be reached at email@example.com.)