At a time in history where the need for both compassion and human connection is at an all-time high, Evelyn B. Lee ‘75 answered the call. Lee’s debut novel Clean Sweep tells the fictional story of Carli Morris — one selfless woman determined to save the lives of those unable to save their own — and dives deep on homelessness, making tough choices, and mental health.
As a lifelong resident of the New York metro area and having worked in the city, Lee was inspired for years pre-pandemic to bring Clean Sweep to life, bringing real awareness and attention to the homeless population. “When you get older, you develop more heart toward issues and realize [homelessness] is part of reality. But it's certainly something that we can try to work harder at changing and helping.”
Prior to writing, Lee worked as a flower farmer at her Butternut Gardens LLC Flower Farm and worked in the environmental field. She always had a solid draw to science programs at Kathleen Laycock Country Day School, which later turned Greens Farms Academy during her seventh-grade year.
“It's always been science,” she said. With a Master’s Degree from Yale School of Forestry and Environmental Studies (now renamed Yale School of the Environment) and an undergraduate degree from Yale College, Lee channeled her rich science background into her writing. “Even with this novel, I look into the science behind mental health issues. I see that in anything I write, there will be a side of science involved.”
Writing, however, was not always her plan. “My emotions had always prevented me from being a very good writer at school age. Even in Middle School, I was so tied up in it and so empathetic, I wasn't taking the distance I needed. Now I’ve gotten older and I realize that empathy and the ability to understand people's emotions are what makes a great author.”
The values on the GFA campus only furthered her empathic nature from a young age. “One person stands out above the rest,” she said crediting former faculty member Ed Denes in having instilled a culture of lending a helping hand. “[At GFA] if people are putting out chairs for an event, you reach to pick up a chair and help. These role models, like Denes, live by the motto. It's all of us for one, and one of us for all.”
Clean Sweep and Lee’s writing whole-heartedly embodies the ‘Each for All’ credo of Greens Farms Academy, and while written pre-COVID, exposes the strength and vulnerabilities readers face in today’s trying world. Lee was sure, “Now was the time.”