DiversifYA: Randi Pink
|April 20, 2015||Posted by DiversifYA under Cultural and Ethnic, DiversifYA|
Today, we have the most wonderful Randi Pink here at DiversifYA! Randi is the author of one of the 2016 debuts I’m most excited about, a YA about “sixteen-year-old Latoya Williams, who is black and attends a mostly white high school in the Bible Belt. In a moment of desperation, she prays for the power to change her race and wakes up white.” Add it on Goodreads. Randi also has a really cool pre-publication vlog series, which you can follow here. Find Randi on Twitter here.
1. How do you identify yourself?
I am a proud black woman, but I haven’t always been able to say that. In my youth, I checked the race-box marked other on job applications, claiming bits and pieces of unconfirmed Native-American heritage. When challenged, I’d pull out a wallet-sized photograph of my mulatto-skinned mother and yell, “See, I’m not black!” I wasn’t fooling anyone, not even me. It took years to accept myself for the black woman that I am, and it took even more years to fully realize the beauty in it. But today, I can say that I am a proud black woman.
2. What did it feel like growing up black?
Most of the schools I attended were predominantly white, so I felt like a black culture consultant. For instance, when O.J. Simpson’s not guilty verdict shocked the world, I was asked why black people cheered, though I did not. When Sir-Mix-A-Lot’s 90’s anthem came on the radio, I was asked to get up and dance, though I couldn’t dance worth a damn (still can’t). And when Biggie and 2-PAC got shot, I was asked to explain the prevalence of black on black crime, a phenomenon the most accomplished Sociologist can’t comprehend, let alone a prepubescent girl.
All I cared about was Ross and Rachel’s tumultuous relationship on Friends, incidentally, the same thing they cared about. But I had to make a choice. Either answer the black culture questions to the best of my ability, or withdraw completely. I chose the latter. In 9th grade, I withdrew into myself, effectively eliminating those awkward social interactions. Eventually, I flunked out and rarely left the house. In retrospect, I was severely depressed.
I seriously doubt I would have made it without the support of my family. They encouraged me to study for the Graduation Equivalency Exam, and they never judged, not once.
3. What are the biggest challenges? Conversely, what are the quirks/perks?
The biggest challenge is societal fatigue with racial dialogue. When I bring up race and/or racial issues in certain circles, I sense internal eye-rolling. In contrast, the biggest perk is people want to read about it! I believe people long for understanding, and many find that understanding in fiction. Reading literary fiction is proven to improve empathy, and I’m thrilled to contribute my own diverse characters.
4. What do you wish people knew about being black?
I wish people understood how beautiful I feel as a black woman. That beauty is in no way superficial. It’s a beauty forged by the pain my ancestors experienced so that I may call myself free. A beauty I see when I look into the eyes of my mother who was forced to sit in the back of the bus, and my father who drank from colored water fountains. An earned beauty. One that I refuse to deny.
5. What are the biggest clichés/stereotypes you’ve seen?
The biggest, and most frustrating, stereotype about black women is that we all have bad attitudes. Reality shows perpetuate this stereotype, but please allow me to squash it! We are kind, loving, and sweet. And yes, sometimes we are angry, hard-hearted, and standoffish. We are multi-dimensional. We are human, just like everyone else.
BONUS: What is your advice for writers writing diverse characters?
There is no place for fear in writing. If you’re passionate about writing diverse characters, sit your butt in the chair and write forward! When you’re done, pour yourself a glass of wine, and read what you’ve written. After you’ve read it, ask yourself this question: Will this character perpetuate stereotypes? If the answer is yes, you’ve identified a weakness within yourself. If the answer is no, share it with your spouse, or closest friend, or critique group.