What's the most unusual experience you've ever had? Have you included it in one of your books?
Authors, like most creatives, often use their talents to weave stories reflecting their lives, I am no different. I have included some wonderful, horrible and pretty strange things that happened to me over the years in books.
In Sweet Love-Bitter Fruit, Toni’s struggle with infertility and getting the people around her to understand her pain reflects my own years of frustration. It was difficult, but I was able to channel a lot of pain to connect with readers with similar experiences and giving those who haven’t to empathize with the hurt that comes from unfulfilled desires. Linking fiction with real-life motivates my writing.
In My Way to You, I created a scene with the main characters, Regina and Simon similar to an unusual situation I found myself in with my husband when we first married. Ours is an interracial marriage. My husband is Greek and Latino, and I am African American. We have contrasting skin tones, which makes our different racial backgrounds obvious. One day, we boarded a bus. During the ride, a White man got on and looked down at us, pronouncing, “That’s disgusting” and frowning before moving further back and sitting down. My husband threw a harsh response while I sat bemused, scanning my clothes, wondering what could be wrong.
I met Papa Bear’s gaze, an angry expression on his face I had not seen before. I asked him what was the guy’s deal, and he filled me in.
“He doesn’t like seeing a White and Black person together. He’s a moron.” He kissed my hand, and we went on with our happy lives.
To the shocked readers who are familiar with my anti-racism work, keep in mind, I was only twenty, and Papa Bear (my husband) was the first relationship I had with a man who did not share my race. Although I was all too familiar with racism and its impacts on my life, I had not encountered it this way before. I was stumped.
In My Way to You, Simon (Korean American) and Regina (African American) board a subway, when he notices another Asian man eyeballing them. I am posting an excerpt of the scene below.
Simon gently squeezed Regina’s hand as he guided her through the jolting subway car. He had no clue how to assuage any of her fears about how the world was going to react to them, or his either. That came along with interracial dating because no matter how two people feel about each other, almost everyone around them has an opinion about why they shouldn’t be together. Since most of his past relationships didn’t go further than the third date, none of that really bothered him before, but Regina and her happiness was now an imperative. They had a connection that meant what scared her, concerned him.
They found seats. Regina stretched her neck be rolling her head from side to side; Simon instinctively reached out and kneaded at the tension in her muscles. “You okay, babe?”
She let out a soft moan. “Yes, I just can’t wait to lay down.” He kept his naughty retort to himself. Motivated by the feeling of being watched, he scanned the train; his gaze fell on a pair of eyes staring at him. They belonged to an Asian man seated directly across from them. He was holding a newspaper open, but apparently, he found Simon and Regina more interesting. The man blinked furiously over his glasses and wavered his gaze between the pair. He then held Simon’s gaze with an accusatory glare, making his displeasure crystal clear.
Simon briefly broke eye contact to look at Regina. She focused on her phone, her neck craned to allow more of his caress. “There, I texted Marcus. I hope you’re ready for this, Young.”
He put his arm over her shoulders and slid her closer. “More than ready.” He tilted his head and pressed his lips against hers, allowing his love to explore his mouth. The sweetness of ice cream lingered on her silken tongue and increased his hunger for her. The world fell away and he held her harder. She was all he wanted, and his mind buzzed with ways to tell her how much he loved her for the rest of their lives.
Her pupils dilated. “Wow.” She raised an eyebrow. “You realize we’re on a crowded subway?”
He glanced sideways for a moment. “I do.”
Understanding flashed in her eyes after gazing at the old man across from them. “You alright?”
Simon covered her hand with his and put it to his lips. “Fine, babe.” He slid down in the subway seat and pecked her forehead as he guided her head on his shoulder. He pulled one corner of his mouth and looked down his nose at the Asian man, stroking her shoulder. “Just fine.”
Simon responds to the man’s displeasure the same way Papa Bear did that day on the bus. He was not going to let someone else’s narrow thinking and bigotry faze him or keep him from loving his woman.
Unfortunately, the unusual became usual for me that day. The man on the bus would not be the only encounter we had with someone who can’t get a grip on their racism, but it hasn’t kept us from loving each other for twenty-nine years.