Saturday, February 23, 2013

Trashy Novels? Installment Two

Certainly Connie doesn’t [celebrate African Americans' struggle for freedom and equality] as her all-white cast of heroes and heroines in her own “books” demonstrates.

Observing the color of the cast of characters in Connie’s writing ... is just that: an observation. ... However, it is a bit of a stretch to say one is writing “pro-southern” literature if the South one imagines lacks people of color.

Apparently segregation (or outright exclusion) reigns supreme in her fictional world, too....
Brooks D. Simpson
Professor of History
Arizona State University
on Crossroads, his personal blog

Notice how he goes from "all-white cast of heroes and heroines" in my books (which is an accurate restatement of my description, "all the heroes in my novels are Southern white men, and all the heroines are Southern white women) to "the color of the cast of characters in Connie's writing..." that is, all the characters in all my writing.

He makes these judgments, as I've noted before, without having read my novels. If he had read them, or read one of them, he would know about this scene.  Of course, that knowledge would be no guarantee that he wouldn't ignore it ... or lie about it.

Excerpt (edited for spoilers) 
 Sweet Southern Boys

A layer of diaphanous clouds lightened the blue spring sky when Randy halted his motorcycle in a parking lot of the Cloverdale Community Recreation Center. To his right lay two baseball diamonds, vacant now, but soon they'd be churning with activity. Only a few vehicles took up parking spaces here and there.  Whoever had driven them was nowhere to be seen.
 Randy sat astride his motorcycle to wait and a bittersweet nostalgia overtook him.  So many memories of his life were centered on this place.  Here he had cemented his friendship with Shelby and John Mark playing basketball, baseball, and the occasional round of tennis. Here he had volunteered with the youth leagues, sometimes assisting the teams  his father coached.
Here, when he was eight, he had been stalked by the crazy woman who had accused his father of sexual harassment.  Brooke Emerson.  He remembered her clearly. Tall, a bit thin, with fine hair, the palest blond he'd ever seen.  She would come to him after his Saturday games, lean on the low chain link fence that separated them and say, "Hi, Randy."

"Hi," he'd say back to her, barely audibly.  And then, deeply disturbed for some reason, he would scurry away to find Miss Gina, his ride home.

It was right after Randy told his father about her coming to his ballgames that Troy confronted her at work, and in a matter of days, a pack of feminist she-wolves had pounced on his father with breathtaking viciousness.

Although Randy had thought back over that period many times, and invariably felt deeply indignant on his father's behalf, he had never begun to grasp the full burden of false accusation -- until now.
* * *

Randy had been waiting about ten minutes when he saw Flora Jackson's Oldsmobile stop in the parking lot and drop off a passenger before turning back to the road.  Keyonne headed for the entrance to the field house, but happened to glance in Randy's direction, and paused.

Randy's heart beat faster and a sick feeling settled in the pit of his stomach.  Perhaps this wasn't such a good idea, after all.  Still, he was here and Keyonne had seen him. He might as well do what he came here to do.

He wasn't sure what to expect.  Perhaps Keyonne would ignore him and keep walking.  Perhaps he would cold-cock him.  Randy would never know until he went to him.

Head high, dignity intact, Randy stepped across the gravel, and Keyonne turned toward him.  Randy could detect no hostility in his demeanor or actions.  When ten feet separated them, they stopped and stared at one another.

Randy inhaled deeply.  "I've been wanting to see you, and ask you something, since this whole thing started."

Keyonne nodded noncommittally.  "Arright."

Throat tightening, Randy swallowed hard.  "Do you believe I hurt your sister?"

Pain came to Keyonne's face and he shook his head.

Distressed by his friend's silence, Randy had to make his case.  "I didn't."

"I know that," Keyonne said.  "I know it's not in you to do somethin' like that.  I've been wanting to tell you I don't hold nothin' against you.  But I guess I didn't have the guts."

Randy blinked back a stinging in his eyes as relief almost like pain washed over him.  "What about Miss Flo? I've been so worried that she might hate me."

Keyonne shook his head.  "Mama didn't want to believe Tam would lie about something like that, especially about someone who's been my friend for so long.  But we all know how she is. She's a slut, Randy, and a druggie. Hate to say that about my own half-sister, but she is. In the past year, her grades have fallen so's she's barely passing.  She don't act like herself.  It's breakin' Mama's heart."

"I didn't know."

"I told Mama from the start I didn't believe it.  But I guess when you're a mama, it's hard not to stand by your daughter, especially when she's in the shape Tam's in.  She's a nutcase most of the time."

"Keyonne, I'm so sorry to hear that."

"Mama believed Tam at first, but I can see that mama's doubts have grown.  It hard for her to think that an innocent boy could go to prison for thirty years based on a lie told by her child."

Randy nodded, unable to speak for a  moment.  The stinging in his eyes turned to a film of tears and he blinked hard.  "I have to go.  Thanks for talking to me."  He turned toward his motorcycle.


He looked back.

"I don't know if our friendship will survive this," Keyonne said.  Now tears pooled in his eyes, too.  "I hope so. But whatever happens, I'll always think the world of you, and your mama and daddy, and your sister. Tell them I said that."

He held out his hand.  They walked to each other and grasped the base of each other's thumbs in a trembling handshake. Without another word, they parted. Keyonne resumed his trek to the field house and Randy kickstarted his motorcycle, rolled out of the parking lot, and headed home.

No people of color in my "imagined" South? Methinks Brooks D. Simpson's own bigotry and intolerance, which involves actually perpetuating falsehoods about others (i.e., deliberately misconstruing and misstating what I had written about my novels, stories, characters, etc.), is far worse than that of people he accuses of it. 

Is anybody really surprised at this?

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