When a black teenager prays to be white and her wish comes true, her journey of self-discovery takes shocking–and often hilarious–twists and turns in this debut that people are sure to talk about.
LaToya Williams lives in Birmingham, Alabama, and attends a mostly white high school. She’s so low on the social ladder that even the other black kids disrespect her. Only her older brother, Alex, believes in her. At least, until a higher power answers her only prayer–to be “anything but black.” And voila! She wakes up with blond hair, blue eyes, and lily white skin. And then the real fun begins . . .
Randi Pink’s debut dares to explore provocative territory. One thing’s for sure–people will talk about this book
INTO WHITE by Randi Pink | Macmillan, Sept. 13, 2016
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INTERVIEW WITH RANDI PINK
Into White is the story of Latoya Williams, a sixteen-year-old black girl who attends a predominately white high school in the South. After an unbearable day at school, she asks God for the power to change her race, and the next morning, she wakes up white.
What was your inspiration for writing INTO WHITE?
In my early teens, I prayed for the power to change. I was done with my hair, my skin, even my quirky personality – I was done being me. I prayed that prayer with the utmost sincerity, and believed wholeheartedly that I would wake up different. On some level, I did.
I awakened ashamed. Even as a thirteen-year-old kid, I recognized the magnitude of what I’d asked. Shallowness, selfishness, and disregard was hidden beneath the surface of that prayer, so I buried it deep down. Then decades later, I decided to dig the memory back up and Toya was born from it. While Toya is absolutely not me, that personal memory represents the foundation and inspiration behind Into White.
What kind of research did you have to do to make sure your story and characters were authentic?
I toured my city, GPS free. The statistics are widely circulated online, but I needed to see and feel the lines of separation with my own eyes. I needed to know if our schools and neighborhoods were still set apart by racial lines, and no computer could articulate that fact like an old fashioned self-guided tour. So, I silenced Suri and snaked my inconspicuous Ford Taurus through all of the neighborhoods of Birmingham.
Before those GPS-free tours, I knew intellectually that we were divided. I’d never second guessed the maps, but experiencing it was enlightening in ways that I cannot adequately describe. For one thing, the aesthetics were strikingly different from neighborhood to neighborhood. Some slices of Birmingham looked so clean that I’d consider the five-second rule applicable on sidewalks. But right over the mountain, the level of poverty brought tears to my eyes – decaying homes, overgrown yards, and fear. I could feel the fear all around me. Each neighborhood had its own personality, from despair and gloom to joy and anticipation.
Witnessing our division in such an in-your-face way left no room for doubt that there are Toyas in 2016, not only in my city, but everywhere.
How does the diversity in your book relate to your life?
Like Toya, I went to a predominately white high school in the Bible belt so I can relate to her predicament. She’s a typical teenager – she wants to fit in with the people around her. But sometimes instead of feeling included, she feels like the black culture representative–expected to provide the black culture perspective in all conversations.
When I think back, I can absolutely relate.
What are some of your favorite YA books about diverse characters?
Shadowshaper by Daniel Jose Older
Brown Girl Dreaming by Jacqueline Woodson
What do you want to say to readers wary of books about race?
It’s a natural, knee-jerk reaction to want to read about characters similar to yourself. I vividly remember searching libraries as a child for outward-facing books with little girls who looked like me on the cover. Now I realize, the world is bigger than me. And stepping outside of my literary comfort zone was the first step in realizing that on some level we are all the same. Bursting the bubble of our circumstances is a scary proposition for many of us, but I can’t think of a safer place to explore other races and cultures than within a book.
What areas of diversity do you want to draw attention to or do you feel are underrepresented in books?
It’s difficult to specify an area of diversity that deserves attention more than another, but one subject about diversity that needs to be addressed is our divided communities. From Alabama to NYC, our neighborhoods are still deeply segregated. Some schools in 2016 are 95% Caucasian while some others are 95% African American, but the division is generally ignored. A few decades ago, our nation actively attempted to rectify this detachment, but somewhere along the way, the battle was deemed too difficult or impossible to overcome.
I think literary fiction could do a service by drawing this subject back to the forefront.