I went to a unique high school about evenly split among Blacks, Latinos, and Anglos. I counted among my classmates the children of steelworkers, mostly, but also the children of teachers, business owners, and doctors. Located in heavily industrialized East Chicago, Indiana, it would prove to be an environment of easy multicultural and multiracial mixing later rarely experienced to the same degree. As I posted on our high school alumnae website, it wasn’t a diversity utopia but it came close:
“I’m half way between the utopian-we-all-got-along folks and the let’s-keep-it-real-EC-wasn’t-color-blind folks. It was both. After I graduated, I soon found out that the functional EC mix of cultures and races was not replicated anywhere in the adult world I then entered. But, let’s not forget the period in history we’re talking about. It was a time in which a black man as President and a Puerto Rican woman as a Supreme Court Justice were unthinkable. It was a time when my family got turned down for a rental apartment because we were Puerto Rican. That said, for its time, EC was a culturally and racially harmonious place, perhaps unique even today. Back then, I did suffer ethnic slurs and slights, absolutely, but I also experienced the natural, happy mingling of people from different backgrounds. I look at the makeup of our student government officers, for example, and still marvel that at the time I and others thought that mix was nothing special. EC was an exceptional place that facilitated a multicultural and multiracial ease which I have aimed to recreate in my life since. Perhaps the fact that I found out after I moved away that this ease was not widely shared outside of EC explains why achieving reconciliation among different cultures and religions is the focus of my fiction.”
In my novels and short stories, I never give up hope that reconciliation is possible. Even in the least promising of situations, my fictional characters always seem to find an opening to reconciliation, however small.