Prejudice of any kind is terrifying

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Colleen Mondor has written an extraordinarily thoughtful post today on the quandary she faced when reviewing You Are My Only.  I won't try to summarize that here.  I will simply suggest that you follow this trail to see what Colleen had to say, what she faced, what she decided to do.

And how graciously she tells us about her process.

For my part, I wish to say this:  Aunt Cloris and Aunt Helen, the two YAMO characters that stand at the heart of Colleen's quandary, lived in my imagination for ten full years.  They represent goodness of an extra-exceptional kind.  They love purely and they love deeply, not just each other, but the boy they have raised as their own and the young teen, Sophie, who moves in next door.  They are not brazen intellectuals.  They are not reformists.  They are not people who live their lives as an overt instruction to others.  They just look out and see what must get done, and with every resource they have (and as two elderly ladies in a poorer part of town, they don't have much) they get that needed thing done.

I did not create Cloris and Helen to make a point about lifestyle preferences, I am saying; that would have never occurred to me and it would have never worked.  Nor would it ever occur to me that potential readers might shy away from a story that has a Cloris and a Helen tucked within it.  Didn't even cross my mind.  Never kept me up at night.  Cloris and Helen are human beings organically summoned from my own life.  They are modeled on people for whom I've felt great affection and admiration.  They are heroines to me.  They needed their story told.

I don't look at people and see difference.  I don't judge another's choices, politics, religion, fashion, upbringing, IQ.  Kindness is what matters to me.  Kindness is the distinguishing factor, the thing that must be sought.  It is that rare thing, that genius thing; it trumps all else.  I know what kindness is because I have been the frequent beneficiary of it.  I know why it matters because I wouldn't still be here without it.

I find prejudice of any kind terrifying.  I want to live in a world in which we all agree on that.


KFP said...

Beth wrote: I find prejudice of any kind terrifying. I want to live in a world in which we all agree on that.

I agree. And maybe--though it wasn't your intent--maybe, when people who may harbor prejudice read your book, fall in love with the two aunts, realize the truth of their relationship but--too late, have fallen for their kindness and humanity ... maybe that will change the prejudice in that reader's heart. So your book could make a difference and put more kindness and love in the world. I hope so. I wouldn't be surprised, as your books, through images and language as well as story, have so much heart in them people can't help be transformed.

Lilian Nattel said...

I wrote a long response there, so I'll just repeat the gist of it: living with integrity can change the world. My friendships, my world include gays and lesbians, so does my writing.

Becca said...

I love this..."I don't judge another's choices, politics, religion, fashion, upbringing, IQ. Kindness is what matters to me. Kindness is the distinguishing factor, the thing that must be sought."

That is the heart of every matter, Beth. Well said.

Wendy said...

I read this with a great deal of interest because although, of course, I recognized that Helen and Cloris were a lesbian couple, that knowledge barely made a blip on my radar. It just didn't matter to me. I loved them. I found them filled with a kindness and warmth that I wish everyone I met had... In fact, I went back and read my review again - and no, I didn't make a point of saying they were gay. I commented instead on their humanity and their cookies and their love. I hope that some day no one will think a second thought when they see a gay couple in a novel - it won't register as unusual or noteworthy. It just is. I hope no one will shy away from your beautiful novel because of two of the characters in it...but, I also recognize that not everyone has an open and loving heart.

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