Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Interracial Love: Conflict Supreme

Guess Who's Coming to Dinner
Over the weekend, I had the pleasure of being interviewed by Denise Turney on her Off The Shelf Radio program. We discussed interracial relationships, which is what I focus on in my novels. You can click to here for a link to the interview.

Talking with Denise brought this blog post to mind that I wrote back in November of 2010. If you missed it the first time around, hope you'll enjoy it today!

"Love is composed of a single soul inhabiting two bodies." Aristotle

Who doesn't love a good love story? But what drives one to make it great? Conflict!
And when you throw an interracial element into the mix (pun intended) you have an intensely compelling and emotionally volatile story.

Several films address this topic including, Come See the Paradise (Japanese/white American), Guess Who's Coming to Dinner (white/black American), Mississippi Masala (Asian Indian/ Black American), Something New and Jungle Fever (both white/black American).

Throughout history, interracial love has been a topic of great literature. In Shakespeare's Othello, a Moor is married to Venetian, Desdemona. Here racism is seen as Iago schemes to break up their marriage. Hoping to spur Desdemona's father Brabantino to annul the union, Iago tells him "an old black ram is tupping your white ewe."

In Harriet Beecher Stowe's Uncle Tom's Cabin, the slave Cassie is repeatedly raped by her master Simon Legree.  But she's also been in a previous relationship with her former master, who she loved. "I became his willingly, for I loved him!" Cassie says in chapter 34.

Sinclair Lewis's Kingsblood Royal tells the story of a bigoted character who discovers he has a small percentage of African blood, then falls in love with a black friend named Sophie.  When he held her hand, it was "warmer than any hand he had ever known," and when she kissed him, "he had not known a kiss like that..."  For more interracial love in literature, see Doug Poe's post on Interracial Sex in Classic Literature here.

Out of all multicultural combinations, perhaps the most explosive in our country is black and white. Make it a love story in the American South of the past--and POW!

Something New
I'm black, and my husband is white, but many years ago I began to think how sad it would've been if we'd lived a century earlier. Back then, we couldn't have married. That thought inspired me to write my first novel, Escape, about the abolitionist son of a wealthy merchant who falls in love with a slave he helps to escape.

After reading Essie Mae Washington Williams's memoir Dear Senator, I wrote my second novel, The Governor's Sons. Ms. Williams's memoir told of her black mother's love affair with her white father, future South Carolina Governor Strom Thurmond.  In my novel, a rich white law student plans to sacrifice everything and move overseas for the black woman he loves.

All through our country's history, interracial love has ignited conflict.  Forbidden Fruit by Betty DeRamus and  Martha Hodes's WhiteWomen, Black Men are two fascinating non-fiction accounts on the subject.

The topic of Sally Hemings, Thomas Jefferson's black mistress, was swept under the rug by history, and Jefferson's white descendants, until DNA tests revealed that her descendants, were Jefferson's as well.

Although there was an enormous amount of rape and exploitation of black women by white men in the United States (especially the South), there was also love.

If a plantation owner chose a slave as his "wife" and actually lived with her, he'd become an outcast from the community.  To prevent being ostracized, some white men, assuming the facade of bachelors to friends and family, would set up separate housing and provide financially for their black "wives" and children. And then there were those white men who chose to have two families, one white and the other black, hidden away in the shadows.

Thank goodness it's a different time!  Although still a touchy topic among both the black and white communities, at least as human beings we can freely love whomever we fall in love with.  As the old cliche goes, "love has no color."

Do you know of an interracial love story to share?

Thanks for visiting and have a great week!


William Kendall said...

Good blog, Maria, and a timely subject.

I'll look into finding that book, Forbidden Fruit.

Maria McKenzie said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Maria McKenzie said...

Hi, William! Forbidden Fruit is excellent! I used it in researching Unchained.

baldilocks said...

You might find my novel, Tale of the Tigers, interesting in that its plot consists of an interracial relationship between a young couple--she's black and he's white--and how their world is shaped by their love. All five-star reviews.

baldilocks said...

Oh yes, and it's set in the 1990s.

PK HREZO said...

Not me, I'm all white Florida cracker.... lol. But my WIP invloves a white/Asian Indian American teen romance with conflicting faiths. It's been really interesting to write so far... I love the controversy of it.
Your stories sound wonderful!

A. G. said...

I enjoy writing interracial romances as well as inter-religion too. However, when I pitched that idea, it got rejected. Not only that, I was informed that nobody cares about stories and characters from Southeast Asia, and I should stick to white. It was rather depressing since most of stories and since I write historicals they use the Southeast Asian backdrop and culture.

Maria McKenzie said...

@Baldilocks: Sounds like a good story! I'll have to read it:).

@Pk: Hi, Pk!I didn't know you were working on a mukticultural story. I'd love to read yours too!

Maria McKenzie said...

@UK: I'm sorry to hear about your rejection, but I wouldn't give up. Some agent out there will love your stories! They sound fascinating--I'd read them!

Peg Brantley said...

Maria, first of all, I like your blog background. Makes me feel right at home.

My husband is black, I'm white. We've been together for 36 years and it's been one fabulous ride. I learned a few things about race I never would have known without 'close ties' and closer insight. He has honored me and lifted my awareness at the same time.

Best of luck to you with UNCHAINED.

the oldguey said...

And that's all there is to that.

Maria McKenzie said...

@Peg: Hi, Peg! Congratulations on 36 years of marriage! Like you, my husband has learned quite a few things about race by being in the "inner circle." Sometimes he's even a little more perceptive about things than I am!

@The Oldguey (aka Grumpy Grizzly): I just read your blog:). What an awesome post! If more people thought like you, the world would be a much better place!

Janet Johnson said...

Fascinating stories. Great blog post. :)

Julie Musil said...

This was such a fascinating post! I've read books on this subject, and I always stepped away thinking, "Thank goodness that doesn't happen anymore." That's naive, I guess.

My husband's entire family are proud Mexican immigrants and mine is from Texas and California. I love that our children get to experience all the Mexican culture when our families get together. And it gives them an extra reason to learn Spanish!

Lydia Kang said...

My first novel I ever wrote was interracial but the plot was too problematic and so it sits asleep in my hard drive.
I'd like to do another story again though, hopefully revive that one.
Great post and wonderful blog!

William Kendall said...

In the joint project Norma and I are working on, two of the supporting characters, Olivia and Rachel, are an interracial couple.

Maria McKenzie said...

@ Janet: Hi Janet! Thanks for the follow; I apprciate your comment:).

@Julie: Thanks for the follow! Sounds like you have an amzing family:).

@Lydia: Lydia, thanks for following me and thanks for your comments. Pull that story out and revise/revive it:)!

@William: Hi, William! Olivia and Rachel? Sounds like they're more than just interracial:).

William Kendall said...

Yes, there's the whole same-sex aspect to their relationship, a wedding down the line, and a really strong bond between the two of them. We're thinking of giving Rachel and Olivia their own book down the line....

Maria McKenzie said...

Lots of material there. Rachel and Olivia definitely need their own book!

msjb said...

Hi Maria! Sorry it took me so long to find know how it goes with little ones and work and side jobs etc. etc. Anyway, I love my interracial relationship and the only challenges we've found so far are other people. We focus on the love in our family and as we all know, love has no color lines.

Maria McKenzie said...

Hey, Cuz! Glad you found me:). Thanks for stopping by and thanks for following me!

I'm still amazed at how you handle everything with kids, work and side jobs! When do you sleep?

I can relate to the challenge of other people. But love of friends and family outweighs that!