Wednesday, February 26, 2020

Dayna for a Day by Cathy Ace

What black character would you want to be for a day?

This is a challenging question. I have pondered it for ages. I know it's asking me about becoming a fictional character, but I have to acknowledge something here before I continue. I live in an ethnically diverse locale (out here, in rural British Columbia, there are only eight homes on our street: households include immigrants from Korea, Switzerland, Wales and the Indian subcontinent, as well as first generation Canadian-born German, Polish and Dutch, plus one family who have been in Canada for generations, with German heritage) but I honestly don't know how I would cope with being black, even for a day. 

You see, not only do I live in a basically white world, locally, but I also grew up in one. I had never seen a non-white person in real life until I went on a school trip from Swansea to Cardiff, the capital of Wales. I was thirteen. I'll never forget seeing a black woman, standing at a bus stop with shopping bags at her feet. I stared. We all stared. I wasn't the only teen on that bus who'd never seen a black person before. I marvelled at the number of non-white faces I saw in Cardiff on that trip. I remember telling my parents about it when I got home. In the years that have passed since then I have developed what I suppose might be called a "diverse" group of friends and acquaintances. I have never understood the readiness of people to judge a person because they have blue eyes, red hair, a shade of skin other than white, or a preference for a particular type of life-mate. I just cannot wrap my head around it. None of us have any choice about how or where we are born. Shouldn't we judge people by what they choose to become, rather than by their genetic code? That's how I try to live my life. 

But I am still struggling with this question because I'd find it hard to answer even if the question didn't ask me what black character I'd like to be - I'd struggle if it were any character, because I am quite happy being me. And most of the characters I read about/know have a pretty tough time of it, anyway. 

All that being said, I can acknowledge that I am at least a member of an invisible ethnic minority - I am a Welsh immigrant - but no one knows I'm an immigrant until I open my mouth and out pops a Welsh accent. I know people here in Canada who are a heck of a lot more Canadian than I am, because they, their parents, and their parents' parents were born here. They are TRUE Canadians. But their skin is not white. They look different. They tell me that some people they meet in their everyday lives, who don't know them, readily make assumptions about who they are, what they are like, and what their potential might be, based solely upon the color of their skin. 

I don't know how well I would cope with that. I don't think I am a particularly brave person, and I can only imagine how soul-destroyingly wearing it must be to be judged constantly on the basis of melanin. 

...if I have to choose to walk in a skin that's alien to me, whatever its color, and if it's likely to cause me to realise many hugely uncomfortable home truths about the reaction of non-black people to black people who are not known to them, I'd need it to be a character with enough spunk to get through the day, so...I’d like to be Dayna Anderson, from the Detective by Day books by Kellye Garrett.

Why? Well, she certainly doesn’t live a dull life, and I like her gumption. (I’d also quite like to have her youth, vigor, and figure, but you can’t have everything!)

There’ve only been two books so far (I hope it’s so far!) featuring this character, but she’s warm, resilient, unstoppable and I like her – so I’d like to be her, please. Thank you. 

Also – and I should be upfront and admit this – I like her creator even more than I like her. Kellye isn’t one of those people who sit about waiting for someone else to get something done that needs doing – she does it herself…and usually does it with aplomb and with a successful outcome. Not only an award-winning author, she's been instrumental in setting up a collective called Crime Writers of Color. So, if you take my advice you'll click through HERE to reach their website and allow yourself to be introduced to a host of talented crime writers, who offer well-written works across a wide range of crime sub-genres. Go on, treat yourself!

If you'd like to find out more about Kellye's work click here to reach her website.

If you'd like to find out more about my work, click here to reach my website. 


Susan C Shea said...

Great choice, and shout out to Kellye. And, yes, the question does invite us to think about how well we would deal with inhabiting someone else's skin color. Good post!

Kellye Garrett said...

Aww Cathy. You know I've admired you forever. I never will forget how nice you were to me when I won my Lefty and then by inviting me to speak about Sue Grafton. So reading this means so much!