February 3, 2013

Kim Flowers on Cane and Able

Guest post by Kim Flowers

In my short story Cane and Able, the most unusual aspect is that Ruth Templeton is not only an older white woman who believed in civil rights as a young idealistic teacher, she is also accepting of gay rights today.

Why are so many in our senior generation un-accepting of not only gay people, but all kinds of diversity? I don’t know if I’ll ever find the answer. Usually people use as an explanation or an excuse that it’s just how they were raised. But obviously many people, especially in the LGBT community, break free from the way they were raised ... if we didn’t, most of us would still be in the closet.

I envision a world, just like Ruth, where the phrase referring to children who will “not be judged by the color of their skin, but by the content of their character” truly does become cliché. In my novel The Divide: Uprising, the world is in a post-racial era, but in Cane and Able, this world has not yet arrived. I think it is important for us to be educated on our way to accepting diversity of all kinds, and the stories we read and write can help us along. The characters don’t always need an in-depth plot point about these issues, but just by creating something different than the supposedly preferable all-white, all-straight cast will help represent and promote the way the world really is, or can become.

Each generation becomes more accepting of diversity than the one before ... the worlds and beliefs of our grandparents and that of our kids, nieces, and nephews are so drastically different now, despite how we were “raised.” So what is this phenomenon? I think it’s due to the massive uprising of TV shows, sports, music, movies, and books which show people who may not be around different races or sexualities on a day-to-day basis that such people do exist and are not evil. My white grandparents didn’t listen to “black” music or watch “black” shows, but I was born the same year MTV was created, and never knew such a divide had ever existed until I was almost an adult. Each younger generation has begun integrating more and more interests, and this make me proud and hopeful.

But have you ever really paid attention to the book covers in a bookstore? I hadn’t given it much thought until recently, but now I have started paying attention ... and unless I am in a specially allocated section, most of the covers I see, and the stories described within, are white and straight. What does this mean? I think it means that out of all the aspects of media available, books might be the furthest behind. I hear that agents and publishers are looking for more diversity in race and sexuality, but when I look at the mainstream shelves, I still don’t see it.

Cane and Able is my only published story with an all-white cast, but there are only two characters in the story. Savanna is a young lesbian recluse who finds Ruth’s handbag, which Ruth unknowingly dropped. The generation gap is breached as the two different women try to find ways to help each other. Despite the fact that some well-meaning people have told me that stories like this are limiting myself, and that perhaps I should write something with what is supposedly mass mainstream appeal, I can’t think of any stories I’d like to tell where all the characters are white, straight, and completely ignorant that any other such people exist, or would never have any one else of another race or sexuality cross their paths. There are many other writers like me, and we are flooding the indie presses because our stories aren’t “marketable.” I guess we just have to keep trying and not give up, and find ways to attract readers who really do want the stories we are telling, but just don’t know where to look.

Kim Flowers

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