Swanky Seventeener A.C. Thomas recently interviewed Randi Pink, author of INTO WHITE, a YA Contemporary novel published by Feiwel and Friends on September 13, 2016.
About the Book:
LaToya Williams lives in Montgomery, Alabama, and attends a mostly white high school. It seems as if her only friend is her older brother, Alex. Toya doesn’t know where she fits in, but after a run-in with another student, she wonders if life would be different if she were . . . different. And then a higher power answers her prayer: to be “anything but black.” Toya is suddenly white, blond, and popular. Now what?
About the Author:
Randi Pink grew up in the South and attended a mostly white high school. She lives with her husband and their two rescue dogs in Birmingham, Alabama, where she works for a branch of National Public Radio. Into White is her fiction debut.
A.C.: When and how did you know that you wanted to be a writer?
Randi: As a child, my parents initiated family meetings where the kids could address any conflicts or successes. These meetings were lively and exciting, but I rarely spoke up. My family would press for my stance on household issues, but I held tightly to my words. I thought it was more important to listen and observe. This continued throughout my youth, and ultimately became a part of my personality.
In many ways, my silence served me well until it became glaringly obvious that I had to find a way to express myself. In school, I realized that the outspoken students were rewarded for raising their hands to answer questions. Meanwhile, the quiet students were either ignored, or forced to speak up when it went against every internal instinct. I learned at an early age that I formulate my words best when I write them down first, so I started planning my responses. Jotting down my thoughts, and organizing them by importance. Then I felt more confident expressing myself verbally.
Writing helped me understand my perspective on a deeper level, and that hasn’t changed.
A.C.: INTO WHITE addresses very real issues within the African American community concerning colorism and self-identification. What made you decide to tackle those issues in this book?
Randi: I tackled those issues because I saw a hole that needed to be filled. Colorism is still reality, and many people toil with self-identification and self-loathing. These issues can be difficult to navigate in daily life, but our literature has to be the brutal mirror we hold to ourselves and our society.
A.C.: What was the most challenging part about writing Toya’s journey?
Randi: The most challenging part was letting go of my own reticence, and pushing Toya’s journey to the forefront. When I decided to write this book, I knew that I couldn’t allow my fear to get in the way of writing Toya. Eventually, I threw caution to the wind and wrote forward. Once I let go of that fear, the words flowed like liquid.
A.C.: What is the number one thing that you want people to take away from INTO WHITE?
Randi: While INTO WHITE is funny and light-hearted at times, it’s also a book that will make some readers squirm in their seats. I want those readers to know that that’s a natural reaction. I don’t usually specify take aways, but above all, I want this book to initiate a much needed conversation – one that might make some uncomfortable.
Do you write longhand or type?
A whole lot of both!
Oddest job you ever had?
Movie popcorn butterer.
Big brother, little sister, in the middle, or one and only?
Favorite music to write to?
An artist you loved when you were 16 that you still listen to?
Favorite writing snack?
About the Interviewer:
A.C. Thomas was born, raised, and still resides in Jackson, Mississippi. She is a former teen rapper whose greatest accomplishment was an article about her in Right-On Magazine with a picture included. She holds a BFA in Creative Writing but can still rap if needed. Her debut Young Adult novel, The Hate U Give, will be published by Balzer + Bray/HarperCollins in June 2017.
Sixteen-year-old Starr Carter navigates between the poverty-stricken neighborhood she has grown up in and the upper-crust suburban prep school she attends. Her life is up-ended when she is the sole witness to a police officer shooting her best friend, Khalil, who turns out to have been unarmed during the confrontation – but may or may not have been a drug dealer. As Starr finds herself even more torn between the two vastly different worlds she inhabits, she also has to contend with speaking her truth and, in the process, trying to stay alive herself.