I am so pleased to welcome back author, Sarah Elle Emm, who is celebrating the release of her latest YA fantasy novel, Opalescent, by giving away paperback copies of both Opalescent and Prismatic, the first two books in the Harmony Run Series, to two lucky readers. First, Sarah can I say how much I loved Prismatic (click here to see my review) and I can’t wait to read Opalescent. What inspired the series?
When I tell people about the Harmony Run Series, there are typically a few reactions. Words like controversial, unique, and brave, get tossed around. Some people seem awkward or uncomfortable and look at me oddly. Some people want to know why, and, more specifically, what inspired this series. Thank you,
Katheryn Lane, for having me here today,
so I might shed some light on the inspiration.
As I told a fellow writer last week, this is a story that has been
brewing in me from the time I was a little girl.
There are multiple underlying themes in the series, for example, we all have unique talents we should use for doing the right thing, but the fundamental point is we are all humans, regardless of our differences, who should love one another. It seems like a pretty simple concept. I learned it at an early age in the Sunday school class Mom taught. Love one another. When I learned about the Golden Rule of treating others as you wanted to be treated and how we were all God’s children, I felt pretty happy. Yet, this wasn’t the only inspiration for the series.
Now, some might jump to the immediate conclusion… Obviously, Sarah wrote this series because she married an African American man, and they have children together, right? Well, not exactly. I admit, when my children were born and people started trying to label them and figure out how my poor children were going to be accepted by either culture, what kind of baby doll to buy for them, and which Disney princess they would identify with, I was a little surprised. I read about identity issues concerning multiracial people around the world and how they never really fit in. This discussion brought on by the birth of my first child made me feel kind of down. I started thinking about my own youth. Being a huge reader, I always identified with characters in the book I was reading, no matter what they looked like. But thinking back as a parent, I couldn’t recall any books I had read where there was a ‘multiracial’ person staring in the book. So yes, part of the inspiration was because of my own multiracial family, nieces, cousins, and friends. Maybe I wanted all of my prismatic loved ones to see a piece of fiction where multiracial teenagers took center stage. But the real inspiration behind the series goes beyond my current family portrait.
I refuse to see the world in colorful divisions. I’d rather see it in colorful harmony. Call me naïve, optimistic, call me a dreamer, but I have always wanted to keep the peace. The truth is, I am not brave, and I may be overly optimistic. I smile. A lot. Now, on the outside you may see my happy façade, but inside I am always pondering. It has been like this since I can remember. I recall a peer remarking to me when I was twelve, “Sarah, you are always so optimistic!” It was partially true. I was optimistic, but I really just wanted people to get along with each other. I was extremely sensitive to how people treated one another.
If someone made a racist remark or made fun of someone because of their appearance, I felt sad and frustrated. I’ve been fortunate to have traveled quite frequently, and I have repeatedly observed prejudice and racism in many places and different cultures. My biggest annoyance, here in
happens all of the time by people from all colors of the rainbow making
ignorant remarks… “She’s black, but
she’s nice.” Or, “She’s white, but she’s
alright.” Or, “He’s black, but he’s
cool.” Or, “She’s Chinese or something,
or Mexican I think, but she’s nice.” America
Throughout my youth, I devoured an array of books from fiction to nonfiction, and certain subjects fascinated me. I read about Native Americans losing their land, slavery in the United States, Harriet Tubman and the Underground Railroad, slavery around the world, segregation in the United States, apartheid in South Africa, the Holocaust, and I must have read a dozen stories based on true accounts of Jews surviving in hiding during World War II and also stories of Germans trying to escape East Germany after WWII.
Hearing about my ancestry intrigued me as a kid. My Grandpa Standring told me about my Grandma’s family immigrating to
from . He also told me about our ancestry tracing
back to William the Conqueror on his side.
I learned a lot about history from my late Grandpa Lloyd, a veteran of
World War II, and a squadron leader and survivor of the Germany of the Bulge. Needless to say, he never recovered, and the
man carried extreme survivor’s guilt with him.
If he had a few too many drinks, he would cry as he recalled his war
memories. On the flip side, Grandpa
Lloyd was an entertainer. He told
stories, was a photographer, a writer, wrote a weekly publication on his
conservative political views, and he loved when anyone would stop by to see him. He would sit on one side of his kitchen bar
counter on a red, swivel bar stool, and his guest would sit on the matching bar
stool across from him. When you were
sitting in that stool, you were mostly there to listen. Grandpa had a lot to say… Battle
He talked to me about history and my ancestors. “You’re a descendant of Welsh kings,” he’d say. He told me about my ancestors from
on my grandma’s side, my ancestor who was in the Confederate Army in the Civil
War, another who was part of the Union Army.
He told me about how the Klan, (the really bad one in Germany ,)
rolled through the small town my ancestors settled and made everyone pay the
membership fees, including my Great-great grandparents who owned a grocery
store. He liked to tell the story of my
Great-great aunt who got tongues wagging in town when she rented a room to an
African American woman who couldn’t find a place to stay in the days of
segregation. He loved when a newcomer
would look at the pictures hanging on his refrigerator, which was covered in
random photos of friends and family, and he would ask the newcomer to guess who
was related to him. We have a culturally
diverse family, and people rarely pieced his family portrait together. Grandpa got such a kick out of that. America
of the Bulge veteran grandpa and my great-greats who had immigrated from Germany, I was very interested in all things
World War II, and I wanted to learn more about in modern times. When I had
the opportunity to take up German class and go to Germany that very same year, (thank
you Mom and Dad,) you can bet I was on that plane, along with my mom as a
chaperon. It was the day before my
thirteenth birthday when I visited the concentration camp Germany .
I had read about the living conditions the prisoners endured, the
torture, mothers having to kill their own children, and I had seen the
photographs of starving prisoners. But
standing inside of the camp, their stories crept from the pages of my books and
the prison ground I was walking on and burrowed their way into my heart. Dachau
I understood the historical facts of how Hitler came to power and killed so many people, but I couldn’t wrap my mind around the why. Why did he do it? Hadn’t he learned about the Golden Rule? Later, I visited Checkpoint Charlie and was fascinated with the contraptions devised to try to escape the east in the post-war era. I went back to
two more times over the years, and
both times, was left shaken. It was
truly the first visit to Dachau
that made the creative wheels start turning to help shape my series. Dachau
I don’t think the tragedies of the past should be forgotten or taken lightly. I also don’t think a German girl or boy in modern day
should have to carry the guilt for what someone in their ancestry may have been
involved in, and people in the can’t walk around feeling responsible
for what their ancestors let happen. We
are responsible for our own individual actions, but we can honor the victims of
oppression and try to keep their stories alive as a reminder of the tragedies
that are possible when people sit by idly. Tragedies of our present, like concentration
camps in United
and human trafficking, are ones we should talk about and do our best to stand
up against. North Korea
Around the world, we are guilty of clinging to our differences and placing ourselves in perfectly homogeneous groups of identical looking people. There are divisions between us everywhere. I have often tried to get all of my friends together, no matter what city I’m in or which country I am visiting. Sometimes, I have felt defeated when my group gathering didn’t necessarily work out. I guess I always figured if I was the common bond, holding us together, then all of my friends would like each other and be friends too. I recognize the optimistic, twelve year old in me, wanting us to get along.
I am definitely not as optimistic as I was when I was twelve, but I have a story to tell, (and this is just one of them.) Still, I hope the Harmony Run Series might get a few people thinking about how we treat people we encounter when we are out in the world, away from the safe haven of our immediate family. How can we break the cycle of intolerance if people continue to teach hate to their kids? I hope my daughters, nieces, nephews, cousins, friends and family all understand that all I have ever wanted to do with this series is spread the message we are all humans. We, as individuals, can break the cycle and do our best to help educate others about the importance of unity and loving one another, starting within our very own homes.
Shortly before he died, I sat at the swivel bar stool on the other side of Grandpa’s and looked at his refrigerator of photographs. We talked about our family portrait. Grandpa said racism and prejudice might not ever end unless the whole world, the entire human race, became multiracial. He may have been right. I don’t have the answer, and my series isn’t the cure for the problem. Perhaps in the meantime, we can join together in trying to be kind to one another, to live by that seemingly simple rule, to try to smile at one another, and hey, maybe even try to be a little optimistic…More or less, that is what inspired the Harmony Run Series…So, here’s to harmony.
Excerpt from Opalescent:
Jabari smiled and sighed as he pulled me against him. “I love you because you’re a warrior, Rain.”
“I love you because you’re hot, Jabari.”
He couldn’t help but laugh as he leaned down towards my lips. “Well,
I was going to say I loved you because of your long, curly locks that feel like silk in my hands,” he teased.
I felt the heat flush my cheeks and laughed. “Well, that sounds nice, too.”
Our lips brushed and I heard myself sigh. “Time to go,” I whispered.
“See you tonight?”
“If you can keep up with me. I can run like a cheetah, didn’t you know?”
“Believe me, I know. It’s because of those silky locks and that kiss of yours that I try so desperately to keep up with you.” He took my hands in his and brought one to his mouth, kissing it quickly.
“I must be the luckiest girl in UZTA.”
“Well, you’re certainly the most amazing and beautiful, and—”
“Okay, stop. You’re going to make me want to kiss you again, and I need to get going. Daktari is waiting for me up there.”
Jabari laughed and smoothed his fingers along my neck. “Like that old song says, my parents used to dance to it when we had an E-music dock . . . A kiss to build a dream on . . .” and he brushed his lips to mine one last time.
A moment later I whispered back, “That’s the kind of dream I could get used to. I love you because.”
Jabari smiled as I backed away, placing his hands over his heart. “I love you because.”
I glanced over my shoulder as I climbed the stairs, noticing his smile fade and worry cloud his handsome face. I forced myself to keep moving. If I turned back I might succumb to the tears and tell him that I, too, was worried, and it was more than that. I was terrified, but saying it aloud wouldn’t change a thing. Somehow, if only for Daktari and my friends, I needed to be strong.
Excerpt courtesy of Winter Goose Publishing
You can win a copy of both Opalescent and Prismatic, the first two books in the Harmony Run Series, by using the Rafflecopter below (open internationally).a Rafflecopter giveaway