Friday, August 12, 2016

Ashley Hope Perez's OUT OF DARKNESS

Note: There are a great many people who think Ashley Hope Perez is Latinx, but she is not. I thought she was but have since learned she isn't, and want to be clear about that for AICL's readers. 

Last year, Ashley Hope Perez's Out of Darkness got a lot of buzz in my networks (note: the author is not Latinx). Here's the synopsis:
"This is East Texas, and there's lines. Lines you cross, lines you don't cross. That clear?" 
New London, Texas. 1937. Naomi Vargas and Wash Fuller know about the lines in East Texas as well as anyone. They know the signs that mark them. They know the people who enforce them. But sometimes the attraction between two people is so powerful it breaks through even the most entrenched color lines. And the consequences can be explosive.
Ashley Hope Pérez takes the facts of the 1937 New London school explosion—the worst school disaster in American history—as a backdrop for a riveting novel about segregation, love, family, and the forces that destroy people.
I got a copy and started reading. Then, I got to page 98 and paused at "I'm a low man on the totem pole." Prior to that reading, I'd had very limited--but positive--interactions with Ashley. So, I wrote to her about that line. Was it possible, I wondered, to take out or revise that one line in the next printing? Ashley wrote back, saying that she'd try.

Well... Ashley talked with her editor, and when the next printing was done, the line was changed. Ashley created a photo showing the change and shared it on social media, and she referenced our conversation. With her permission, I'm sharing her photo here:

I was--and am--gripped by, and deeply moved by the story she tells in Out of Darkness. It got starred reviews and went on to win awards. With that change ("Nah, I'm a low man on the totem pole" was replaced with "Nah, no such luck.", I can enthusiastically and wholeheartedly recommend it--with the caveat that it is not a book by a Latinx writer.

Here's my heartfelt thank you to Ashley for hearing my concern. For not being defensive. For not saying "but..." or any of the things people say instead of "ok." And of course, a shout out to her editor, Andrew Karre, and her publisher, Carolrhoda, for making the change.

Out of Darkness doesn't have any Native content. I'm recommending it because it is an excellent story, and because it is an example of what is possible when people speak up and others hear what they say.

Is Out of Darkness in your library yet? If not, order it today.

Please see Sarah McCarrey's post, On Totems, because she, too, listened and responded in a good way.


Cynthia Leitich Smith said...

Last year I had the pleasure of co-presenting with Ashley at a small, nurturing event for up-and-coming writers through my local SCBWI chapter. Her attentive respectfulness and generosity to the beginners stays with me. Talented and a class act.

tanita✿davis said...

YES. Ash is a class act. Thanks for both asking her about this, and for letting us know when someone does it right.