I'm answering some questions about me and my book BLUE for some students I'll be visiting at H.H. Poole Middle School in a few weeks. Here are a few of them.
1. How did you feel about the segregation in your story? (Kendall)
One of the reasons I loved the Miracle of Hickory story was because the emergency polio hospital was integrated at a time when the south was segregated.
(Historic photo provided by Cliff Davids, Oral Historian)
Writing this made me think back to my own childhood. As a white person, I mostly saw blacks from a distance when my family drove through their neighborhood on our way into town. So segregation is familiar to me.
Then, when I was in high school, our school system integrated. I remember standing at the bus stop that first day of integrated school and talking to my siblings about how strange it was going to be. This was truly my first up-close-and-personal experience with blacks. My family wasn’t openly prejudiced and we probably thought we weren’t racist at all. But I think it’s hard to know for sure just how biased we are about things. I made some black friends at school but not the kind of friends that Ann Fay and Imogene became. We all did the easy thing which was to be friendly in class but still hang out with our old friends in the halls and lunchroom. So within our integrated schools we were still quite separate.
I’m glad that BLUE gave me the opportunity to reflect on these experiences. Writing this book made me realize how much things have changed and are changing. And I am feeling very hopeful about that!
2. Why did you bring Imogene into the story? (Adam)
This goes back to the last question. I just wanted to tell the story of the Miracle of Hickory as it happened. And integration was just one of the miracles! I think sickness and trouble put us in a position to grow and change and I’m glad Ann Fay could meet someone who was different from her and be changed as a result.
Historic photo provided by Catawba County Historical Association (Thanks, Heather!)
3. How did you come up with the idea for the tear bottle? (Melissa)
Well, I needed to put some words in Imogene’s mouth. She wanted to comfort Ann Fay so when Ann Fay asked her how God felt about them having polio, I thought, uh oh - now what is Imogene going to say? I thought back to a time in my life when I felt betrayed. I was reading the book of Psalms from the Bible and I came across a verse that said, "You have put all my tears into your bottle". It made me feel as if my pain was valuable. So when I was writing Blue I remembered that and realized I had some wisdom for Imogene to share with Ann Fay. I've never heard of an African-American tradition of believing that God has a windowsill full of bottles so I wasn't trying to say there is. But I thought it was believable for Imogene’s mother and grandmother to interpret Psalm 56:8 in that way.
Photo by my daughter, Wendy Hostetter Davis
4. Do you believe you have a bottle? ( Stone)
I love this question and the way it makes me think about what I believe!
The Bible uses the same literary devices that other books use -symbolism, poetry etc. So, I could say, "no not really. The bottle is just a symbol for God's love". But it’s more fun to think about God collecting bottles of all colors, shapes and sizes and one of them being mine!
5. Why was her bottle colored blue? (Kurt)
Imogene thought Ann Fay was “true blue”. Something for you to think about: If you were to draw a bottle that represents you, what color would it be? And why?
Photo by Wendy Hostetter Davis