Challenging perceptions of discrimination and prejudice, this emotionally resonant drama for readers of Lisa Wingate and Jodi Picoult explores three different women navigating challenges in a changing school district--and in their lives.When an impoverished school district loses its accreditation and the affluent community of Crystal Ridge has no choice but to open their school doors, the lives of three very different women converge: Camille Gray--the wife of an executive, mother of three, long-standing PTA chairwoman and champion fundraiser--faced with a shocking discovery that threatens to tear her picture-perfect world apart at the seams. Jen Covington, the career nurse whose long, painful journey to motherhood finally resulted in adoption but she is struggling with a happily-ever-after so much harder than she anticipated. Twenty-two-year-old Anaya Jones--the first woman in her family to graduate college and a brand new teacher at Crystal Ridge's top elementary school, unprepared for the powder-keg situation she's stepped into. Tensions rise within and without, culminating in an unforeseen event that impacts them all. This story explores the implicit biases impacting American society, and asks the ultimate question: What does it mean to be human? Why are we so quick to put labels on each other and categorize people as "this" or "that", when such complexity exists in each person?
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1. Tell us about your new novel, No One Ever Asked.
No One Ever Asked is a story about three very different women whose lives are brought together when an impoverished school district loses its accreditation and the affluent community of Crystal Ridge has no choice but to open their school doors. Camille Gray is the wife of a corporate executive, mother of three, and a long-standing PTO chairwoman. Jen Covington is a newly adoptive mom who’s struggling with a happily-ever-after so much more difficult than she anticipated. And Anaya Jones is the first woman in her family to graduate college and a brand new teacher at Crystal Ridge’s top elementary school, unprepared for the powder-keg situation she’s stepped into. It’s a story that explores the implicit bias impacting American society, and asks the ultimate question: What does it mean to be human?
2. What inspired you to share this story?
A couple years ago, I was listening to an episode on a popular podcast called This American Life. The episode was titled, ‘The Problem We All Live With’, featuring investigative reporter, Nikole Hannah-Jones, who covers race in the United States. She was sharing about a modern-day integration story, wherein a Missouri school district comprised almost entirely of low-income, black and brown students lost their accreditation, triggering a law that allowed these students to transfer to a mostly white, affluent school district nearby. The podcast included several sound bites from a town meeting held in one of the affluent district’s high schools, and the pushback from the parents was shocking. I couldn’t believe it was from 2013. It was a story that captivated me about a topic that impassions me. So when it came time to write my next novel, this was where my heart kept returning.
3. The book is told from the perspectives of three main characters with different experiences and backgrounds. What did your research process look like to accurately capture each of their voices and stories?
Writing a book truly takes a village, especially a book like this one! I’ve never been on the PTA, and I’ve never organized a color run (a district-wide fundraising event that takes place in the story), but I have friends who have, and they let me interview them. While I am an adoptive mother, like Jen, I’m not very familiar with the struggles that often come with adopting an older child. I’m part of a Facebook group much like the one Jen is a part of in the novel, so I reached out to the moms in that group quite often with specific questions. As far as things in Anaya’s life that are unique to the black experience, I listened to a lot of people, and I read a plethora of books, memoirs, and articles, all of which helped bring authenticity to Anaya’s character.
4. How can readers engage in racial reconciliation in their own homes and communities? What are some good resources that can point readers in the right direction?
If you’re white, I think the most important starting place is listening to people of color. Tune into black voices. Follow people on Twitter. Watch documentaries. Listen to sermons. Read books and poetry (check out The New Jim Crow by Michelle Alexander, or Just Mercy by Bryan Stevenson, or Citizen by Claudia Rankine). There is so much information out there. Join Latasha Morrison’s Be The Bridge Group on Facebook. Subscribe and listen to Pass the Mic, the official podcast for The Witness, a black Christian collective. Check out Scene on Radio’s ‘Seeing White’, a fourteen part podcast series. If you’re a parent, start talking about these issues with your children around the dinner table. Talk to your friends at church. Learn about your community’s racial history. Educate yourself about the current issues in your city and how these issues impact communities of color. Use your vote in such a way that reflects your desire for racial reconciliation. Find and support organizations in your area that are already doing the work. The Bible has so much to say about this topic. Let what it says guide you on your journey. Resist the urge to defend yourself or center yourself. Resist the urge to minimize pain or explain away another’s experience. Sit in the tension. Press through the confusion. Don’t retreat if you make a mistake. We all make mistakes. Keep on listening. Don’t succumb to white guilt. Rather, use your privilege to remove yokes of oppression, wherever and whenever you find them in your midst.
5. What are you currently reading?
I just finished listening to Every Last One by Anna Quindlen on audio, and holy buckets! Talk about heart wrenching. She captivated me with her honest prose, and when I reached the part in the book where the title is first mentioned, I literally gasped out loud. It’s definitely not a light read, but it is a moving one. I’m also reading Becky Wade’s Her One and Only, which has had me laughing out loud at several points, and smiling big throughout. She writes wonderful romance!