Imagine you are a black teenager attending a mostly white school and no matter what you do, you just can’t seem to fit in. Now imagine you pray to a higher power to change your race. And imagine that prayer is answered.
This is the premise of Birmingham-based writer Randi Pink’s new young adult novel Into White. The novel tells the story of 16-year-old Latoya Williams, who lives in Montgomery, attends a mostly white high school, and is having trouble making friends. After a run-in with a bully, she wonders if her life would be different if she were different. She prays to a higher power to make her “anything but black,” and the prayer is answered.
“I pulled the initial idea of Into White from my past,” says Pink, who is African American. “I attended a predominantly white high school where I didn’t quite fit. I sifted through my past and built Toya’s story from the ashes. In retrospect, Into White has been inside of me for over a decade, but a wonderful graduate level children’s literature course I took at UAB gave me the courage to write it.”
In January of 2013, Pink challenged herself to start and finish writing a novel.
“A few years ago, I recognized that my years were speeding by,” Pink says. “January 1st would roll around. Before I knew it, January 1st would roll around again, and I’d accomplished little of what I’d intended for that year. So I gave myself 365 days to hone my craft, write a novel, and get it published traditionally.”
She started writing Into White in January of 2013 and finished the first draft by June of that year. By December she had edited the draft and bought a plane ticket to New York City for the Society for Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators Conference, where she would meet her editor Liz Szabla.
“It took a little over a year to land an agent, sign a contract with Macmillan
Publishing Group, and fully realize that intention I’d set for myself,” Pink says. “I tell every aspiring writer, no matter how pie-in-the-sky it may feel, set the intention and do not waver
Pink’s novel Into White, set to be released Sept. 13, comes at a time when racial tensions in America are high, to say the least.
“Our community’s racial divide is reality, but any mention of the topic thickens the air,” Pink says. “I believe much of the frustration is rooted in the longing to ignore the concrete effects of that division. Just take a drive around Birmingham, and you’ll see just how deeply and horribly separated we are.”
Pink understands that conversations about race are difficult and uncomfortable, so difficult and so uncomfortable that they can cause some people to “viciously troll comment sections” and others to simply ignore the problems.
But Pink believes writers, and all artists, have the power to challenge and even change these mind-sets.
“Writers, and artists in general, can alter the consciousness of the world,” Pink says. “A powerful novel, painting, or poem can penetrate the toughest of exteriors, creating empathy for all perspectives.”
Earlier this year Pink sought to make an impact with her words on a different stage—the TEDxBirmingham stage.
In her talk Pink shared her experience of attending Alabama State University, a historically black university, after attending a predominantly white high school.
“In my TEDx Talk, I included some personal experiences that I’d never shared with anyone,” Pink says “Early in life, I avoided neighborhoods and areas that I did not understand. I prejudged entire groups based on unfair media coverage, television, and movie depictions.”
Pink says she put herself in a “comfortable bubble” before college.
“Fate intervened for me in the form of an acceptance letter to Alabama State University, but many people don’t have the privilege to confront their biases head on,” Pink says. “In my talk, I wanted to encourage at least one person to spend a little time outside of their comfort zone.”
Learn more about Randi Pink and her novel Into White at randipink.com.