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Embracing Each Other’s Humanity

Donna Peizer
Donna Peizer Author Interview

Somewhere Different Now follows two spirited teens struggling to maintain an inter-racial friendship that the world seems to want to tear apart. What was the inspiration for the setup to your story?

Loss is what undergirds the experiences of both Annie and Clydeen. I had developed the Annie character right up to the point where she finds the lean-to on the mesa. I knew I wanted to explore the nature of society in post-WWII America. Who was benefitting from the newfound national pride, optimism, and prosperity, and who was not, but I had yet to formulate a means of exploring that idea.

In terms of white society, Vivian says it best when she wonders why Annie is asking questions about the Holocaust when “everyone else” is just trying to forget about all that and have a nice life. Everyone? Really? I had no idea that a character like Clydeen would show up when Annie returns to the mesa after an absence, but there she was. That opened a way to juxtapose how differently Annie (white) and Clydeen (black) experienced the world, in terms of not only the depth of the tragedies responsible for each of their wounds, but also their fears and the resources available to them to cope and possibly even to survive.

Annie and Clydeen’s relationship is well developed and one I enjoyed following. What were some driving ideals behind the development of their relationship?

Trust is certainly on important one – the difficulty of forging and maintaining trust as Annie and Clydeen become more and more enmeshed in each other’s lives. They must dive deep to find a ground of commonality strong enough to sustain their relationship.

Fully embracing each other’s humanity is undoubtedly the most important and the most touching aspect of their relationship. At first, Clydeen is something of a curiosity to Annie, a playmate, a distraction from her loneliness and depression. For Clydeen, Annie is someone who is willing to sustain her physically while she tries to figure out what to do next. But because they spend so much time together away from other influences, their true selves emerge – even those parts of themselves they may not have known existed, such as Annie’s inner generational racism; Clydeen’s envy of the house Annie lives in and all she thinks it means; and the fears aroused in each of them about the consequences of being discovered together.

What were some themes that were important for you to explore in this book?

Intergenerational racism and its effect on a young mind. In Annie’s case, she had a propensity to turn away from the racism of her father and other extended family members. But when push came to shove, her main goal was to get Clydeen out of her life before anyone found out about her. But she cared about Clydeen too much by then to simply abandon her. Internalized racism was in the driver’s seat. It took Annie a while to realize it, and once she did, she had to find the courage to accept the consequences of turning her back on her cultural conditioning.

Courage. From the beginning of the story, Annie wants to transform what she sees as her lack of courage. Annie finds the courage to choose Clydeen and fully embrace her, despite the consequences she fears from her racist father in particular.

Control. Annie believes she can control how the summer on the mesa will come to a close, if only Clydeen will cooperate. Clydeen, however, lives day-to-day and is unwilling or unable to peer into the future the way Annie does. Until Ulie arrives, she believes she is dependent on the vagaries of a fate she has no control over, so why bother trying to figure it out?

Agency. Ultimately, Clydeen has to disregard what Annie thinks is best for her. Part of her realizes that at least a part of Annie’s agenda is grounded in her fears about her father finding out about the two of them. In other words, Annie’s plans are tainted. Clydeen has to step away from what Annie wants and find a path to her own agency so she can begin to pick up the pieces of her life.

What is the next book that you are working on and when will it be available?

The next book will deal with some of the same issues a few years down the line. This book will be written in third person past tense rather than first person present tense. One of the main characters will be a white woman named Stella whose sheltered suburban life as a homemaker has become untenable. Annie and Clydeen will appear again, as will Imani Jackson. The plight of gay youth who have been rejected by their families will figure into the story, as well as a renegade priest and a young girl with amnesia. At this point, I don’t have any idea when it might be out.

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The consequences of racism in the 1950s threaten to destroy a hard-won inter-racial friendship between two energetic, quick-witted teens, who struggle to come to grips with their differences.

White middle-class Annie Cahill and Clydeen Hollifield, a Black girl recently arrived from the cotton fields of Texas, have taken refuge over the summer in a rocky hideout high on a mesa in rural Colorado. They have grown to care deeply for one another, but as the summer comes to an end, their bond is tested to the max. Annie is terrified that her abusive, rabidly racist father will discover their relationship. She finds herself caught between the dictates of her upbringing and loyalty to her friend. Clydeen, on the other hand, is paralyzed by her deep distrust of white people, even Annie at times, but it appears that finding her missing mother will require her to reach out for their help.

When all seems lost and it’s possible that Annie and Clydeen’s relationship may come to a disastrous and painful end, their secret hideout is invaded by a former World War II resistance fighter. Who is this stranger from out of nowhere, and what does he want? Is he simply the kind, brotherly figure he appears to be, or are there more mysterious dynamics at play?

Somewhere Different Now

Somewhere Different Now by [Donna Peizer]

Annie just wants to be needed. She had this in her old neighborhood, being able to take care of the local kids and play around. No need to stick around home with her jerk of a father, Stanley, or the mom who lets it happen, Vivian. It’s her little place in the world and she likes it that way. That is until her father decides it is time to move after a family of color starts building their house across the street. Spurred on by racist hate, Stanley uproots his family and begins again. The only problem is, Annie has lost her special place in the world. Having lost her friends, her home, her dog, Annie is not happy, and after a traumatizing incident with her father, Annie begins to test how far she can go in this new place of hers. Along the way, she’ll meet some new friends and learn that parents don’t always know what’s best.

When I tell you that Somewhere Different Now had me on the edge of my seat, I mean it. This riveting historical fiction novel contains the prevalent issues we face in our everyday lives. Abusive parents, growing up to soon, racism, and the innocence of childhood. It’s all expertly woven together in this provocative novel.

Author Donna Peizer tells an excellent story of what it means to break the rules for the right reasons. Trying to tell the story of a post World War II era as well as the tentative friendship between a white girl and a black girl is no easy feat. Not everyone can do it with as much mastery as Donna Peizer does.

Somewhere Different Now is an enthralling coming of age story following two strong female protagonists that will inspire readers. This is an excellent novel for readers who loves character driven drama in a compelling story packed with thoughtful social commentary.

Pages: 402 | ASIN: B09L5G928D

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