Midday blog: What Do I Know About the Marginalized?
As someone who is white and hasn’t known racial discrimination, I was extremely nervous writing about the Native American experience in northern Maine. Who am I to try and step into someone else’s experience and attempt to write about it? I enlisted friend and fellow author Caryn Rivadeneira to co-author Shades of Mercy with me.
Northern Maine is where I’m from. It’s the place I was born, and the place I moved away from much to soon for my liking. It has been Oz for me. The place where, when I return, everything turns to vivid color.
One day I woke up and realized it has not been Oz for everyone. For every person’s Oz, there is someone else having a Wicked Witch of the West experience. What does that look like? I began asking questions and making observations which began to take shape as a novel.
A strong sense of justice was handed down to me on both sides of my family. I saw what it looked like to help the poor, the hurting, and marginalized. I learned early that everyone has a story worth telling and to listen is not only love in action, but can help restore someone’s dignity.
As Caryn and I wrote the novel, we researched the project, and I conferred regularly with the Tribal Administrator of the Houlton Band of Maliseet Indians, Brian Reynolds. When I sent an advance copy to Brian to read, I held my breath. In his first email back to me, he said the first few chapters were painful to read and he didn’t like seeing the truth of how his people had lived. I wondered if I’d gotten things all wrong. Brian followed up and explained that a reality had begun to emerge in the book. This reality didn’t describe his people, the Maliseet, as bad people, but people who were living in, and living with, very difficult circumstances. He affirmed the message of the book, but wondered how the white inhabitants of the actual “Watsonville,” where I grew up, were going to read it.
The Maliseet, along with all Native Americans, have been wronged so many times. I didn’t want to be one more voice from the dominant culture spreading lies. When Brian sent me a final email, affirming the message of the book, I knew I was on the right track. I knew I’d struck the right balance, which indeed, is the recognition of imbalance.
Anita Lustrea is a graduate of Moody Bible Institute and has worked for Moody Radio since 1984. She is a sought-after conference and retreat speaker and loves to connect with Midday Connection listeners face-to-face. Anita lives in the Chicago suburbs with her husband, Mike, and her son, John. To learn more about Anita, her speaking schedule and her blog, please visit her website.