After being shot by the police, he thinks of his school photo that his mother will use when he dies and his death becomes news.
The work is fictional, but the writing allows you to see the world through the eyes of a young black teenager.
Throughout their novel, uncomfortable events occur that spark exactly the kind of conversation Pride and Piazza wanted their book, “We’re Not Like Them,” to address. The story centers on a white woman named Jen and a black woman named Riley, who are forced to face race after Jen’s police husband is implicated in the murder of a black teenager.
The two used their own friendship – Pride is Black and Piazza is White – as a starting point.
“For us, writing together as black and white women, and as friends who became friends later in life, we never talked about race until we really started writing this book because we didn’t have to do it, ”Piazza said. “And, sometimes that’s the last thing you talk about. I knew all of Christine’s terrible ex-boyfriends before we had a decent race conversation.”
The two first met when Pride worked as Piazza editor for her novel, “Charlotte Walsh Likes to Win”.
Over time, talking about their different backgrounds and their childhood, they were inspired to write a novel told alternately between a black woman and a white woman.
What they didn’t expect was that their own discussions would be so difficult, testing the limits of their working relationship and friendship throughout the process.
“Black people, in general, are very suspicious of having this conversation because we talk a lot about race among ourselves because it’s such a central part of life,” Pride said. “But when you meet a new white person, like I met Jo as a new friend, there’s, I think, a level of apprehension built in there as to where that person came from? family ?, what do they hear at the dinner table? What did they hear about black people growing up? Who are their other friends? What is their social circle? ”
Then there’s the anxiety of talking about race, Pride added.
“Are they going to have the tongue tied?” Are they going to be on the defensive? Will they become dismissive? she said. “So I think the reason a lot of these conversations aren’t happening is because of this weariness, at least from a black perspective.”
Fiction in action
When Pride and Piazza were developing the characters and writing “We’re Not Like Them,” they saw a lot of parallels between their story and their own experiences. Overall, the writing process made them best friends, they said.
“We wanted to talk about race in a way that doesn’t hit you over the head or preach to you,” Piazza said. “It’s a story about female friendship and how two women help each other grow up and live in the world. But we also bring race into the mix and we think it makes people feel. comfortable.”
Pride isn’t even sure the race would have appeared organically in their friendship without the help of the book. Piazza agrees.
“I was filled with too much pride. I’m like, I’ve written about politics, about finance… I’m going to figure out how to write about race,” Piazza said. “And it was so much more of a learning curve, both writing and talking about it. And I think that shows how difficult it has become in all of our national dialogue.”
Both said they ultimately wanted to put what they preach into practice: in tough times – in times when it’s hard or uncomfortable to carry on a conversation about race – to listen and get things done.
“We had to keep moving forward, delivering this book so that other people could do the same,” Pride said. “This end product and writing the story on the page could help other readers and people do the same things as us, in a way our characters have really become a proxy for us on the page, they have a hard time figuring out how to talk about race. And there are a lot of misunderstandings, apprehensions, fears and even blind spots. And these weren’t, I mean, not the same because the circumstances were different between Jo and I in real life and our characters, but the overall dynamic was [similar.]”
Piazza said it worked so far. Readers messaged, emailed and opened up to her and Pride, telling them they’ve contacted people they didn’t know how to speak with or fell out with about race. .
“It’s really a book that starts some tough conversations about race in America right now,” Piazza said. “And Christine and I wanted to come together as former colleagues, and also as friends, to create a very commercial and very accessible medium that would inspire people to have their own conversations about the breed.”