Hi friends! So I have to say, I’m kinda super excited that I’ve got so many new awesome guests at ALBTALBS this month … I mean in general, but also for Black History Month. We’re always excited to make new friends and get different perspectives. As you see, Seressia Glass is a first timer so I hope you’ll be all chatty and friendly, yeah? 😀
I was a senior in high school when Martin Luther King Jr’s birthday became a national holiday. Atlanta had a whole series of celebrations planned, including a “Living the Dream” essay contest for students. My dreams then were simple and filled with all the naiveté of a pre-adult: a cool in-town apartment, a guitarist boyfriend, a loveable mutt, and a living as a full-time writer. I had other dreams too. Dreams of being accepted for who I was instead of what I was. Dreams of not being a statistic, not following in my mother’s footsteps. Dreams of, as my grandmother put it, “living up to my name.”
So yes, I knew about dreams. I had already made several attempts at fiction writing including some absolutely horrible Duran Duran fanfic and an epic fantasy featuring three sisters. I knew that I wasn’t the only dreamer. Everyone has dreams, whether they are a CEO or a child hoping to be adopted. We all have dreams and that is one of the things that unites us.
That’s what I wrote about in my essay. How dreams, like love, is universal. How we have more in common than we don’t. How dreams give us hope and how hope gives us strength to do, and be, and try.
I won that essay contest. I got to meet Coretta Scott King and Bernice King. As I stood there with a happy confidence my teenaged self hadn’t felt in a long time, I realized that I had achieved a dream. I was a writer. I was able to share my work and touch people with my words. I wanted to keep on doing that—keeping reaching out with my words, keep touching hearts and minds, keep showing people that what we hope and dream and believe can bring us together.
It took another twelve years, but I became a published author in November 2000 with my first romance, an interracial love story entitled No Commitment Required. Realizing my dream wasn’t an end, it was only the beginning. I had more to learn, more to endure, more to strive for. My dream had facets and sometimes those facets shone brightly and other times it felt as if shards were chipped away from my soul in an effort to steal my shine. The dreams of acceptance, of making it, of being loved and happy and successful evolved as I evolved. It was hard; it still is. I write multicultural romance, yes, but I write about people. People who work, who hurt, who ache to be loved and accepted. They may not look like you, but that doesn’t mean that they are unrelatable, unknowable, other. My stories are love stories no matter who peoples them.
So it is disheartening to hear that readers can’t relate to my characters because they look different whether I am writing contemporary or paranormal romance or urban fantasy. It is especially disheartening when other authors with less melanin are lauded for writing characters that have peopled my books for the last fifteen years. It was disheartening to pitch an idea for a historical series only to be told that the industry already has a black author writing those as if there wasn’t room for another. Or when I first pitched my Shadowchasers urban fantasy series only to be told they wouldn’t know how to market my books. Or be told that black people don’t read paranormal romance as if it was a given that white people wouldn’t read them.
Times are changing, albeit slowly. My urban fantasy and paranormal romances inspired by Egyptian mythology have readers across color lines. Perhaps not in the numbers of my counterparts, but they are there. I met many others willing to learn more about my work while at the Coastal Magic Convention in Daytona Beach earlier this month. I’ll be speaking with other authors about the many shades of love at RWA in July.
I still have a dream. Sometimes it feels like a dream deferred. Sometimes I am disheartened, but I am nowhere near defeated. My dream still glows brightly, lighting my soul with the stories I still have to tell and share. Hopefully I can touch even more people through being here and present and visible. Because it is a universal truth that cannot be denied: we all have dreams and we can all relate to the search for love and acceptance. If I ever doubt myself and my ability, if I ever think to give up, I have but to remember January 13, 1986 when I met an icon and realized the power of my words.
Oh my gosh, Seressia, that is so cool so cool so cool! You guys!!! This is a picture of the certificate Seressia received for winning the essay contest.