Saturday, June 30, 2012

Books I've Written

They Made Me A Rapist is a play in three acts about a man accused of rape under the affirmative consent law, a new law that requires people to enthusiastically consent to each aspect of a sexual encounter. Rape is legally defined as forcible sexual intercourse against a person's will. The affirmative consent law, which only applies to college campuses, does not require that sex be against a person's will, only that the person making the accusation claim that they did not enthusiastically consent to every aspect of a sexual encounter. The play addresses some of the concerns raised by this law, including the denial of due process to young men accused on a campus, the impact such an accusation can have on their lives, and the fact that the worst punishment a college can inflict is expulsion. To expel an innocent person for sexual assault is a life-changing punishment, because it will be almost impossible for such a person to gain admittance to another school. Their whole future is derailed. To expel a guilty person for sexual assault leaves an actual rapist with no criminal record free to commit further assualts.

Future Slave was inspired by two books-Black Slaveowners by Larry Koger, and The Devil's Arithmetic by Jane Yolen. The title of Black Slaveowners speaks for itself. The Devil's Arithmetic is a fantasy about a young Jewish girl who goes back in time to a Nazi concentration camp. The idea of time travel is a fascinating one-coupled with the thought of how a teenager today would cope with life in the past it is positively enthralling. After more than a decade working in public schools in the inner city, I found myself wondering how a black teenager from our world would handle life in the old south. Black Slaveowners and The Devil's Arithmetic gave me a frame to work with. My own experiences gave me some ideas. Future Slave is the result.

Briefly, Jokeem, a black teenager in the 21st century, is angered by a history lesson about Frederick Douglass. He wants his parents to complain to the school, but they are good friends with the history teacher and believe that history should be taught accurately. The next day, after a conversation with his mother about reparations for slavery, Jokeem tries to go to school but is involved in an incident with the police and hits his head. He wakes up as a slave in the old south. He learns that he belongs to a black woman who was once a slave herself, named Sally Seymour. She is a famous pastry cook and owns two slaves named Felix and Chloe. Jokeem becomes good friends with Felix and Chloe and begins to learn some surprising facts about slavery. I have created personal histories for the more obscure people in this story but with the exception of Jokeem, all the slaves and black slave owners are documented as such in Mr. Koger’s book. It is my hope that people who read the book will take away the message that racism is not confined to any one time or place or people and that we all need to work together if we ever hope to put this particular scourge of humanity behind us.

The Pardon is even more of a fantasy. It's based on the story of the thief who was crucified next to Jesus, but virtually nothing is known about this man, not even his name. He appears in the Gospel of Luke, chapter 23, verses 39-43, rebuking another thief crucified on the other side of Christ and asking Jesus to remember him when He comes into His kingdom. Jesus assures him that he will also be in Paradise. There are traditions about the thief, but this brief mention in the Bible is all that is recorded.
I've often wondered about the thief-who was he? Where did he come from? Did he really do something that bad, or was he in the wrong place at the wrong time? And what happened after he died? All these daydreams came together in the shape of a story about a brother I gave the thief-a brother so grieved by his death that he would do anything to revenge himself on the Christians. Weaving this brother through several events in the Bible gave me the opportunity to address the subject of forgiveness-how we all need it, how it's hard to ask for, and sometimes hardest of all to extend to ourselves. True repentance is impossible to measure from the outside of a person, yet it is the most life-changing experience anyone can go through.

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