A. Breeze Harper's Highly Anticipated Novel, Scars
Sense Publishers published the book Scars: A Black Lesbian Experience in Rural White New England (2014). Sense Publishers is the perfect press for Scars. They embody exactly what Harper would like her novel to achieve: pleasurable reading with critical engagement with social issues wrapped up in novel form . Below is a description of Sense Publisher's social fiction series of which Scars will be included:
"The Social Fictions series emerges out of the arts-based research movement. The series includes full-length fiction books that are informed by social research but written in a literary/artistic form (novels, plays, and short story collections). Believing there is much to learn through fiction, the series only includes works written entirely in the literary medium adapted. Each book includes an academic introduction that explains the research and teaching that informs the book as well as how the book can be used in college courses. The books are underscored with social science or other scholarly perspectives and intended to be relevant to the lives of college students—to tap into important issues in the unique ways that artistic or literary forms can."
-Patricia Leavy, PhD
Sarah Juanita Dorsey specially painted the picture below that graced the cover for the upcoming novel. She is brilliant. The girl in the painting represents the main character, Savannah Penelope Sales.
Below is the full Preface for Scars. However, before you read the preface, A. Breeze Harper wanted to share this next tidbit with you.
Recently, I received a private email from one of my Sistah Vegan book fans. She was a Black identified Christian woman who had found out about Scars. Via a long email, she ultimately let me know that the premise of Scars alienated 'regular' Black girls like herself and that it was not 'our' story; 'our' being Black people's story or authentic way of being. Even though she has not read the book, I found it incredibly interesting as well as heartbreaking that she sent me an email that basically let me know she was disappointed in this new project. She sincerely thinks that the book's main character (a Black teen lesbian) is too 'controversial' and 'edgy.' Hence, 'regular' Black girls like her (heterosexual/heteronormative) were being marginalized and she felt that I should be using my prominent voice to write about more pressing and important issues affecting the Black community. So, essentially, this book hasn't even been published yet and I'm already receiving these types of messages.
Anyway, I wanted to share that tidbit with you because I am constantly amazed by how "Blackness" and authenticity amongst Black folk is a complex and controversial issue; how we are monitored when we fall outside of being a 'regular' Black person (which I assume means hetero-normative and Christian identified). It is worrisome and disturbing to think that there are many Black folk who honestly feel that the queer experience is not part of our history; that we're not part of the authentic community of Blackness in the USA. Even though this is her opinion, and the email she sent me was written respectfully and politely, it still hurt very deeply to read that. However, this is why I continue to write and do the work that I do. I feel like silence just creates more suffering and pain, so my writing becomes a platform to discuss these issues that are taboo for so many, including not just homosexuality, but also how whiteness and internalized racism in the USA affects the emotional and physical health of everyone-- not just people color. I welcome you to read the preface to Scars.
Preface for Scars
Scars is a novel about whiteness, racism, and breaking past the normative boundaries of heterosexuality, as experienced through eighteen year old Savannah Penelope Sales. Savannah is a Black girl, born and raised in a white, working class, and rural New England town. She is in denial of her lesbian sexuality, harbors internalized racism about her body, and is ashamed of being poor. She lives with her ailing mother whose Emphysema is a symptom of a mysterious past of suffering and sacrifice that Savannah is not privy to. When Savannah takes her first trip to a major metropolitan city for two days, she never imagines how it will affect her return back home to her mother... or her capacity to not only love herself, but also those who she thought were her enemies. Scars is about the journey of friends and family who love Savannah and try to help her heal, all while they too battle their own wounds and scars of being part of multiple systems of oppression and power. Ultimately, Scars makes visible the psychological trauma and scarring that legacies of colonialism have caused to both the descendants of the colonized and the colonizer... and the potential for healing and reconciliation for everyone willing to embark on the journey.
As a work of social fiction born out of years of critical race, Black feminist, and critical whiteness studies scholarship, Scars engages the reader to think about USA culture through the lens of race, whiteness, working-class sensibilities, sexual orientation, and how rural geography influences identity consciousness. What makes this novel unique its emphasis on Black and lesbian teen experience of whiteness and racism within rural geographies. Often, interrogations of whiteness and socio-economic class are left out of fictional literature within popular LGBTQ literature. My intention with Scars is to fill this gap by creating emotionally intense dialogues among four primary characters: Savannah Penelope Sales, Davis Allen, Esperanza Perez, and Erick Roberts.
Born out of my Dartmouth College thesis social research in feminist geography, award winning Masters work at Harvard University, and my dissertation work at the University of California-Davis, Scars emphasizes how rural geographies of whiteness can impact the consciousness and young identity development of non-white youth who seemingly 'don't belong' in rural settings of whiteness and hetero-normativity; yet, the reader sees during Savannah's trip to her first major metropolitan city, she is very much out of place. Furthermore, Savannah contrasts the mainstream media stereotype that the "authentic Black experience” is from heterosexual Blacks raised in predominantly urban landscapes. Even though the critical theory in this novel has been translated into creative writing format, it is notable that Scars was significantly influenced by a strong canon of Black critical thinkers and writers stemming back to W.E.B. DuBois. My choice to title the book Scars reflects the legacy of Black anti-colonialist Frantz Fanon and his intense dedication to making visible, the psychological trauma and scarring that colonialism, white supremacy, and racism have caused to both the colonized and the colonizer. Furthermore, this book continues the traditions of bell hooks, Audre Lorde, and Octavia Butler who have written extensively about the ‘the problem of the color line.’ However unlike Fanon and DuBois’ more hetero-normative and masculinist analyses, hooks, Lorde, and Butler have complicated the ‘problem of the color line’ with intersectional analysis of gender and sexual orientation.
Scars can be used as a springboard for discussion, self-reflection and social reflection for students enrolled in American Studies, Sociology, Women's Studies, Sexuality Studies, African American Studies, human geography, LGBTQ studies and critical whiteness studies courses, or it can be read entirely for pleasure. Please watch the video below of Dr. Harper giving a reading and critical race materialist analysis of Scars in May 2015 at University of Oregon-Eugene.
-A. Breeze Harper, PhD