Saturday, July 23, 2011

Author Ivory Simone Talks About Her Novel ‘Havasu Means Blue Water’, Living in Bangkok and the “legacy of injustice”

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Lynnette Phillips - What inspired you to write Havasu Means Blue Water?

Ivory Simone - My family history. I grew up listening to my grandfather who told me stories about his grandfather--a black Indian who came out of slavery as a boy.  I found a 1780s census record with my great-great-grandfather's name and background information. The record confirms my grandfather's oral history was correct. This family history took on new meaning when I worked for a Native American Tribe years later. Both of these invents laid the foundation for Havasu Means Blue Water.

LP - Does "havasu" mean blue water?Ivory-Simone

IS - Yes, it does. In the Mojave language it means "blue water". One of the characters in the story is a descendant of a Mojave tribe decimated by disease and other anti-Indian government policies.

LP --Why should readers buy your book?

IS -- It's a snapshot of the cultural wars we see in the Southwest--in places like my home state of Arizona. The inhabitants of the fictional town of Wilburn, Arizona are threatened by outsiders. They have a history of crushing groups who are different. However, the violence unleashed against outsiders is also used against the women and children of the town. Hate is a monster that's never satisfied. When it runs out of enemies to eat, it'll start devouring its own. Havasu Means Blue Water is a cautionary tale about the price a society pays for remaining passive in the face of racial and cultural intolerance.

LP -- "The legacy of injustice" will be the topic in two author facebook chats that'll be held on July 10th and July 16th at 3:00 p.m. (EST). Why is this an important issue?

IS - I want people to think about what happens to a community when a grave injustice is allowed to fester. I want people to talk about what they can do to promote the healing of any festering wounds of injustice that divide and weaken their own communities. Justice is not optional--it's essential to the well-being of a community and its people.

LP -- The love between the two murdered victims, Mary Alice and Nathaniel Venerable, is central to the novel, why?

IS -- I believe love is the greatest force on earth. It's far greater than hate, far greater than the tyranny of violence. We first meet Mary Alice and Nathaniel as victims. However, I want readers to remember them for the deep love they shared. It's their love story that reaches out from the grave to influence the living, to propel events that bring about change.

LP -- Mother-daughter relationships are also explored quite a bit in the novel. The relationship between Lyla Amir, the heroine of the story and her mother and the relationship between Amber Goody and Bonnie Good, a dysfunctional daughter and mother--are both important threads in the plot. Why?

IS -- I'm a daughter and a mother of daughters. A daughter's relationship with her mother helps determine the type of women she'll grow-up to be. I wanted to show how certain acts and omissions mothers/women make in their lives shape the women their daughters become.

LP -- Lyla Amir is an unusual heroine. She's an Arab-American of mixed parentage (her mother is African-American) investigating the murder of a black farmer and his wife. Her heritage is one of the story lines that adds tension to events that unfold in the novel. Why did you make her Arab-American.

IS -- Lyla Amir's heritage is important because I believe Arab Americans now understand what Black Americans already know--what it feels like to be an undesireable "other". Lyla self-identifies as black but she has racially ambiguous features. This presents problems for her when she goes to Wilburn. It's her Arab heritage that becomes the source of hatred and conflict for her.

LP - The question of identity is also one of the issues Firestone Matise, the descendant of Mary Alice and Nathaniel Venerable, faces, too. Why?

IS -- I think people are quick to label others based on appearance alone. I wanted to challenge the notion we can know a person's history based on his or her racial profile. Racial stereotypes get in the way of Americans' ability to form positive relationships with one another. The browning of America will make such thinking a liability in the future. I believe that's a good thing in the long run

LP -- What do you want readers to know about Ivory Simone?

IS - I'm a writer and poet who dreams a lot. I have a vivid and active dream life that makes my journey in the world fascinating and sometimes strange.

LP -- What's it like living in Bangkok, Thailand?

IS -- There's never a dull moment. More importantly, I'm able to move about in relative safety and ease.

To read my review of ‘Havasu Means Blue Water’ and more about Ivory Simone follow this link.

See the Ebook Trailer for ‘Havasu Means Blue Water’

Thank you Ivory for talking with us and for your wonderful novel ‘Havasu Means Blue Water’

Lynnette Phillips

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