Blue Hole Back Home, by Joy Jordan-Lake, became part of the Common Reader series at Amarillo College after being selected for the 2014-15 school year. The novel follows this year’s theme, “moral courage.”
On Nov. 10 and Nov. 11, Jordan-Lake’s visit consisted of a creative writing workshop, a Panhandle PBS segment taping, a reception at the Amarillo Museum of Art and a community lecture at the Globe-News Center for the Performing Arts.
“We want to be the kind of people who really believe that human beings are offered a second chance and mercy and resources to start over,” Jordan-Lake said. “There really can be something powerful and beautiful that happens to their lives.”
Jordan-Lake also talked about how her novel came together.
She mentioned that although fictitious, the novel is based on real events from her childhood. When she was a teenager, a family from Sri Lanka moved into her town, an all-white community, and were the victims of racism and discrimination for having darker skin and for simply being different.
In an act of hatred and racism, the Ku Klux Klan burned a cross on the family’s lawn, shattered windows and vandalized the family’s car.
Her friend, the family’s child, asked her why was this happening, why were they doing this to them. Jordan-Lake said she doesn’t remember what she replied.
It has haunted her, as well as times she wanted to speak up about the injustice her friend was going through but decided not to in an act of cowardice.
She decided to turn it into a short story, which later became her first novel, Blue Hole Back Home.
During her lecture, she mentioned how it is easier to turn our head away from conflict and pretend nothing is going on.
“If we don’t talk about the past, that’s when we’re in trouble,” Jordan-Lake said.
Izik Ochoa, a radiology major who attended the lecture, said he had a lot of interest in the topic.
“Racism can go all the way through the ages,” Ochoa said. “Getting involved (in school activities) makes you realize you don’t have to stereotype or judge a book by its cover.”
Brianna Hinders, an English major and winner of the 2014 Common Reader Writing Competition, won a chance to have lunch with Jordan-Lake and talk about moral courage.
Something she remembers from the conversation was how not doing anything about issues such as racism and lack of moral courage makes a negative difference.
Hinders said she enjoyed the lecture more than the book simply because she is a more “nonfiction person” and that it was “refreshing to see her viewpoint.” She described Jordan-Lake as a very “sweet and wonderful” person.
This is the first time a female author has been chosen. After Jordan-Lake’s lecture, Frank Sobey, an associate professor of English, announced Between Shades of Gray, by Ruta Sepetys, another female author, as the 2015 Common Reader.
Sobey said the common readers bring people together and emphasized the idea that the program is important for AC as the books and themes create empathy for others.
Ultimately, Blue Hole Back Home, is a novel about racism in an era where segregation is supposed to be prohibited and how it’s easier to turn away and pretend nothing going on, even as it’s witnessed.
“We can all be the bad guys,” Jordan-Lake said.