Justice. More than a word.

by Julie, sitting with a heavy heart in Somerville

I love writing cozies, and reading them. There are two primary reasons for that. The first is the community. World building for a cozy is about more than making a place where crime happens. It’s building a cast of characters who people want to visit. It’s about building a community that people care about. It’s about understanding the human dynamics, and frailties, that are part of that community. I think of my characters like a repertory company who all play a role in the story I’m telling. In my Garden Squad series, though Lilly Jayne is the center of the stories, the entire Garden Squad are vital to her world, and to the stories.

The second reason I love cozies and traditional mysteries is that justice is served. An action creates chaos in the world of the book, and by the end order is restored. Justice is served.

I’m working on book #4 in the series, and I’ve been thinking about my characters of Tamara and Warwick O’Connor. They are Black characters, navigating the world of Goosebush. In the manuscript I’m working on I’m introducing Tyrone, their son. Ty is 25, and visiting for the Thanksgiving holiday. I’ve been thinking about Ty, Warwick and Tamara a lot this week. When I create characters I do a lot of work on their backstory, work you’ll never read, but it’s the work I do that helps them stand out. This week I’ve been thinking about the Goosebush community. Did Warwick and Tamara have to have the talk with Tyrone? The talk that all young Black men get. The one that tells them to how to navigate a world that targets them? Does Tamara worry when he goes out? Does Warwick tell him not to wear a hoodie?

While we write fiction that is an escape for many, that does not make us less citizens of the world. I know that Black lives matter. I know that the work of being anti-racist goes beyond having diverse characters in my book. It requires me, it requires all of us, to dismantle the system that is keeping people oppressed. It requires taking a stand.

I’m glad that my books provide people with a few hours of escape. But we can’t escape from the work we all have to do to make this world a better place. That includes making the statement, which is not political but is about human dignity, that Black Lives Matter. And then doing the work that helps make that a reality, when for too many people it is not.

Did Warwick and Tamara have to have the talk with Ty? Probably. Even in Goosebush. And that, this week especially, breaks my heart.

Not sure where to start? The Wickeds are working on that as well. Here’s a few ideas.

Doing some research will bring you to a lot more resources that you can use to help make change. Because here’s the thing. Justice shouldn’t only happen in fiction.

28 Thoughts

  1. This was a great post, one that made me stop and think about the issues at hand, and the hard and unjust truth to them.

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  2. Some of my from childhood best friends are a different color than I am and I remember talking to one of the mom’s and having her say that her children could not go out at night or be in certain areas without her worrying about them. It concerned me then and makes me sad now. Dr. King’s Dream is not yet, but hopefully someday it will happen. For now, seems like each of us has the option of how we respond: with hatred or with love. You are so right, justice should not happen just for characters in books.

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  3. Thank you, Julie, for a very thoughtful post. My friends of color are really agonizing over this, as am I. I’ve been watching the whole race issue since I was child (a long time ago) and it distresses me that so little has changed.

    It’s refreshing to see characters with different ethnic backgrounds treated no differently than other characters. I love when I discover half way through a book that a character is Afro-American.

    Thank you Julie, for adding to the positives all all characters.

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