Author Spotlight: Randi Pink talks ANGEL OF GREENWOOD
I'm honored to be taking part in Randi Pink's official blog tour for ANGEL OF GREENWOOD! As a native and resident of Birmingham, AL, Randi is also a proud student of University of Alabama at Birmingham’s creative writing program. With three novels under her belt, Randi leverages her unique experience with her southern roots when she writes. She is a mother, a wife, a writer, an advocate, a fighter, a friend, and so much more. Through a platform of encouragement, advice, and love, Randi loves connecting with the community around her and her loyal readers.
ANGEL OF GREENWOOD, her third novel, is a riveting YA historical set during the Greenwood Massacre of 1921. Published by Feiwel & Friends, you can find ANGEL OF GREENWOOD now wherever books are sold.
Randi Pink's The Angel of Greenwood is a historical YA novel that takes place during the Greenwood Massacre of 1921, in an area of Tulsa, OK, known as the "Black Wall Street."
Seventeen-year-old Isaiah Wilson is, on the surface, a town troublemaker, but is hiding that he is an avid reader and secret poet, never leaving home without his journal. A passionate follower of W.E.B. Du Bois, he believes that black people should rise up to claim their place as equals.
Sixteen-year-old Angel Hill is a loner, mostly disregarded by her peers as a goody-goody. Her father is dying, and her family’s financial situation is in turmoil. Also, as a loyal follower of Booker T. Washington, she believes, through education and tolerance, that black people should rise slowly and without forced conflict.
Though they’ve attended the same schools, Isaiah never noticed Angel as anything but a dorky, Bible toting church girl. Then their English teacher offers them a job on her mobile library, a three-wheel, two-seater bike. Angel can’t turn down the money and Isaiah is soon eager to be in such close quarters with Angel every afternoon.
But life changes on May 31, 1921 when a vicious white mob storms the community of Greenwood, leaving the town destroyed and thousands of residents displaced. Only then, Isaiah, Angel, and their peers realize who their real enemies are.
A Junior Library Guild Selection
A BuzzFeed "Historical Fiction Book That Will Start 2021 Off Right"
Hi, Randi! Welcome and congrats on Angel of Greenwood. Can you share a little about your story and the tragedy that inspired it?
Angel of Greenwood, at its core, is the story of two brilliant Black teenagers, Angel and Isaiah, walking, debating, sharing books and poetry, dancing, and eventually, falling in love in the summer of 1921. The haunting question of the novel- do they get to fall in love in peace – is, in and of itself, the tragedy that inspired it.
After Reconstruction, so many Black communities rose from the ashes of slavery. So many Americans used their tired hands to build something beautiful and simple for themselves and their families. They erected small slices of paradise where their children could live in peace. Greenwood District of Tulsa was one of those paradises.
Until, on May 31st, 1921, the Greenwood Race Massacre leveled the entire Greenwood District.
The tragedy is Angel and Isaiah, teenage residents of Greenwood, may not have the opportunity to do what every human being should have the right to do -- live, love and thrive in peace.
Angel of Greenwood is such a powerful read. I felt very connected to the characters as well as the time period. What is your best tip when it comes to gathering historical research and applying it to your story?
I think of historical fiction as carefully, and sometimes painstakingly, weaving characters into real life events. In that, I feel handcuffed to history. To me, this isn’t a task because I happen to love researching the past. I love it in the same way thousand-piece-puzzle-people love sitting at a coffee table for days and weeks and months. Like them, I know what the big picture looks like in the end. It is, after all, on the front of the box. But I need to see, and feel, the tiny pieces and figure out how the picture came to look that way.
The best tip I can give anyone writing historical fiction is, first, be curious. Then, be angry or frustrated or concerned or joyful or enter-emotion-here. Researching a historical fiction novel sometimes feels like chasing ghosts, especially if you’re writing around a historical event that has been purposefully covered up for nearly one-hundred-years like the Greenwood Race Massacre. It helps to feel. Emotion is gasoline in the tank. It keeps one going. In my humble opinion, anger is premium plus.
I'm a firm believer in the idea that every story teaches the writer something new, so what did writing Angel of Greenwood teach you?
Angel of Greenwood taught me that, even in the most horrible of circumstances, the human spirit is the most powerful force of earth. I thought I knew that, but I did not understand.
You carved such a deep and realistic relationship between Angel and Isaiah. From a writing standpoint, did their opposing views make the romance more challenging to craft?
What a wonderful question! To me, writing Angel and Isaiah felt like writing the embodiments of W.E.B. Dubois and Booker T. Washington. Two different approaches with the same ultimate goal – rebuilding the Black community after hundreds of years of enslavement.
Angel and Isaiah’s debates were my favorite parts to write because both approaches are necessary to break apart a construct as engrained into society as human enslavement. Every idea with that ultimate goal in mind should be picked apart, analyzed and incorporated into the overall strategy. And the symbolism of Angel and Isaiah disagreeing so vehemently but still falling in love is a small triumph for me.
The enemy in Angel of Greenwood holds the torches that burn beautiful Greenwood. The enemy loots family-filled homes and thriving businesses. The enemy covers it all up to avoid personal responsibility. The enemy dumps Black people into mass graves that are just being exhumed one-hundred-years later.
Angel and Isaiah, like W.E.B. Dubois and Booker T. Washington, are rising out of hatred and debating ideas to advance their people. They’re the heroes as far as I’m concerned, and their passions bring them together in ways that frivolous things never could.
And finally, what’s the most important lesson you’ve learned so far in your writing/publishing career?
Treat people well.
We all rise and we all fall. We screw up and we straighten up. We write beautiful words sometimes and sometimes we do not. We push around bad takes and regret it, and then, we struggle to course correct. We are human beings, flawed and damaged, treat people well.
So many thanks go out to Randi for taking the time to tell us more about the work that went into ANGEL OF GREENWOOD, as well as for sharing tips and lessons she's learned along the way in her publishing journey. Be to sure to add ANGEL OF GREENWOOD to your Goodreads list, or (better yet!) order your copy (WRITE) NOW from retail sites like Amazon, Barnes & Noble, or request it at your library, or local independent bookstore!
And, as always,