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Tuesday, September 10, 2002

Fund-raiser Captures America’s Racial Richness

My fiction collection The Acorn Stories captured America’s racial diversity within a West Texas setting. My science fiction novel Degranon strictly used people of color for its characters.

The Acorn Gathering, a spin-off from The Acorn Stories, is a fund-raiser for cancer research, and it includes work by five other writers. Still, this new book also celebrates racial diversity.

Certain Native American tribes would gather acorns for use in medicine and foods. While many of them began gathering during the summer or fall, some tribes gathered acorns in winter, which is the premise behind the story I used to open the collection.

That story, “Finding Acorns in Winter,” blends together two narratives. One involves a Native American woman trying to encourage an elderly German woman who is recovering from breast cancer. The other involves the Native woman’s ancestor, finding acorns to keep her people from starving during a harsh winter.

Acorn gathering becomes a metaphor about helping people through the winters of their lives. That metaphor captures the book’s fund-raising goal.

Native American themes also appear in one of Bill Wetzel’s contributions to the collection. That story carries the rather long and unusual title “Nachos Are Green And Ducks Appear To Be Blue At Town Pump In Cut Bank, Montana.” Though looking through the eyes of an unscrupulous Indian, Wetzel focuses on the injustices of reservation life, and the problems that still confront young Native American men today.

Wetzel, a Blackfeet Indian, chose a simple love story for his other contribution. Timothy Morris Taylor also submitted a simple love story, with the possible complications of one character coming from a Catholic and Hispanic background, but the other coming from an Anglo and Baptist background.

Despite her residence in Damascus, Syria, Huda Orfali uses my Acorn, Texas, locations for one of her stories, placing the other two in places that could easily be in any town, or even some other country. The races of the characters are sometimes indefinite, in keeping with Orfali’s ability to capture universal longings, fears, and hopes. Texan Jan Chandler uses a sharp focus on a cast of two for both of her stories, but also captures universal themes with those characters. Shawna Chandler focuses on a Mexican family for her tragic and evocative story “The Flamenco Painter.”

I end the collection with “The Last Few And the First Few,” a story that finds a soldier and firefighter trying to repair his interracial relationship, his ties with his estranged father, and the lives that are disrupted by September 11. Despite the subject matter, it becomes an inspirational call for all Americans to bring hope to each other, returning the book to the theme of people “finding acorns” to help each other survive.

The stories deal with many other issues, of course including cancer. But those issues become common struggles that unite the racially diverse cast and show how they are ultimately more alike than different.

While helping with the fight against cancer, the other five authors have also helped me tap into the special sides of us that make us all human and make us all one.


Click here for more about The Acorn Gathering.

Click here for acorn recipes and related Native American history.