Between the Lines: The True Friendship that Inspired the Novel
While I didn’t know Ann or Beverly when I was ten years old, I met them in college. And as I developed the story line for Between the Lines and knew I wanted three girls as my story characters, they came to mind in a flash. I became friends with Beverly and Ann at Eastern Michigan University on the heels of the Detroit Riots. Three years had passed since the tumultuous four days which left my beloved Detroit in tatters, and the air continued to be charged with racial tension–the likelihood of having friends of different races seemed all but a far-fetched dream. Then I moved into Putnam dormitory. Our room was a suite, connected by a shared bathroom and a telephone stand which swung between the two rooms. Ann (whom I renamed Crackers for Between the lines because of her zany personality) was all a tither. We had black suitemates. Not having been exposed to members of a different race other than the infants and toddlers my mom helped care for during a friend’s recent vacation, the idea of having mysterious roommates was fascinating.
The beginnings were tainted with resistance. Much animosity still existed between blacks and whites, and blacks especially, were ostracized on campus for having white friends. For this reason, Beverly and her roommate, Pat, warned us that they would be unable to speak to us outside of our dorm room. I was intimidated at first. Were they turning down our friendship?
For Ann, life was enthralling no matter what was going on, so the idea of having black roommates proved not only exciting, but their refusal to speak to us outside of our room’s four wall provided a challenge. How could we get into their inner circle?
Before too long, we were in. How? Ann simply flew into their room one day, announced herself and plopped down on Beverly’s bed, asking all sorts of questions I wanted answers to but was afraid to ask. Stupid questions as I look back, but ones that burned the inside of my brain at the same time. What’s life like for a black coed in 1970? Can I touch your hair? Where do you live? What different foods do you eat? Does dancing come natural to you? Do you hate me because I’m white? Stereotypical trivialities, but important, nonetheless. We wanted to connect.
Turned out we all had questions, not just about life with a different skin color, but about all life’s secrets. Forty-five years later, we are still unearthing life’s mysteries. The depth of our friendship has spanned decades…we still know each other just as well, love each other just as much, and recognize the power of enduring friendship.