Words On A Page
Despite being deeply controversial, the novel had found its way to the top of the best-seller list. This was to be expected for a well known, best-selling author whose first four books had been wildly successful of which two had been made into blockbuster films. As he had grown more comfortable with his success, he had expanded his story lines.
The reaction had been unlike anything Steven could have written. There were protests, book burnings, gatherings, and boycotts, with many religious leaders speaking out against the vile book.
Talk shows buzzed about the books and the message, everyone had an opinion. Even the vice president had joined in, calling the book "filth" at a press conference. It seemed everyone had an opinion, much to the author’s dismay.
James Shutters, wearing his trademark bow-tie, had made his rounds at the rallies, protests, and gatherings. Whenever there was an injustice, James could be found, standing up for the oppressed. He had been more than willing to offer his thoughts while speaking at a local demonstration at Barnes and Noble:
“In this day and age, the fact that people could think like this, much less, write this garbage is just unacceptable. We can't let our children read this; this book is a threat to our society.”
The story was covered extensively by all of the major news networks. Stories of violence and outrage surfaced online as college students protested and held book burnings on campuses.
From his home, Steven McCann was on the phone with his agent, Jack Gibbons.
“I’m no racist, Jack, this is ridiculous. When do I get a chance to clear the air?”
“Relax Steve, we just need to let this die down some, and then we’ll schedule some interviews.”
“It’s fiction, has no one ever written fiction before? Where are the fans? Someone has to be buying these books.”
“It seems…” Jack’s voice trailed. “it seems that no one wants to come forward in support of the book Steve. They’re afraid of the backlash.”
Saying goodbye, Steven set the phone on the table and shook his head in disbelief. He walked over to the cherry wood bar in the den, pulling out the Maker's Mark and pouring a generous serving into the tumbler. I wrote a story, that is all. He thought back to the conversation with his agent. Backlash?
The sound of the television in the den caught his attention, as an animated protester in Atlanta was being interviewed on CNN:
"This book does nothing to help us move towards an equal society!"
"Sir, have you read the book?"
"I've read what I needed to read!"
What’s the point of protesting a book if you’re not even going to read it?Steve thought as he took a deep breath and changed the channel to Headline News, where UCLA students were organizing a book burning. Students were chanting in the background in a makeshift drum circle. A young man with a bandanna around his neck spoke to the cameras.
I don't need to see this kind of language! It should be against the law....It's like, so racist!
Unable to watch any longer, Steven punched the remote and the tv went blank. Racist....do people even know what that word means anymore? He picked up the disputed book, the first one of the first printed editions. He thumbed through the pages
The idea of the book had been floating around in his head for years. As a Georgia native, he had always closely watched race relations in the south. When he began writing the story, he wanted to portray the effects of bigotry from both sides, and he had not held back.
Taking place in a fictional Georgia town, David Thomas, the son of a wealthy white aristocrat had fallen for Nita Thompson, a girl from the other part of town who just so happened to be black. In the theme of Romeo and Juliet, the two fell deeply in love despite their family’s fierce objections.
Steven’s phone began buzzing on the bar. Seeing the number was blocked, he let it go to voicemail. He wasn't in the mood for another death threat tonight. It wouldn't bother him so much if it wasn't for his sleeping family upstairs. He went back to the book, flipping through pages until he found what he was looking for.
Is it true David?
The couple found that Nita’s descendants had actually been slaves on the Thomas plantation. Their problems deepen when David is brutally beaten one night after dropping Nita off at her house.
The town had come under siege, and was now its own worst enemy. Blood was in the air….
On the brink of a race war, the small town braces for violence. Sides are taken as tensions escalate. Justice was demanded for David, who had fallen into a coma. The language was strong, vulgar at times with slurs and names being tossed around between characters. Steven's editor had suggested cleaning it up but he had refused; he wanted the book to be real.
He refilled his glass, the effects of the bourbon finding its mark. Then flopping back into his leather recliner, Steven didn't notice the activity developing out in the street.
With David is in the hospital, clinging to life, Nita’s brother Jared, was found hanging from a tree. Any semblance of peace is forgotten as a war ensues...
The thrower of the Molotov cocktails was never identified. The suspects were estimated to be around 15-25 people, maybe more before police arrived. At that point the damage was irreversible. With his house on fire, Steven rushed to the steps to gather his wife and two daughters, but instead was punched and dragged out of his home and savagely beaten for the words he had written.
Under the dancing glow of the flames, the mob had taken turns kicking and punching the author, failing to notice the screams from within. Steven's wife and children had narrowly escaped the house, collapsing outside after suffering from smoke inhalation. As the fire department would later report, the books in the library had acted as kindling causing the fire to spread within minutes.
When authorities arrived, the mob was fleeing. Few were apprehended, the crowd scattered in all directions as the house was fully engulfed with flames. On the lawn, Steven lay bloodied and unconscious, his wife and crying children by his side.
Over the course of the next few days and weeks, the story dominated the media as few others had in the last decade. In the world of 24 hour news streams the story received national attention and refused to go away. Talk shows discussed and bloggers typed as everyone weighed in on the sensational story. A well known author pulled out of his home and left for dead in front of his burning house.
As details emerged, Steven’s family came forward. His wife was the first to speak out and when she did the story only gained more attention. Viewers were shocked as she spoke of her husband and their struggles as an interracial couple, she held back tears as she was overcome with emotion.
Her husband had written the book to expose the ugly side of racial relations, instead it had brought hate to their doorstep. in between tears, she spoke how her husband may never walk again, all because of a story he had written, a fictional story, that had been misunderstood while its message ignored.