Kennedy Ryan shares a special post on the inspiration behind “Bruise,” the original piece written for her latest release Grip.
(Scroll to the end for the full poem & a signed paperback giveaway.)
“Am I all of your fears, wrapped in black skin?”
The cursor flashed a warning at the end of the line I’d just typed. Read on its own, the words seared the page, an incendiary challenge. A jagged line in the sand that could shove half my readers to one side, and half to the other. I needed to be careful. I wanted to be fearless. I had to be honest.
The hero of Grip, my latest release, Marlon James (Grip to his fans), is a rising hip-hop star, but he’s more than that. He’s a lyricist and a poet. He’s a black man, concerned about black men vulnerable to cops who should be protecting them. He admires officers who run toward danger when most of us run away.
He wonders what he can do to bridge the gap between the two.
I took several risks writing Grip, confronting, in the context of a love story, prejudices that are often blatant, but sometimes remain hidden even from ourselves. No issue weighed heavier on my mind than that of black v. blue. In the story, Grip gets stopped DWB. Driving While Black, for those unfamiliar. Probably somewhere else in mainstream romance, readers have sat behind the wheel in a black hero’s perspective, glanced in the rearview mirror, seen those blue lights flashing, and wrestled with the fear, frustration and anger born from years of being stopped for no reason…but I haven’t read it. And as I wrote it, I remembered my own husband’s accounts of being stopped most of his life; of him and his friends lying on their stomachs on the ground while their cars were searched. I recalled the first-hand accounts I’d read of black and Hispanic men, even in the last few months in LA, Grip’s hometown, stopped and searched so much more than their counterparts. But I also thought of my friend’s husband, a good cop, a good man who faced down fear every day to protect people like me. Of her anxiety when tragedy strikes, when travesties happen. Incidents that I watch on television from the safety of my couch while her husband wades knee-deep into danger.