Friday, April 12, 2013

Jackie Robinson Influences Character in Young Adult Novel Voices of the Locusts

Although Jackie Robinson was the first African-American to play Major League Baseball, he was so much more than the man who broke the MLB color barrier. He was a role model for millions of African-Americans, including 16-year-old DannyWashington, a character in Ron Hutchison’s period novel Voices of theLocusts.  

Danny idolizes the Brooklyn Dodger second baseman, and explains his passionate relationship with Robinson early in the story. Discussing his teacher’s seething racism—the bigoted teacher has openly mocked Danny in class—Danny tells two friends: “Dad says when people start calling me names to turn the other cheek,” Danny says. “To be non-violent like Jackie Robinson.”

Jack O’Brien, the story’s protagonist, reminds Danny of the pledge he has taken when the racist teacher ridicules Danny during a class discussion of major U.S. historical events:

            “Mr. Washington, can you tell the class what great historical events have been shaped by Negroes?” Mr. Azember walks to the window and looks out, his back to the class. “No hurry.
Take your time.”
            A painful silence falls over the classroom. No one breathes or clears their throat or squirms in their seat. Only the relentless ticking of the clock on the wall breaks the agonizing hush. As if to accentuate the torment of the moment, Mr. Azember begins to hum a little tune.
            Jack glances over at Danny. Grim lines of anger have frozen his friend’s face into ugliness. “Remember Jackie Robinson,” Jack whispers. “Turn the other cheek.”

Born to a family of sharecroppers, Jackie Robinson was signed by the Brooklyn Dodgers in 1947, ending the racial segregation that had relegated black players to the Negro leagues for six decades. In addition to his cultural impact, Robinson had an exceptional baseball career.
            Although Robinson was berated by both fans and teammates alike, he never lost his composure—he always managed to turn the other cheek, a lesson that served Danny Washington well. 

About Voices of the Locusts

Voices of the Locusts
Sixteen-year old Jack O’Brien has never known the bittersweet stint of love, and romance is the farthest thing from his mind as he and his family arrives at a remote U.S. Air Force outpost in Japan where Jack’s father is base commander. The year is 1948. Jack’s life changes after a chance encounter with Fujiko Kobaysi, a beautiful and enchanting 17-year-old Japanese girl. Jack is immediately smitten.
Fujiko’s traditional parents are overly protective and monitor her every move, and Jack and Fujiko meet secretly at her garden, located some distance from her village. There is a good reason why Fujiko’s parents are so protective and Jack is devastated when Fujiko tells him that her parents have promised her in marriage to an older man, a practice common throughout Asia at the time. The marriage is only a months away. Jack devises a cunning plan, one that will overshadow her arranged marriage and bring Fujiko and him together.
Playing against a backdrop of swirling post-War social change, Voices of the Locusts tells the story of three families – one black, one white, one Asian. Told in Jack’s voice in vivid and sometimes haunting detail, Jack and Fujiko are frustrated in their romantic quest by story characters coming to terms (often violently) with the emotional scars of World War II. 

Voices of the Locusts Book Excerpt

            A flutter of panic races through my body. It is instantly replaced by a sweep of joy, and a strange, unnatural lucidity overcomes me.
            Fujiko and I hesitate for what seems a small eternity, our eyes locked in a moment of mutual understanding. Finally, I lean in toward Fujiko and she leans in toward me. Our eyes close and our mouths touch in a whisper-soft kiss, a brief, gentle brush of lips.
            I pull back slowly, my heart racing, my head alive with all manner of strange, warm images. This must all be a dream. A wonderful, glorious dream. I don’t want to ever wake up.

About Ron Hutchison

Author Ron Hutchison
Ron Hutchison began writing fiction full time after a long career in journalism and public relations. Voices of the Locusts is his fourth novel. A multi-genre author, Hutchison’s choice of novels to write is determined not by genre, but by the weight of the story. Hutchison graduated from the University of Missouri in 1967 with a degree in journalism. He has worked as a reporter, editor, and columnist at newspapers in Texas, California, and Missouri. He was employed by a Fortune 100 company as a public relations executive, and later operated his own public relations agency. Hutchison attended high school in Japan, and much of his Voices of the Locusts is based on personal experience. Hutchison lives in Joplin, Missouri.