At a book club recently the usual questions as to which parts of Shades of Gray are autobiographical
ensued. I enjoy those questions as they allow me to reflect upon a wonderful time in my life filled with
learning and love. Then, thrown into the mix like peanut butter in your basic chocolate chip cookie,
someone asked the question that sounded something like, “Wouldn’t you say that Olivia is a bit too
good? Can someone really be that good?” which was, of course, preceded by questions relating me to
the main character, Olivia, in my novel.
Oddly, I didn’t get my defenses in a tizzy, but instead reverted to a deep and thoughtful mindset as I
quickly pondered, as best you can ponder with fifteen sets of eyes on you, as to whether I am actually
Olivia or better yet just that good. Is anyone really that good? We have all fallen prey to a social faux
pas or a white lie here and there. And who doesn’t hope for world peace? I imagine, anyone who took
the time to get to know my students back then, when I taught in the ACE program, the program that
Shades of Gray is based on, would have done many of the things I did to generate success throughout
the “at risk” population. Anyone with a heart that is.
My response, and I am sticking with it, is that Olivia – and I – is not unrealistically good, but instead an
idealist. By definition an idealist is someone that rejects practical consideration in search of perfection.
I would like to believe that we all, not just fictional characters, have enough optimism within to at least
keep hope alive. So, perhaps, in my haste to claim myself, and my fictional counterpart, an idealist, I
should have prefaced it with, I am a person with a big heart. I know I am not alone in this utopian vision
of the world and I was wondering if you would care to join me.