Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Controversial Clothing

The last several months I've been working on a new book called The Todd Chronicles, in which Todd MacBride, a quirky, creative undergrad at the University of Arizona, self-appoints himself to chronicle the case files of his criminal psych prof, Gen Ziegler. He sees himself as Watson to her Holmes. I'll tell you more about the book when it makes its debut later this month.

I admit, it's been a while since I went to college, so I had to do all sorts of research into current college life. For instance, in my day, I'd dined at a dismal college cafeteria. The U of A has two student centers with food courts, ethnic restaurants, etc.

Arizona is a fairly warm place, but it can get chilly at night, especially in the winter. In one scene I had Todd stopping at his dorm to don something warmer before going back out for the evening. I googled images of college students in outerwear. Most were wearing sweatshirts. So I went to the U of A store site to view their selection. Out of 18 sweatshirts, 12 had hoods. I recalled that every college student I'd known for the last ten years had at least one hoodie in their wardrobe. I wore one in college, for that matter, though we just called them sweatshirts at the time. And a hoodie seemed to absolutely fit Todd's character.

Then came the Trayvon Martin murder, along with the inane comment by pseudo-journalist Geraldo Riveria that African-American parents shouldn't let their teens wear hoodies lest they be mistaken for criminals. Which is like saying that if you allow teenage daughter to let her belly button show, she might be mistaken for a hooker, or if you let your teenage son wear his pants low, he might be mistaken for a plumber.

But suddenly the hoodie became a symbol for, depending whose side you're on, the urban perp or racial profiling. I asked myself if I should change Todd's cool weather clothing of choice to something else, instead of saying "hoodie" and risk pulling my readers out of the story. My editor, on reading the manuscript, voiced the same concern.

In the end, I decided that Todd would keep his hoodie. It was right for the college setting of the book. It was right for his character.

But, hey, if the reader stops to remember Trayvon Martin a moment, I don't think that's a bad thing. Better we shouldn't forget too soon.


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