After finishing Ronne Hartfield’s Another Way Home, I was instantly reminded of another story I had previously read, concerning a similar topic. Written by Gregory Howard Williams, Life on the Color Line is a story of a boy finding his identity as a mixed race individual. Williams had spent his early childhood in Virginia believing that he was white. Yet, much to his dismay, he learns later that his father had been “passing” (using Hartfield’s terminology) as Italian. This revelation turned young Greg’s world upside down and led to more changes to come. The once prosperous, businessman and lady-killer Buster Williams lost everything, including his wife forcing him to move with his two young boys back to Indiana. Buster had grown up in Muncie, Indiana and thus could not hide his true identity. Now living with his mother, Buster wallowed in his failure, drinking and conning good will from charities, while his sons wrestled with life and identity.
Greg faced a great deal of prejudice during his life. He could have easily “passed” for a white child, but in the small community of Muncie this was an impossibility. Living in poverty with his wayward father, strict grandmother and trouble maker brother, Williams saw his only way out was through education. Eventually making his way through the dismal schools for African Americans, he finally was accepted to Ball State University. Money being tight, one of the basket ball coaches offered to help Greg get a scholarship. This dream ended when the coach found out through school records that Williams was considered black. Cut off from monetary resources, Greg struggled to maintain a job and go to school. Greg Williams attended an all African American High school, lived with a kind hearted African American woman (both brothers taken in after the death of their grandmother) and dated both Caucasian and African American women. Unlike Day Shepherd, who chose a racial side, Williams saw no need to choose and lived equally in the human constructed divisions.
One vivid memory of Williams was when he was a young man, now getting accustomed to living in Muncie and was making friends. During a normal afternoon, he turned on the television and saw the leader of the Ku Klux Klan at a rally, testifying against the horrors of interracial children. In that moment, Williams realized that the man was speaking about him and wondered if he was an abomination. This heart wrenching scene speaks to the atrocities of racism, but also makes the reader contemplate the Williams and Hartfield accounts. Another Way Home has its racial tensions in the stories of the Lehmann and Shepherd children, but seems to be missing in the accounts of the Rone children. Were their lives in the Southside of Chicago free of racial discrimination, was it a byproduct of inhabiting an urban area, or could the author have downplayed her own experiences in favor of telling her mother’s story? In any case, by tales (Another Way Home and Life on the Color Line) are moving records of interracial family history. Each story has its own voice and message to communicate, but both are poignant descriptions of Midwestern life in changing times.