Race, the color of skin, with all its complex layers of dissension and entanglement is embedded within the social fabric of America. For more than two centuries we’ve struggled between embracing it without scruples and condemning its inhumanity. We’ve used it for profit; laid blame on it for our misfortunes; slaughtered each other for the right to enslave, and passed on its prejudice from generation to generation. It is so ingrained in our ethos that race has become synonymous with the word «America». Even now at the dawn of the Twenty-first Century, we cannot let go of our racial bonds.
This real story, One Day She’ll Darken, is not about America as seen from abroad, but about America from within — from within a child who saw things differently.
It begins in the early 50’s in San Francisco, before Fauna Hodel was born. The 16 year-old daughter of a prominent, white California family became pregnant, insisting that the father was «Negro». Outraged by the audacity of their daughter and the stigma attached to a mixed-race child in their midst, the family quickly arranged to have the baby adopted by someone so removed from their social footprints that even the shadows disappeared.
Jimmie Lee Stokes, a simple, Black maid working in a Nevada casino and her common law husband, Chris Greenwade reluctantly agree to become the recipients of this new life since «all the arrangements have been made». They quickly travel to San Francisco to retrieve the baby from the hospital and discover that the unwanted mulatto baby girl is pinky-white with eyes blue — not what they expected as the progeny of an African-American father and a Caucasian mother. Yet the birth certificate clearly states that the father is «Negro».
Chris persuades Jimmie to accept this «angel from God». Soon, however, she is filled with resentment and overwhelmed by the problems of raising a white-skinned baby in her black community. Jimmie begins to drink heavily and is quickly abandoned by her husband. Alone, poor and black, she is forced to turn tricks to provide for her baby. The black woman and her white child spend the next twenty years struggling with extreme poverty, alcoholism, sexual abuse, pregnancy, marriage and death, all bound and knotted together by unforgiving prejudice.
The only world Fauna knew growing up was one in which she didn’t belong. She was a white-skinned girl in a black world with only her birth certificate to confirm her authenticity. Racism from both sides dominated her life, but not her spirit. Her only salvation was to find the truth about her mixed-race from the lone person who knew for sure — her biological mother, Tamar — the woman of her dreams.
Fauna set out to uncover the story that created this bizarre life and the reason why she was given away. Her search ends abruptly with a phone call from Tamar informing Fauna that her real father was not «Negro» at all. Having spent her life defending her African-American roots, Fauna is traumatized. Her life has been a lie and now she needs to know why.
Her journey takes her from the backwash of Reno to the Island of Oahu, where she finally meets Tamar, who explains her decision to have her first child raised by blacks. «In my little world, I believed that black people were made of far superior stuff than the whites I knew. I was embarrassed to be white.»
Unsatisfied with such a simple answer, Fauna probes further. Tamar reveals the secrets of her wealthy, powerful and darkly mysterious family and a tale so incredible that it makes Fauna’s own story pale in comparison. She discovers that her grandfather was involved in a sensational incest trial that may have resulted in her own birth and the murder and mutilation of numerous young women including the now infamous case of The Black Dahlia
Meanwhile Jimmie’s health is failing; she can’t let Fauna go — not for her real mother, nor for Fauna’s new husband. Forced to choose, Fauna returns to Jimmie. In the final hours, before the old woman dies, they both discover that the knots that tied them together grew from their hearts and could not be undone by ignorance, prejudice or hate.
One Day She’ll Darken is a story about conquering bigotry with unconditional love — love that is boundless, love that is color-blind.