The school careers of two teenage girls who lived across town from each other - one black, one white - were altered by a court-ordered desegregation plan for Durham, NC in 1970. This plan thrust each of them involuntarily out of their comfort zones and into new racial landscapes. LaHoma and Cindy eventually both found themselves at the same high school from different sides of a court-ordered racial “balancing act.” Each moved from safe, familiar, insulated, and segregated communities to a wider, unknown, and potentially unsafe world with dissimilar “others.” Their experiences, recounted in alternating first person narratives, were the literal embodiment of desegregation policies, situated in a particular time and place. Their intertwining coming of age stories are part of a bigger story about America, education and race -- and about how the personal relates to the political.
This dual memoir covers their life trajectories from early school days to future careers working in global public health, challenging gender biases, racial inequities, and health disparities. LaHoma and Cindy tell their stories aware of the country's return to de facto school segregation, achieved through the long-term dismantling of policies that initially informed their school assignments. As adults, they consider the influence of school desegregation on their current lives and the value of bringing all of us into conversation about what is lost or gained when children go to school in black and white.