As Hwan prepares for the Galactica, the galaxy’s version of the Olympics, he is confronted with the questions that he’s tried to ignore for so long.
Sudor Camp #5, Venus
In all the rippling darkness of expectation, it’s hard to quash the small light that is hope.
Hwan dances through the air, his hoverboots helping him float hundreds of feet above the nearest roof. The wind brushes his hair as he twirls and flips against the night sky. His boots spit colored fire. They leave trailing spirals of frenzied color that glow against the star-studded night. Below him, a throng of spectators crane their necks.
In the rare moments he glances down, Hwan sees mostly pale-haired, colorful-eyed spectators. His mouth tightens as that light inside him wanes. The music fades and he drifts down to the earth, away from the solace of air and wind. He lands, knees digging into the familiar red dirt. He covers his face with his hands, hiding from it all. For a moment, he is not Hwan from the forgotten mining town tucked away in the middle of nowhere. He is not Hwan, the ethnic boy. In the darkness, he is nothing and everything, an indefinable being.
The crowd erupts in cheers and whistles.
He uncovers his face and smiles, eyes smarting as lamps snap on in a flash of vicious, bright light. The crowd throngs him, the familiar smell of dirt and sweat and dust filling his nose. They embrace him, these people who would ignore him or curse him if it weren’t for his dancing. Hwan looks around him, searching for something that he suspects isn’t there. The Sheriff probably keeps watch over the dark-haired, dark-eyed people who look like Hwan. They’re probably working now, in this dense twilight. He imagines their deathly thin bodies toiling in the narrow shafts deep beneath the surface while their pale-haired counterparts are let off to watch a show.
He wonders if he would even recognize anyone. They are now blurry faces and faint voices in his memories. Shadows in the dusty town he left for the frenetic city above. The memories rise up as he breathes in the chalky air and dilapidated buildings, specters of an untouched past. Deep down, he wonders if he wants to remember or if he wants to forget, if he allows the memories to fall away.
Hwan brushes the quiet, uncomfortable thought away. He gets up from the dirt and embraces the crowd, covering the regret, the sadness, and the rage under the cheers raining down. Cameras whirl around the crowd, dark lenses focused on him. He ignores them and grins when he sees his mother. Irina's casual elegance and graceful movements make her stand out as much as Hwan in this crowd, though she is far more similar to them than to him. She wraps her arms around him and whispers, "Beautiful Solnishko.” Beautiful my sun. He inhales the familiar smell of chamomile tea and mint, memories wafting up with it.
A tumble into an arch of flame. Irina silhouetted by the moon. A lone ship leaving the dusty town for the stars above.
Hwan blinks and he is back, right where he started.
What does it mean to be a ‘model minority’? How does being a marginalized minority affect someone’s reputation in the media? Charlotte Yeung, a young author from Novelly’s Rising Voices Collective, joins our Youth Ambassadors for courageous conversations about race and stereotypes in her novella, “Rippling Fire.” In this story, Charlotte strikingly reveals how mental and emotional stress affects a competitive dancer from the mines as he prepares for a competition.
Read Nancy Martinez’s reflections on Charlotte’s interview on the blog:
As someone who had grown up in a low-income household, I have seen my community scramble to adjust to the changing economy. People continue to face an imbalance of resources. Families struggled to find gas stations that had lower prices, especially in urban cities, and the cost of living has risen overall. The price of groceries have gone up, along with the rent for apartments. Charlotte Yeung and our hosts bring a youth perspective to this national conversation.
Diverse Youth Voices. Amplified.
Novelly is a non-profit publisher building the largest digital library of literature by underrepresented youth, so that every student can feel seen and empowered by what they read.