‘The Delicate Dance’ details a local’s experience as Black in America

Paula Heariold-Kinney lives in our valley. She loves our beautiful desert community. And as her life became a little less active after moving with her husband from Oregon last year, she decided this relaxed setting was the perfect place to take the time to finally write the memoirs she knew from an early age that she had always wanted to write.

“Growing up, I always felt like I had to do some kind of tricky dance,” Heariold-Kinney said. “A dance of being black while living in a white environment…and as I started to write, all kinds of memories started pouring in.”

Her powerful memoir tells stories of her youth as she straddled two very different worlds.

“It goes back to when I was growing up in Des Moines, Iowa,” she said. “I wrote the book because I had seen my two young daughters go to school and have some of the same experiences I had. (People) hurt them so much. And I was like, ‘Well, you know, those kinds of situations, those challenges are still happening today.'”

She wrote her thesis on this specific subject: her experience of racial inequality. “I wondered if today’s students felt the same way I do. You know, the 60s, the 70s and then the 90s. And I was like, ‘Are black students today still feeling those insecurities and feeling like they’re not valued?’ I started thinking, and that’s what really pushed me. I thought, ‘Are these feelings still relevant to young black people today?’ I wanted to explore that.

Her daughters read the book and told her not only were they proud of her and loved the memoir, but that they had learned so much about her that they were unaware of it.

“I didn’t write the book from a victim’s perspective,” she said, “telling stories as if so many bad things had happened to me. I wrote it from the perspective how difficult it was to do this tricky dance growing up. My parents told me, ‘This is how you should behave. If you’re around white people, don’t talk too loud. Don’t laugh too loud.’ Always be careful. Be very careful.'”

Heariold-Kinney said living like this was hard.

“My very first experience where I even realized I was different was in a department store. You know, it’s so wonderful that little kids see themselves as little kids. They just gravitate toward one another. the other. And so, here we are at Sears and I see this cute little girl with blonde hair and a cute little dress and patent leather shoes, and she and I just looked at each other and we walked over to each other towards each other. We took each other’s hand because that’s what children do.”

The two little girls were happy to connect. Until the blonde girl’s mom takes her away. She told her daughter she couldn’t be friends with the little black girl, although she used a much more offensive term.

“You know, attitudes are something you learn,” Heariold-Kinney said. “Kids don’t grow up saying, ‘I don’t like white people. I don’t like black people. I don’t like Jews.'”

Heariold-Kinney said at the time that the incident shocked her – and then made her so sad. It was the first time she felt different – and it was just because of the color of her skin.

“It’s physical, it’s emotional and it’s very, very hurtful,” she said.

Writing the book was a cathartic experience. She was able to reflect and revisit certain memories and experiences that ended up shaping and influencing her life choices.

Her daughters are successful young women also living in California, and she and her husband are happy and grateful to have found a home here in the Coachella Valley.

“I hope people can read my book and be enlightened,” she said. “I hope we take a turn in understanding and that black kids growing up now don’t have to go through some of the things that I went through.”

These are important life lessons shared by an accomplished writer, teacher and community leader. Heariold-Kinney’s memoir is a very powerful book written with insight, compassion and hope. It is available on Amazon and locally here at Barnes and Noble.

Sandie Newton is an award-winning journalist who began her career in Los Angeles as the co-host of the nationally syndicated show “PM Magazine.” She went on to host numerous local and national shows like “Hollywood Insider” before becoming one of the original anchors of E! In 2017, she moved full-time to the desert to join NBC Palm Springs as an NBAres correspondent. She is also the host of the daily weekday show “Desert Living Now”.

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