I loosely based Rosemont University, Alex’s college, on my own alma mater — Duke University. Like Rosemont, Duke is a private school. It’s expensive, it draws a lot of students from the Mid-Atlantic region (amongst others), and it has major public school rivalries in the form of UNC Chapel Hill and North Carolina State.
As a city of Rosemont local, Graham goes to “State” in the book. You might notice in the opening chapter of the book, Alex’s Lady Raiders are playing the Lady Wolves:
Alex trips over her own feet. She tries to get up, stumbles. Trips a second time. And by the time she’s really got her feet under her, the Lady Wolves already have the ball and are racing away towards the other end of the court. Alex follows them in an unbalanced, mad dash, nearly bowling over Ophelia on the way. She’s way behind the other team’s point guard, and the girl kisses in an easy lay-up for two before Alex even makes the key.
I was thinking of the NC State Wolf Pack when I wrote that bit. Later, I realized I should’ve saved the “Wolves” reference to the chapter where Graham, a “State” student, watches the Raiders beat her school badly. In my Dukie’s mind, “State” only means one thing, and that’s NC State.
Mixed Feelings / School Pride
Duke University gives me mixed feelings.
There’s so much privilege at Duke, but most of its students are oblivious to what they have. There’s racial privilege, as it’s a mostly white school, and there’s class privilege, because it’s an expensive, private school. When I attended in the 1990s and early 2000s, I was quite disillusioned by what I saw. I thought I was going to go to a school that was a meritocracy, filled with smart, interesting people. Instead, I found out that Duke students weren’t necessarily “smarter” than others; many of them have just had more advantages than the rest of us. As a kid from a small town in the Deep South with public school teachers for parents, the amount of wealth — and blindness to that wealth — really bugged me.
I think you can see some of my own discomfort reflected in the characters of Alex and Ophelia, both of whom would likely never have gotten into a school like Rosemont (or Duke) except for the fact that they were exceptional athletes.
Photo credit: Danny Navarro, Flickr