"GMA's" Book Club pick for October is a powerful read about race, friendship, forgiveness and justice.
In "We Are Not Like Them," authors Christine Pride and Jo Piazza tell a story about two best friends whose relationship is tested when a shooting happens.
The novel follows the friendship of Jen, a white woman, and Riley, a Black woman. At the beginning of the book, a shooting upends their entire friendship, and for the first time, they have to confront how race divides them.
"These characters are at the center of the story in terms of kind of the collision course they're on," Pride told "Good Morning America" in an interview.
Going beyond the headlines
For the two authors, who met professionally in their careers -- Pride was Piazza's editor on her last novel, "Charlotte Walsh Likes to Win" -- it was important for them to tell a story that went beyond the headlines of the killings of unarmed Black men and women, and how these incidents affect people and their communities.
"We conceived of it [this book] in spring of 2018, but sadly, it feels like these police shootings of unarmed Black men and women come in these waves, right? We see just a rash of terrible headlines and there's a lull and you see a rash of terrible headlines and there's a lull," Pride said. "It was during one of those periods and it was really affecting, just really demoralizing as a Black woman and as an American -- and so we thought that this was a good way into the story, to take readers behind and beyond the headlines."
"I think that gets left behind so often in our national conversation and on social media, on Twitter, and we want to bring that back into the conversation," Piazza said.
Pride and Piazza said writing their book was a way to create a conversation about race in the U.S. and how these topics can impact friend groups.
In their book, the two main characters -- Jen and Riley -- are forced to confront race. Riley is a reporter for a local news station in Philadelphia. When Jen, her best friend, is faced with the news that her husband, a police officer, is involved in a shooting of an unarmed Black teenager, they both grapple with what role race plays in their friendship.
"We force them to have this conversation to confront these things," Pride said. "And then the real question to the book is: Will they? And when they do, what will be the aftermath?"
"I think that's a lot of people's fear and anxiety. Like if I do bring something up, how will this affect our relationship?" Pride added. "So that's real, and we certainly experienced it and our characters experienced it."
Piazza, who is white, and Pride, who is Black, said they had to learn to build trust with each other when it came to having conversations about race, which channeled into their characters.
With their novel, the writers said they want readers to better understand others.
"We really want readers to have a sense of awareness of a different perspective, and we think that's why we wrote the novel," Pride said. "If you can read this book, especially if you don't have a friend of another race or are not in diverse social circles or not having these conversations, this book can be a proxy and so that you leave with a different understanding."
Piazza added, "And to remind people of the power of both empathy and friendship to get us through really difficult times."
See more of our conversation below for some of Pride and Piazza's book recommendations.
What is the last book you read?
Piazza: The last really great fiction book that I read was "Great Circle" by Maggie Shipstead. It looks daunting, but it flies by. "Great Circle" is this sweeping epic journey -- so good, so good -- of the life story of a female pilot starting early in the 20th century and going essentially for the next hundred years. It taught me so much about what it took to be a female pilot in the early days of aviation. These women were so fierce and I feel like their stories are untold and I am a sucker for the untold stories of women.
Pride: "Three Girls from Bronzevville" by Dawn Turner. Speaking of lifelong friendships, it's about her and her younger sister and her best friend who they met when they were eight years old. [It's about] the twists and turns their lives take, which are very shocking and very dramatic. It's about how fate versus personal choice plays out in our lives and how race affects our trajectories and about friendship. It's just -- it's such a wonderful book.
What book inspired you both to become a writer, or in your case Christine, to become an editor?
Piazza: I go really far back when people ask me what inspired me to be a writer. And it wasn't one book, but it was just Judy Blume's books, which I read all up when I was little girl and they inspired me because her characters were like me.
Pride: I think for me, reading and a passion for reading starts when you're young and when I was young, there weren't a lot of Black characters starring in fiction. So an early memory I have is reading "Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry," which is a beautiful book -- I think of one of the first ones that I can remember that was about a Black girl and that really stuck with me. It just speaks to how powerful that is, and you can see yourself in a story that made such an impact that I can remember how I felt reading that story now.
What is an upcoming book that you're most excited to read this fall or winter?
Piazza: I am very, very excited for Kate Baer's new book.
Pride: She took mine!
Piazza: We just like a lot of the same things, I'm sorry! But Kate Baer -- I'm not a poetry person.
Pride: Me neither.
Piazza: But she is the first poet that just speaks to the experience of being a woman in the world.
Pride: I feel the same. I preordered this book in early August and it comes out in November. Her first book is a book that I just turn to time and time again. [Her poems] are so feminist and so empowering. I just adore her.
Aside from your novel, what is a book that everyone should read?
Pride: One of the reasons we wanted to write a novel is because we felt like it was an interesting way into the story using fiction and that it wasn't facts and figures and statistics and history about race and racial relations in America, even though all that is important. So if I can recommend a book that is a counterpoint to that, it is "the sum of us" by Heather McGhee, which is just a stunning, stunning work of nonfiction and traces race and race relations in America from its beginning until now.
Piazza: I think the first book that I read that made me start thinking about race in a different way was Toni Morrison's "The Bluest Eye." It was the first time I was like, "Oh my God, like there's so much I don't know and there's so much that I need to know." And that novel touched me and I go back to it a lot.
Who is an author that people should have on their radar?
Pride: One of my authors, Maisy Card -- I published her first book, "These Ghosts Are Family" last March at Simon and Schuster -- she just debuted as kind of a writer to watch. And so now she's working on her second book, which will come out hopefully in 2023.