La Toya Hankins

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Meet La Toya Hankins, author of K-RHO: The Sweet Taste of Sisterhood.

La Toya serves as co-chair of Shades of Pride– organizer of the annual Triangle Black Pride. She’s an active supporter of LGBT issues and health disparities that affect her community. Her literary influences include Zora Neale Hurston, Walter Mosley, Anne Rice, and Pearl Cleage. Her motto, borrowed from Hurston, is: “I do not weep at the world, I am too busy sharpening my oyster knife.”

La Toya Hankins is a North Carolina native currently residing in Raleigh. A graduate of East Carolina University in Greenville, NC, she earned a Bachelor of Arts in Journalism with a minor in Political Science. In college, she became a member of Zeta Phi Beta Sorority and later served as second vice president for one of the largest graduate chapters in the state. She divides her free time between being a proud pet parent of a terrier named Neo and volunteering in her community.

 

Q&A ABOUT K-RHO

La Toya, what inspired you to write this book?

I didn’t see a piece of fiction that addressed the strength of sisterhood among African American sorority members. Sororities have helped thousands of women to overcome life’s difficulties and spark life-long friendships. I also wanted to focus on how those who identify as lesbians are treated. Too often members face backlash for being who they are. I wanted K-Rho to speak to that topic and to convey the idea that sisterhood should supersede sexuality. A person’s sexual identify shouldn’t be a reason to isolate them from the sisterhood.

What was the most challenging chapter or scene to write?

The most challenging scene was the rape scene. I researched all the relevant details concerning the medical and legal responses. Still, it was hard to channel the emotions the main character, Kiara, goes through and how her sorority sisters respond to the situation. I wrote the section to deal with the fact that gay bashing, when it comes to lesbians, often takes a different form than with gay males though it is no less brutal.

Who’s your favorite character?

My favorite character is Donna. While I identify more with Gloria, I never met a metaphor I didn’t like. Donna’s path to maturity mirrors so many of us. She transitions from being a college girl unable to act on the truth staring her in the face, to an adult who can accept her weaknesses and forgive others of theirs.

What’s your favorite chapter or scene?

My favorite chapter is when Kiara stands up for herself during her graduate sorority meeting. I felt like the words she spoke: “Judge me for my worth as a sorority sister, not on my sexuality.” This is something so many in sorority leadership positions need to hear.

What specific character, object, or activity did you “borrow” from your real life to place in K-Rho?

I borrowed my use of metaphors and placed them in the mouth of Gloria. I used a lot of my favorite sayings such as “falling out like a fainting goat.” Those who know and love me are used to random pieces of knowledge weaving themselves into my conversations.

Do you have ride-or-die soror besties like the characters Donna and Gloria?

I do have a soror who I met through the Delta Zeta chapter in Charlotte who has been there for me in good and bad times. She inspired the character Donna, minus the cursing.

What message do you want readers to grasp?

I want readers to know that sororities are more than the step shows and sordid stories of hazing and elitism. Membership allows women to form bonds and establish relationships that strengthen and inspire. As an only child, I cherish my sorority membership. It has given me a chance to experience sisterhood among women from ages 18 to 88. I don’t discount those who have had formed supportive relationships elsewhere. But to coin a corporate slogan, membership has its privileges.