I had wondered whether you would ever write a story about a swap between characters of different ethnicities. I applaud you for making this one so tasteful and respectful in regards to racism. A lesser writer might have had the swapped characters proceed to act out their respective racial stereotypes, or worse, conclude at the end, “Wow, I’m not being treated that differently; I guess racism isn’t really that big a deal. In fact, I’m never going back to being black/white!” I hope it goes without saying that that would have been hugely insensitive and trivializing to the struggles faced by people of color, and I can’t tell you how much I appreciate that you didn’t go that route. My respect for you has grown immensely (and I already considered you a great writer!).
There’s a point in the first transformation scene (during the hair swap) where the perspective suddenly switches from Tori’s (“Just as her jaw dropped, her face began to darken in color too.”) to Laila’s (“Laila shuddered a second time, this time unleashing hair that was beginning to uncoil and turn straight”). As a reader, I got rather confused here; I wondered whether you had accidentally named the wrong character, and had to backtrack to find the point where the story stopped describing Tori’s change and moved on to Laila. I think a simple addition of text to remind us readers that we’re watching the other character now—e.g., “Meanwhile, Laila shuddered a second time…”—would make it a lot easier to follow the simultaneous transformations.
I also found a typo:
“She pointed her toes as she remained seated on the ground watching her *claves thicken and her knees pop and change shape.”
“I understand now and I promise I will do everything in my power to make more people understand.”
That was wonderful. A beautiful summary of what Tori gained from her experience and a perfect line to help wrap the story.