All Articles Tagged "historical fiction"
Not many women cop to liking cheesy romance novels and it can be hard to find a good one with black characters that doesn’t involve raunchy details of how a former drug dealer or entertainer smacked it up, flipped it, and rubbed it down. But sometimes you just want to read a love story about a black knight and shining armor rescuing a woman who isn’t blond haired and blue eyed.
That’s where Beverly Jenkins comes on the scene. She’s hardly new to the writing world, with 30 novels under her belt, but people are just beginning to fully recognize the gap she’s filling with her historical fiction novels.
Her latest novel, Night Hawk, tells the love story of Ian Vance, a minor character from two of her earlier novels, and Maggie Freeman, a female lead of mixed African American and Kaw ancestry.
“I got a bit of push back because publishers didn’t seem to know what to make of my story,” Jenkins told USA Today. “It was based on the 19th-century, all-black townships of Kansas and it featured a Buffalo soldier and an Oberlin-educated schoolteacher. I think part of the problem was that when we Americans think 19th century, we think slavery, and this well-researched book featured a town of free people.”
In that way, Jenkins’ novels serve a dual purpose of giving African Americans a glimpse into parts of our history that are often overlooked, and allowing women to get caught up in the idea of old-time romance and love.Vivid is another of Jenkins’ novels and it highlights the history of 19th-century African-American female physicians, while Indigo, tells a love story between two characters leading up to the Civil War.
Despite initially receiving what she says were “enough rejections to paper my kitchen,” Jenkins seems to have found her niche.
Are you familiar with any of Beverly Jenkins’ books? Are you a fan of romance novels?
Brande Victorian is a blogger and culture writer in New York City. Follower her on Twitter at @be_vic.
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Wench by Dolen Perkins-Valdez
In a nutshell, this book is best described as Toni Morrison-Lite and I don’t mean that in a disparaging way at all. Personally, I adore Ms. Morrison’s pen and I eat up every layer she offers, but it does require a lot of brainpower to fully appreciate her work. Wench by Dolen Perkins-Valdez, on the other hand, is a book that is Morrison-esque, but without all the fuss–more accessible. The story is set in the 19th century and centers on four slave women who are in Ohio at a summer resort called Tawawa House. That was a real place folks! (More on that later.) Perkins-Valdez explores tough questions about “loving” one’s master, the sometimes complicated bond between slave woman and slave child and most of all, what it means to have sisterhood.
A Noteworthy Passage:
The below passage describes the reunion of two long lost sisters. It’s sweet in every sense of the word. Perkins-Valdez does a beautiful job of making this moment intimate, delicate and feminine.
Lizzie held fast to the woman, not believing him. Polly kissed her on the eyelids. Her lips were wet. She smelled like peaches, and Lizzie sucked the scent through her mouth.
The Most Delicious Things:
I love historical fiction. I love to read an author’s creative take on those little moments that are lost to history. In Wench Perkins-Valdez takes readers inside of Tawawa House, which was an actual resort in Ohio in the 1800s that hosted the southern slave masters who sometimes took their black slave “mistresses” (Such a misleading term, right? I mean how much consent was there in being your master’s other woman?) for the summer. The author paints some extraordinarily vivid pictures of the brutality and tenderness found in such a world.
Perkins-Valdez truly excels at putting readers in the head of the main character Lizzie. If you are someone who has ever wondered how you would have handled life back in the slavery days (Am I the only person who wonders about that?), Lizzie is the slave you just KNOW you would never be. I’ll let you read Wench and find out why that is, but once you learn more about her and her experiences and motivations, you feel like you understand her a bit more.
But can I blow your mind right quick? On the grounds of the former Tawawa House now stands Wilberforce University. Boom. Isn’t that something? There’s not much documentation about Tawawa House, even on the Wilberforce campus. You’ll find little more than a plaque with a couple vague lines about the property’s former use. Can you imagine the tales that will never be told from that place? Well, Dolen-Perkins helps us out with that.
Bits That Could Be A Tad Tastier:
I do not like the ending of Wench even though the ending makes perfect logical sense. Of course I won’t ruin it for you, but there is just something about the ending that leaves me unsatisfied. It’s kind of like eating at a restaurant and having a scrumptious appetizer brimming with spice and unexpected but heavenly textures, a delectable entree drizzled with long-simmered sauces and then they give you half a scoop of vanilla ice cream with a couple sprinkles in a plain ol’ bowl. You were just kinda expecting a little more, right? Right. Even with that though, I still like the book and I’d recommend it–hence it’s inclusion in the Delicious Ink series.
Go get a (copy of) Wench!