A Virtuous Ruby, Rachel Dolezal and the value of blackness

Ruby will be available on all platforms and in print exactly one month from today!

Ruby will be available on all platforms and in print exactly one month from today!

In the flurry of discussion about the Rachel Dolezal story, people have overlooked one big issue. I haven’t though. This issue has made me think of how much, in one hundred years time when I set A Virtuous Ruby, how little has changed. Dolezal is clearly a pathological liar, but the reception of her deception is what interests me. Many have gone out of their way to treat blackness with complete and utter contempt.

Media figures have postured that the blackness that Dolezal sought to appropriate could not possibly be something that a sane person would want to take on as worthwhile. I witnessed this treatment in the quizzical voices of journalists as they interviewed her parents. Their treatment reminded me of how my light-skinned character, Ruby Bledsoe chose to work and live as a black person in 1915 and of how she convinced her man, Adam Morson, to do the same.

When Ruby was on the contest circuit about three years ago, I would get comments saying things like, “Why shouldn’t she choose to be white?,” and “She should be proud she can pass.” And whenever I would express my surprise at these comments to other African Americans, sometimes they would say things like, “Yeah, Ruby had to be a little crazy.” Or “Why not pass as white if you can get away with it?”

So the overall narrative we are supposed to swallow from the Dolezal case seems to be, when in doubt, choose white. Never, ever choose black. That’s the losing team. Except Ruby knew a few things. She knew that the world she lived in would punish for choosing to be something she wasn’t. She knew that choosing white would mean distance from the family that she loved and was raised in. Ruby also knew that choosing whiteness would not help at all in her desire to stop lynchings from happening in the south. As a Christian, most importantly, she also knew that choosing the path that God put before her in the way she was perfectly knitted from Him , was the best way to accomplish those goals.

Part of A Virtuous Ruby was inspired by the soul-killing struggle of the main protagonist in James Weldon Johnson’s The Autobiography of an Ex-Colored Man. Johnson’s point, way back in 1912 allowed his protagonist to suffer throughout that novel to find a meaning and a purpose in life. When he thinks he’s found it at the end, by melting into the white world, he’s done. Johnson’s point was that blackness was not the bad, evil punishment from Ham that the larger world claimed for it to be.

Rachel Dolezal, bless her heart, knew the value of blackness, but she’s going to be made to pay for choosing the unpopular team. She could have done all of the work she wanted in her God-fashioned form. But I have a feeling she’ll be alright.

For real black women, this way that blackness is treated in the larger society is the reason why, at my institution, students have to take a year long class. The class prepares them, and indeed, arms them for with all of the good, positive, wonderful things that blackness is about, so that today’s young black women don’t have to waste one more moment wishing or hoping to be someone else. There are some who would say that my school is crazy for teaching such a class, but for those of us who teach the class, we hope that the students spread the word. That they talk to their parents about it. That they teach their little cousins and nieces, nephews and future children about it. From such a class, they can walk into the world as fully-armed Rubys—ready for anything and proud to be who they are.

Last night, I won the 2015 Breakout Author of the Year award from the AAMBC Literary Awards. Thank you all for your incredible support. I appreciate it so very much!

The nerd has to clean up every once in a while!  Thank you for your support!

The nerd has to clean up every once in a while! Thank you for your support!

My turn in The Brightest Day–“A Sweet Way to Freedom”

The esteemed Beverly Jenkins wrote the forward and she tells you all about Juneteenth!

The esteemed Beverly Jenkins wrote the forward and she tells you all about Juneteenth!

So excited to bring you a sneak peek of my story in The Brightest Day anthology, “A Sweet Way to Freedom” This anthology, featuring novellas centered the Juneteenth holiday, allowed for writers of African American historical romance come together to commemorate the occasion when the word of emancipation reached the last group of the formerly enslaved in Texas.  My story, “A Sweet Way to Freedom” introduces readers to Winslow, Georgia, the setting of my Migrations of the Heart series.  The romance is between Arlo Tucker, the town’s musician and bad boy, and the school teacher (who went to school at Milford College), Missouri Baxter.  Here’s a blurb and excerpt:

Blurb:

When Arlo Tucker stepped foot into the holier-than-thou Georgia hamlet of Winslow, all he wanted to do was profit from those who might want to have a drink in his good-time place. He did not imagine that, in their mutual loneliness, he would get all tied up with the new schoolteacher Missouri Baxter. He had a run of bad luck with women. They had some fun, but he surely didn’t mean to get her caught up in the family way.

In 1910, schoolteacher Missouri Baxter will not go back to her home town with a big belly all by herself. Arlo needs to come with her– as her husband. With God on her side, she’s got nine months to teach a most reluctant student an important lesson about what marriage meant to their people and show him “A Sweet Way to Freedom.”

Excerpt:

Arlo ran as fast as he could to the school house after Ruby and her sister came to his place in the woods to tell him what their mother had done. His vision of two women with big bellies fighting did not come to fruition though. He panted with relief when he reached the door of the schoolhouse and saw them in civil conversation with one another. Whew. But then Missy called him a nasty name.

Not like her at all, but not entirely unexpected. He had been down this pathway before, and always managed to negotiate his way away. Only this time, he didn’t want to be away. What could he do to help her to see that he was here now, even if he had been away for a while before?

Arlo moved to her side, to be right there for her but she backed off from him as if he were made of fire. Made sense now that he had burned her. That’s what happened to his women, no matter what his intentions. But he couldn’t stay away from her. He wouldn’t. “Missy, there’s no need for name calling. Ruby and them told me what was happening and I came to see what I could do.”

“Oh, Arlo.” The words of disappointment came from his big sister, filling the space between him and Missy.

Why were the two women he loved most in the world coming together? “Sissy. You should be at home resting. Really. Why are you here?”

“I got up from my bed of affliction to tell Miss Baxter of the board’s decision. We, we have to let her go when this school year is done.” His heart lurched in his chest at this news.

“Is there no end of foolishness in this town? You all are going to fire her for something that’s my fault?”

“I was there too, Arlo.” He loved that she gave him a slight smile. Not all her memories of him were bad. That was quite a change. For him.

“Really. This is just disgraceful. What’re you going to do about this?” Lona made it clear she didn’t care for their exchange just now. But Arlo wasn’t sure. Maybe the thing to do would be to take Missy somewhere away from this backwater gossipy town and set up his place somewhere else where folks weren’t so full of judgment.

“Do?” Missy shifted from one foot to another. “I don’t know if there is anything for him to do, Mrs. Bledsoe. You just fired me from my job.”

Ahh. He had to give Missy that. She was not only the most beautiful woman he had ever met; she could use her mind quick enough as a counterpoint. The feeling of her curves responding to him made him want to go back to those passionate times. She confirmed everything he thought about her when he first laid eyes on the schoolteacher last year. She was something amazing, like a bright star in the heavens.

“You paining me, Miss Baxter.”

“I don’t know what you mean, Mr. Tucker.”

“Anything? Nothing?”

She folded her arms, making her burden much more apparent. “For you to do.”

Yes, the women always got like that. Eyes narrowed, arms folded, mouth all twisted up in disarray. They always started one way with him, with willing smiles and stolen kisses. Only later did they have narrowed eyes when things got too rough …and complicated. “I don’t know about that, now. I may have a say or two in these things.”

“Oh, Arlo,” Lona said, a familiar refrain he had been hearing since he was knee high, “are you going to stand by this woman? Please say yes. I don’t want her to lose her only source of employment.”

“Stand by her? As I am now?”

“No, Arlo.” Lona stamped a thick ankle on the ground. She really should be at home, not here getting up into affairs that were no concern of hers. “You know what I mean. I mean marry her.”

“Marry her?” he echoed. He stood next to Missy, as his sister requested, not even realizing how tall she was next to him. Yes, something about her schoolteacher veneer made him want to take her by her thickened waist and…marry her. Right now.

Except her eyes, those dark eyes in her sweet, smooth brown skin—those eyes had already skewered him for a roast.

“I’m not looking to marry anybody.”

Wait. Had he said the words or had she said them? The words in his mind came out from between her lusciously pink, teasing lips. The lips of a Nubian goddess.

“What did you say?” His sister’s attention turned to the teacher now. Yes, Missy had spoken the words in his mind. Out loud. For his sister to hear.

What wounded more, that she knew what was in his mind already—even before he could think it—or that she didn’t want to marry him? Was it possible for one thing to wound more than another?

The  Brightest Day will be available on June 1 in as an e-book on Kindle, Nook and itunes.

The Brightest Day will be available in print in late summer 2015.

We need diverse romance

Last year, a few insightful authors of young adult fiction used the hash tag “We Need Diverse Books” to call attention to the small numbers of diverse characters in the realm of children and young adult books.  Their innovation in starting the hash tag only served to bring light to the fact that all of publishing needs to pay closer attention to being more inclusive of the stories that feature people of all colors, religions, abilities and sexual orientation.  In honor of her recently deceased grandmother, Nana (a.k.a. Josephine Minatee), author Kwana Jackson started her own hash tag (#WeNeedDiverseRomance) to call attention to these issues in the romance genre. Kwana has declared July 23 to be #WeNeedDiverseRomance day. We who have purchaed tee shirts will wear them at the national Romance Writers of America conference in New York. I have mine all ready to go.

The part that I’ve played in this endeavor is pretty obvious. Additionally, I’ve had the honor of being on a panel at RWA in New York to discuss this issue.  I just participated in one in Dallas at the RT convention to discuss how writers can write more diversity into their stories.  Jezebel has just published a very thorough, thoughtful article about the subject and I’m sharing it here.  Yes, I am in the article and they very kindly featured the cover of The Preacher’s Promise in it. However, I’m also sharing it in honor of Kwana’s Nana and all of the readers who have been waiting to read more stories that reflect them as well.

http://jezebel.com/inside-the-push-for-a-more-diverse-romance-genre-1705907470

Why March Smithson sings and my Mother’s Day Tribute

Some members of the family called her "Hidie" You'll understand why when you hear the song.

Some members of the family called her “Hidie” You’ll understand why when you hear the song.

Whenever I am asked about where my scene-stealing child character, March Smithson, came from, I’ve attributed the basic aspects of her character to my niece.  My niece and March were both born in the month of March and were both unsettled, busy active children. However, as the events in my most recent novel, The Mayor’s Mission, attest  March is a bit of prodigy.  She can sing.  Then I realized that March had another inspiration–my mother.

My mother was also born in March and had a singing talent.  She sometimes showcased that talent as part of a singing group organized by my musician father called “The Gift of Song.” The group,  mostly made up of members of my mother’s family, existed for about ten years and went all over the Pittsburgh area performing in churches and concert halls for most of the 1970’s.  My father is a scholar of this traditional African American folk music known as  spirituals or sometimes called slave songs.  Unfortunately, some also called them sorrow songs and  just after emancipation, people wanted to forget them.  Certain people at Fisk University realized the beauty in this music and organized ” The Fisk Jubilee Singers.” They toured around Europe in the 1870’s earning money to save the college and keep the songs alive. “The Gift of Song” was another one of those groups who helped to keep the spirituals alive.

Still, now in the 21st century, people are in danger of forgetting them. So in honor of my mother, I am posting a snippet of her best known solo “Ride the Chariot,” one of those clever songs that clearly had more than one meaning.

March Smithson’s adventures continue with events that change the shape of her life in the upcoming (June) The Representative’s Revolt. Her own love story comes later this year in The Songbird’s Stand.  There’s even a peek into who March becomes by in 1910 in my novella, “A Sweet Way to Freedom” part of The Brightest Day, which will release on June 1.  Don’t worry March fans. There’s plenty of her to come.

Happy Mother’s Day!

 

My Second Birthday

Two years! Time has gone by so fast!

Two years! Time has gone by so fast!

This first blog post of April represents the second birthday for this blog.  A lot has changed since then.  The main reason that I started to blog was to provide a platform to build awareness for my novels about the Bledsoe sisters set during the years of the Great Migration.  Well as some of you may know, that series will be published later this year by Samhain Publishing. The first book,  A Virtuous Ruby, went up for pre-order sale this week on several platforms. It will be available on July 14, 2015.

So as I celebrate my second birthday and look forward to the third, I’m listing the places interested people will be able to order Ruby before it’s published (it will come to your e-readers on the morning of July 14). If you are able to, please pre-order. It will help me look good with the publisher! I’ll update this list when I know more about the print version.

I’m also listing the blog posts that directly involve Ruby and her history to help some of you become acquainted with her.

Amazon: http://www.amazon.com/Virtuous-Ruby-Migrations-Heart-ebook/dp/B00VORJIIS/

Barnes and Noble: http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/a-virtuous-ruby-piper-huguley/1121695102?ean=9781619227415

Kobo: https://store.kobobooks.com/en-US/ebook/a-virtuous-ruby

Google Play: https://play.google.com/store/books/details/Piper_Huguley_A_Virtuous_Ruby?id=cAbQBwAAQBAJ

A Virtuous Ruby is also available in the iTunes store.

Some history of Ruby:

The Cover Reveal: http://piperhuguley.com/2014/12/18/meet-ruby-cover-reveal-of-a-virtuous-ruby/

Ruby as midwife: http://piperhuguley.com/2014/03/30/african-american-midwives-and-ruby-bledsoe-a-shining-pride/

The Great Migration: http://piperhuguley.com/2013/05/05/what-was-the-great-migration/

Thank you so much for all of your support!  I’m looking forward to the next year!