Today we welcome author Andie J. Christopher to ALBTALBS! Andie joins us with a guest post for Smithsonian Hispanic Heritage Month, and we are thrilled to have her! We also hope you are enjoying our SHHM guest posts as much as we have. Please give Andie a warm ALBTALBS welcome!
White, Black, and Puerto Rican All Over
My mom is white. Specifically, her ancestors were Irish, French-Canadian, and German/Polish. My father was black, French, and Puerto Rican, although he identified simply as black. My paternal grandmother was a jazz singer who fluttered around the margins of fame for about sixty years. She smoked like a chimney, drank like a fish, married about as many times as Elizabeth Taylor, and had a wolfish laugh I’ll never forget. She also had an affair with a Puerto Rican musician during the 1950’s, which produced my father. My father never knew his father and grew up as the cherished child in a matriarchal household. (I think my grandmother would have enjoyed being referred to as a “matriarch.”)
I look like a walking version of one of those Benetton ads from the 1980’s.
My mother and father split up before I turned four, because he was mostly an abusive shit bag. Because of his shit baggery, I grew up with my mom’s family in Minnesota. The suburbs of Minneapolis, especially when I grew up there, were incredibly white. There were maybe four other people of color in my graduating class, none of them in honors and AP classes with me. So, while my mother was mindful of exposing me to as much black culture as possible, I grew up being the only person of color steeped in whiteness and borrowing from my mother’s white privilege. And I had to define my own ethnic identity for myself.
This process of defining myself on the inside has often been complicated by people wanting to define my racial and ethnic identity for me. People assume that I’m black, South American, and/or Middle Eastern; it still amazes me sometimes that people have to put everyone in a box. And, even though I’ve grown into an ethnic identity that I’m comfortable with–I refer to myself as mixed or biracial when rude people ask–I’m often jealous of people who have a clear conception of their own identities from childhood.
It took me a long time to figure out how to incorporate my Puerto Rican identity into my conception of self, because I had very little contact with a father who had a tenuous relationship with his own Latinx identity. But, unexpectedly, writing a Puerto Rican character helped me do that.
The One Night in South Beach series, which I write for Kensington/Lyrical Press is about a Cuban-American family settled in Miami. One of my best friends in college married into a Cuban-American family in Miami, and I spent a lot of time there around the wedding and visiting afterwards. I fell in love with Miami–the food, the beaches, the beautiful, brown people EVERYWHERE. And everyone was so connected with their culture in the way they lived. As someone who grew up an outsider in her own culture, I was incredibly attracted to the city and its residents. So, when I sat down to write a romance, I knew I wanted to set it there. And I knew the heroine was going to be from a Cuban-American family.
I’m not sure why, but the heroine of the second book in the series (Maya Pascual from Dusk Until Dawn) had to be dark-skinned and Puerto Rican. She just showed up that way in my head. And, even though books are for readers, something shifted inside of me when I was writing that book. By creating a character that had some similarities with me–shit bag father, skin tone, partial ethnicity–claiming my Puerto Rican identity started to feel much more natural. Living in Maya’s skin while I was writing and editing made me understand myself better because she knew exactly who she was.
So now when someone doesn’t take “mixed” or “biracial” as an answer when asking about my race, and I don’t feel like saying “annoyed” when someone asks, “What are you?” I feel more certitude when I say “white, black, and Puerto Rican all over.”
Bio: USA Today Bestselling author Andie J. Christopher writes edgy, funny, sexy contemporary romance. She grew up in a family of voracious readers, and picked up her first Harlequin Romance novel at age twelve when she’d finished reading everything else in her grandmother’s house. It was love at first read. It wasn’t too long before she started writing her own stories — her first heroine drank Campari and wore a lot of Esprit.
Although, she set aside writing fiction for a while, her love of romance novels stayed with her through college, law school, and multiple cross-country moves. During one long East Coast winter, she decided writing a book would be a good excuse to avoid braving the elements. It was love at first write. Her heroes are dirty-talking alphas, and her heroines traded Esprit for Free People. (None of them would turn down a Campari, though.)
For info on new releases, sales, and more, sign up for her newsletter.
Blurb for current release, Break of Day:
Carla Hernandez needs to drop off the glamorous Miami grid. Her aunt’s house in Havana seems the perfect place to get over being dumped by her fiancé—and figure out why she keeps messing up her life. But photojournalist Jonah Kane’s unexpected presence is one sizzling mistake she’s hungry to make.
Jonah thought his favorite Cuban refuge would help him get some badly-needed peace. Still, he’s ridden out way worse than the tropical storm trapping him with Carla. And he’s going to handle this spoiled little princess on his own dominant, seductive terms just until the storm is over. Too bad this sexy wild card only makes him only want more. And more . . .
Now Carla’s back home—but not quite alone. When her baby is born, she’s going to raise it on her own, no matter how much she still burns for Jonah. But Jonah can’t get over her irrepressible spirit or the passion they shared. And trying to walk away is only making things too hot to resist . . .
Enjoy Andie’s guest post? Then hope on over to your favorite retailer to purchase one of Andie’s amazing One Night in South Beach novels! If you love ALBTALBS (or even just like us) head on over to Amazon and shop our link. 😛