Well, we’re trucking along into November, and we’ve got another Heritage Month post 🙂 I hope you guys are enjoying these! As you see we have T. J. Michaels today, so I hope you give her a warm welcome!
Growing up in the South while NOT growing up in the South
When I was growing up, I heard my mom occasionally talk about Native (North) American and Mexican relatives…but we never met any of them. Why? Because my entire immediate family had moved to California from Louisiana and other states loooonnngggg before I was ever born.
Many of you know that I proudly claim my Native American heritage. In fact, my kids have been powwow’ing and celebrating our ancestors since my oldest child was five. But there’s a whole lot more going on beneath the skin and I’d like to share some of it with you.
One day I spoke to my great-grandmother while I was at work. She passed away at 94 years of age in 2000. I said, “Grandma, tell me about your mom.” She said, “Well, she spoke that parlez-vous mess.” Okay, that clearly said, ‘French’ to me, and not in a happy way. But when I asked my great-grand about her mother’s race, she said, “She was black.” Well, that didn’t make much sense, but then a light bulb went on in my head — my great grandmother’s mother was born about 1870, barely five years after the Civil War. According to my mom, they used to attend powwow’s when my mom was little. Then suddenly, everything changed. The majority of the family left the south. No one would ever say why.
So I thought on it a little more. Great great grandma was married to a black man…and she was obviously not black. It was bad enough to be black in the South at that time, but to be Native American AND black? That was a no-no. It wasn’t okay to be a “nigger lover” either, regardless of race. Hell, people were still being shunned for marrying outside their race a hundred years later.
Though the reason my grandmother, grandfather, aunts, uncles and mom left Louisiana remains a mystery, I’m grateful that my family moved to San Francisco where my sisters and I were born. It gave all of us who came in the later generation a chance to see a truly diverse city. And I must say, growing up in that particular metropolitan city was amazing.
It gave us the chance to experience the old mixed with the new. For example, during the holidays everyone, and I mean EVERYONE gathered at Grandma Susie’s house. That meant the entire family, plus extended family (ex-wives and husbands who had children by current family members were always welcome), plus whoever they wanted to bring along.
For the old: We had, without fail, creole dishes that my grandmother had grown up enjoying. Now, keep in mind that my grandma’s grandmother’s name shows up on the 14th census of the U.S. with a birthday of ‘abt 1870’, so “poor man’s food” like certain bottom feeder seafoods, like shrimp and crab, were staples. Later, they stuck around as tradition after they got popular with the rest of the masses. So that meant gumbo, shrimp creole, crawfish bisque, hot water cornbread, black-eyed peas, collard or mustard greens with smoked or salted pork, cornbread stuffing with sage and chicken stock, plus the typical turkey, ham, and mac-n-cheese. And for dessert, there was peach cobbler, butter pound cake, pecan pie and the like.
For the new: My dad would occasionally throw down a mean lasagna. My mom would do up a shrimp and broccoli quiche. Aunts, uncles and cousins would bust out the fruit and whipped cream ambrosia. Someone would even bring bottled softdrinks to go up against the traditional fruit punch.
Everything was made from scratch. Grandma didn’t use boxed anything, ever. After all, she didn’t grow up eating food that came in a box or a can. So when she taught my mom and my aunts how to cook, they learned from scratch. When Grandma Susie taught me, I learned how to make all kinds of food without even measuring! And when I taught my kids, they learned the same way.
And at the holidays, while we don’t have much family where we live right now, we still gather and do the traditional fabulous grub. Just like grandma used to make.
Thanks for sharing with us, T. J.! And totally fitting for November, especially with Thanksgiving coming up on us in the States. <3
My darlings it is November! How did that happen?! Also, it’s the first Tuesday! >.> Yes. *koffs* So – it’s time for our Guest Author & A Giveaway feature! Today we have Yasmine Galenorn, she’s a first time guest at ALBTALBS so everyone give her a warm welcome! I also loved her answers, and I hope you do too.
So without further ado … your typical ALBTALBS Author Interview with Yasmine Galenorn! \o/
Which would you most like to go to? Ancient Greece, Rome, Egypt, China, Mesopotamia, Africa, or South America? Why?
Um…can I pick Finland? Because I have a special connection there—not by blood but by spirit. If not, then Mesopotamia, because I love the B52’s song. *grins*
Which fairy tale would you most like to be in? Least? Why (for both)?
Most: I’m picking Where the Wild Things Are. YES—I maintain it’s a modern fairy tale! I want to travel with Max to the island and meet the Wild Things. And some times, I want to stay there, because the concept of living on a magical island full of wild creatures who were also malleable sounds like a lot of fun.
Least: Cinderella. I don’t believe in Happily Ever After (though I do believe in Happy For Now), I don’t like housework, and I want my man to be an equal partner, not my rescuer. 😉
What’s the best book you read as a school assignment? Watership Down. It’s still my favorite book. I absolutely love it, and see it as modern myth. I had to contrast/compare it to the Odyssey in 9th grade. I still cry over the end, no matter how many times I’ve read it, and my favorite character is Fiver.
What do you think about clowns?
Do we even have to go there? *shudders* Have NEVER liked clowns. They freak me out. They invade your boundaries and space and then victim-blame you for being a poor sport when you tell them to back off. I can’t imagine being married to a clown. That would be a deal breaker.
Celebrity/Author death match – who would you most want to take on? [you don’t have to say why ;)]
Oh hell, I dunno. Alyssa Day. Because I love the woman and no matter how it came out, I’d be happy . *laughing*
What did you do with the money from your first royalty check?
Bought a new desk and chair and got my first tattoo! WAY back in 1998.
What items have to be close by when writing & not just the sensible stuff like research notes, but the other perhaps slightly goofy stuff (bowl of m&ms, stuffed animal, stress ball, pot of coffee).
Other than my notebooks, research, Daytimer, dozens of pens and other office supplies…there are a number of trinkets I love but the ONE constant throughout my writing life has been Miss Kitty, the porcelain kitty I’ve had since I was 7 years old (and that is…a little over four decades). I traded a necklace for her at school. She’s been my writing mascot ever since. I have a lot of other baubles and things, but Miss Kitty? She has to be there.
If you had to become a bear, which type would you choose? Why?
I LOVE BEARS I LOVE THIS QUESTION…*calms down* Okay…Brown bear. I love brown bears. The goddess I’m a priestess of created the bear in the Finnish traditions/mythos and names him Otso. Bear is tattooed on my arm. I have three cave bear teeth that are 20,000 years old. I have statues of bears—including a very large one in my yard. I have pictures of bears. I have stuffed bears—I love the Gund Snuffles bears and collect them. Oh, you wanted to know why? Because brown bears are…bears. Isn’t that enough reason?
A twisted fairy offers you perfect health. You’ll never be sick or get a migraine again. The catch is you’ll break a bone every three years until your 75th birthday. Nothing crippling, but still a break. (Anything from a femur to your pinky.) Do you take the offer? why or why not?
Um, sure. Considering that at most, I’d maybe, possibly, live 15 years after 75 years old, that’s five bones and none of them crippling? Okay. Fine. I won’t be going wind surfing or sky diving at that point. That’s fine. Even at my age, if all health concerns magically vanished until I was 75—sure.
If you were to become a spammer, what product would you peddle? And what would your message be? Come up with the most attention getting, creative, crazy thing. Yes, that’s a challenge.
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Tell us two truths and a lie. (The catch is you have to tell us what the lie is later in the comments)
I lived in a converted school bus and slept with a hatchet by my head.
I firmly believe I was an Egyptian Pharaoh in an earlier life.
I never went on a date with any of my boyfriends/girlfriends/husband (and former husband) before I got involved with them romantically.
If you could be a super hero what would your super hero name be? And what would your nemesis be named? What would both of your super powers be?
The Empress of Dark Sparklies. My powers would be the ability to enchant and delight, with the darkest of sparkly magic. And my nemesis would be Grumpy Conservo-Dude, who has the power to drain the magic out of any gathering, and the fun out of any situation.
If you could switch places with someone for 72 hours, whose life would you want to live?
Honestly? Nobody. If I loved it more than my own, I’d regret coming back. If I hated it, I’d never be able to talk to that person again without thinking, “I know too much about what their life is like.”
What five other authors do you think more people need to be reading? (You can assume you’re already on the list ;))
Who are you choosing for your zombie apocalypse team? [Real, then fictional?]
My friend Andrew. He’d be my choice for leader of the pack. If anybody can survive the zombie apocalypse, he can.
I’d be the brains.
Samwise—my husband—to run the underground communications/computer network.
Marc and Andria, my assistants—both strong and handy.
Carol, one of my best friends.
Gary Numan—my favorite singer because we’re going to need entertainment. *koffs*celebritycrush*koffs*
Leonard McCoy from Star Trek: He can cure anything with that tricorder.
Buffy: because she’s…Buffy.
Daryl from the Walking Dead: Because besides being eye candy, you have to love a guy who can shoot a good cross bow and have no remorse.
MacGyver: because he can create ANYTHING.
Han Solo: because HAN SHOT FIRST!
Thor: because he’s Thor, any other reason needed?
(Hey, you said ‘team’…to me a team means numbers!)
What a fun interview! But now I want to talk a little about Native American Indian Heritage month, and about how that relates to me. You might not know, but I’m (a significant) part Cherokee. I don’t talk about it much because honestly, I see it as just part of who I am. It doesn’t make me any more special or less special than someone who’s part Norwegian or part African American.
I’m one of those people who are kind of adrift about my family heritage. Most of the rest of my origin is Irish, but the honest truth is this: I don’t know much about a lot of my ancestors. I tried to investigate my Cherokee ancestry but my ancestors weren’t on the government rolls and that makes it difficult to pursue information.
The genealogy of my family wasn’t documented very well and with a great-grandma who outlived eight husbands, nobody really even knows what her original last name was, as far as I know. Our family? Not so close. Add to that, my blood father was my mother’s cousin (a long and involved story there. My mother left my stepfather for very good reasons, got pregnant with me, and then unfortunately went back to him)…and you begin to understand the complicated dynamics involved in my background.
However, I do know this: I grew up in a town where ethnicities weren’t accepted very well. I grew up hearing my stepfather refer to Native Americans as ‘warhoops’ (right in front of my mother and me), and Hispanics as ‘wetbacks.’ It didn’t make me ashamed of my background. In fact, his prejudice only served to make me leave that town and my family as soon as I could.
I also know that when my mother first married my stepfather, Grandma wouldn’t allow Mom to walk through the front door for a couple of years because she was part Cherokee. (Yes, I called—her Grandma. Blood related or not, she actually treated me pretty nicely though everybody knew I wasn’t actually H’s daughter. She didn’t take it out on me like he did—he abused me for just existing.)
Mom was forced to go through the back door or the ‘servant’s entrance.’ After my stepfather finally spoke up—two years later—and his brother and sister argued with Grandma, she relented. But two years of being relegated to ‘servant’ status affected my mother’s already low self-esteem and I don’t think she ever recovered. When I heard the story, it made me that much more determined that I’d never let anybody stop me from what I wanted to do, just because of who I was.
Once I left home, I don’t believe I’ve ever suffered discrimination because of my ethnic background. I’ve been discriminated against because of my weight, being tattooed, and to some degree—being bisexual—more than anything else.
But yes, that, and the whole dynamic of knowing what happened to my mother, did affect my writing. In my books, there are hate groups and racism, even though it’s within an urban fantasy setting.
While some things in my world are idealized, others are not. In Otherworld, same-sex marriage? Legal and no problem to most people. Alternative lifestyles and sexualities? Maybe not the norm but just a matter-of-fact presence. But discrimination exists, and not only among the humans. My D’Artigo Sisters’ father hates one of Camille’s husbands simply because of his heritage. He’s prejudiced. And it causes a rift and he pays a price in losing his daughters’ respect.
I approach the themes of ‘other-ness’ and discrimination from a world-centric POV rather than taking it down to one ethnicity. Because I see racism and discrimination in every group, in every country, every continent, every religion, every gathering of like-individuals. There will always be a few who browbeat those who aren’t part of the ‘us’ in the us-and-them. So my writing focuses on oddballs and misfits, and those who live—like I do—a little bit on the fringe. In fact, I truly don’t know if I believe in ‘normal’ as truly existing.
I’ve always been on the outside, always been a ‘misfit’ in the norms of society. And that has made me realize how important subculture becomes. It’s also made me think about how important it is that those of us in the subculture not become exclusive. We cannot allow ourselves to take on the characteristics of those who would make us feel less-than-human, less-than-acceptable—whether it be for our ethnic heritage, or our weight, or the way we choose to portray ourselves.
So, next time you see a heavily tattooed fat chick wearing retro-pinup clothing, before making quick assumptions about her, remember: that could easily be me. ~grins~
So tell me, how do you see yourself against what is thought of as ‘normal’ in society? I’m giving a mini-book basket to one commenter (must be USA, I’m sorry), including the first three books in the Otherworld Series, the first book in the Indigo Court Series, and the first book in my Chintz ‘n China series.
You all know how this goes! Guess – which one is the lie that she told? What crazy question do you want to ask Yasmine? (Or you know, a reasonable one. Or something about her books.) And go go GO!
It’s November! I can’t believe it! And we’re down to our final Smithsonian Heritage Month! Wow. So, it’s been a process this year, and … yes. I’ve loved learning more about authors though, and I’m glad I did this. Today to kick off Native American Heritage Month we have Isobel Carr! She writes historical romances. So everyone please give her a warm welcome. Especially as our first SAIHM guest!
Native American Heritage Month. Hmmm. I always feel a bit conflicted about these things, not because I think celebrating culture is bad, but because as an “Urban Indian”, I don’t really fit into the box the world has made for me (and I don’t want to!). I find it disturbing and insulting that when I fill out the census (good thing for my blood pressure that it’s only once a decade) that I’m confronted with a definition of my “race” that has nothing to do with my actual blood (half white, one quarter Cherokee, one quarter Oglala Sioux), it’s all about whether or not I “maintain cultural and religious ties” with my tribe/s. Um, no, no I don’t. I’m thousands of miles and two generations away from either of them. But that doesn’t change who and what I *am* (at least not IMO).
Urban Indians are something America doesn’t really acknowledge or know what to do with (but if you go out to Alcatraz on Indigenous People Day (aka Columbus Day to many of you), you’ll see hundreds of Urban Indians from all over the Bay Area (and often all over the country) assembled for a mini-Pow Wow and celebration of the occupation of Alcatraz and the spark it ignited among Indigenous people all over the nation. Much of the activism from the 1970s onward was an outgrowth of those people on that tiny island, and it’s a piece of American history I would greatly encourage everyone to be familiar with.
Anyone who is familiar with me and my books knows that I don’t draw upon my heritage as inspiration for my writing (at least not directly). I write Georgian set historicals more directly related to my Caucasian roots (English, Scottish, and Welsh on that side, mostly). But I do think being bi-racial influences my writing all the same. I’ve had a bi-racial hero (Gabriel in LORD SCANDAL, who’s half Turkish like my college BFF), and I’m drawn to and very aware of all the people of color who peppered Georgian England. There were thousands of free blacks in England, many acting as servants, others making their way as business owners, pugilists, clergymen, you name it. There was a Jewish quarter in London with deep roots in the city, and which produced very important historical figures such as Benjamin Disraeli. There were Asian people of various ethnicities, inducing a Chinese dock owner in London (I’ve been trying to find out more about him!) and an established East Indian population that ran quite a few public bath houses in London and offered “shampoos” (massages), as well as many, many Anglo-Indians, some of whom were members of the ton. I try to weave all of this into my books, because as a displaced urban person of color, I think it’s important to acknowledge that these people existed and that their lives and presence were a part of the place and time in which my books take place.
About the Author: Isobel Carr is the best-selling author of the Georgian-set League of Second Sons series. She grew up participating in a wide variety of historical reenactment clubs, which has given her an unusually personal perspective on history, along with a deep knowledge of the history of clothing. Currently, she lives in the San Francisco Bay Area with her Neapolitan Mastiff, Clancy, in a 1916 bungalow that she has no time to restore. You can find out more about Isobel on her website, Twitter: @IsobelCarr, FaceBook.
My gosh, friends, it’s November! How did that happen?! When?! [Shut up – I know, but you know what I mean :P]
… Probably I shouldn’t be online >.> I’ve been causing trouble everywhere. But! I wanted to let you know what on earth this “SAIHM” you’d be seeing this month meant. I know some people might mistake it for “SAHM” which … sooo not the same thing. (SAHM = Stay At Home Mome. SAIHM = Smithsonian American Indian Heritage Month.) Hey – I don’t pick the names. The Smithsonian (I’d imagine) does. If not … is it wrong I don’t care too much because it is just what it is?
And this is what it says on the Smithsonian page …
So yeah. Anyway! I just wanted to let you know what was up! >.> Especially since so many people still don’t know what “ALBTALBS” means… Or the name of this site… :X
I think you can imagine there aren’t that many Native American/American Indian romance writers or readers out there … so I’ve got a few people lined up, but if you are one, or know of anyone, I’d love to have them guest here! Please and thank you! 😀