Tag Archives: Smithsonian Heritage Month

SWHM Guest: Beverly Jenkins on Apache Warrior and Prophet Lozen

Hi friends! I’m beyond excited to welcome super star author Beverly Jenkins to ALBTALBS with a guest post for Smithsonian Women’s History Month (SWHM).

Lozen is my right hand … strong as a man, braver than most, and cunning in strategy. Lozen is a shield to her people.”

This quote, attributed to the great Apache War Leader Vicotorio describes his sister, Lozen, remembered by the Apache as a kick ass warrior and one of the most powerful medicine people in tribal history. She was born in the late 1840s into the Warm Springs band of the Chiricahua Apache who made their home in the mountains of what is now New Mexico. Some historians believe Lozen means, “Little Sister”, while others say Lozen is a war title given to a person who steals horses during a raid. Regardless of what her name means she is a legend. At a young age, she eschewed the traditional female lessons of basket making and child care to ride horses and learn to fight. She also vowed never to marry. As she grew older, she was as good with a knife as she was with a rifle. She was also a formidable horsewoman. During her coming of age spirit quest, Useen, the Apache Creator God gifted her with not only the power to heal wounds, but the ability to sense the enemy; a sixth sense that would prove invaluable in the Apache fight to remain a free people.

In 1861, Victorio led his people away from the San Carlos reservation and its horrible living and the Apache Wars began. The Chiricahua were among the last Native Americans to take up arms against the US government, and Victorio, with his sister Lozen at his side, eluded capture for years. At one point, the band reached the Rio Grande but the horses refused to enter the fast-moving waters. so Lozen plunged her horse in first, forced it to swim and the other mounts followed. She stole horses from the camps of Mexican soldiers, single-handedly led a group of women and children across the desert, and during the wars her abilities as both healer and shaman were called upon constantly.

During the summer of 1880, their band was fleeing an ambush by the US Army when a Mescalero woman went into labor. Lozen stayed behind to help with the birth while her brother and the others rode on. Vicotorio and seventy- eight braves were eventually captured and killed. The Apache believe had Lozen been with him to do her ritual sensing of the whereabouts of the soldiers he would have gone undetected. In the ritual, she would face the sky, raise her arms above her head, cup her hands and pray. She’d then move in a circle until she felt tingling in her hands and her palms turned purple. The strength of the tingling indicated both the direction and distance of the enemy. Many are convinced that had it not been for her successful predictions the US Army would have conquered the Apache years earlier.

After her brother’s death, Lozen rode with her uncle, the 90 – year old Chief Nana, and eventually the formidable and ghost like Geronimo. While with Geronimo, she added messenger and negotiator to her duties, and was often sent to broker peace and to barter for supplies with army representatives. When Geronimo finally surrendered on September 4, 1886, his band had been reduced to fifteen men, fourteen women, and six children – one of the women was Lozen. She and the others were shipped in cattle cars to Florida where they joined previously captured and removed Chiricahua, but conditions were so terrible and the public so outraged by them, the Apache were moved to Mount Vernon Barracks, Alabama. This warrior woman, who’d fearlessly spent her life fighting to preserve her people’s freedom died there of pneumonia, and was buried in an unmarked grave.

History may have forgotten Lozen, but the Apache, especially its women, have not.

Lozen is referenced in Ms. Jenkins’ novel Breathless. (Sorry, I couldn’t find an image of her that’s in the public domain.) 

BreathlessA strong-willed beauty finds herself in the arms of the handsome drifter from her past, in this second book in the sizzling series set in the Old West, from USA Today Bestselling Author Beverly Jenkins

As manager of one of the finest hotels in Arizona Territory, Portia Carmichael has respect and stability—qualities sorely missing from her harsh childhood. She refuses to jeopardize that by hitching herself to the wrong man. Suitors are plentiful, but none of them has ever looked quite as tempting as the family friend who just rode into town…and none has looked at her with such intensity and heat.

Duchess. That’s the nickname Kent Randolph gave Portia when she was a young girl. Now she’s a stunning, intelligent woman—and Kent has learned his share of hard lessons. After drifting through the West, he’s learned the value of a place to settle down, and in Portia’s arms he’s found that and more. But convincing her to trust him with her heart, not just her passion, will be the greatest challenge he’s known—and one he intends to win…

Have you read Breathless? Did you know about Lozen? Do you have a favorite female historical figure? We’d love to hear your thoughts! <3 [And remember to say “hi” to Beverly Jenkins!!! Eeee!!!] 

SNAHM: Yasmine Galenorn

Hi friends – I’m … still here. It’s been … a year, huh. Lots going on. Lots. Let’s just move right along. I have to say straight up, this post is a year late, and it’s on me. It is entirely, absolutely, 100% on me. My apologies. My apologies to you, my apologies to Ms. Galenorn. I messed up. I did want to share her post though – but also note – it was written almost a year ago, it should have gone up at that time. I will say, I definitely think it’s still relevant. (In fact, maybe it was meant to be – to be posted now considering…)

So without further ado … Yasmine Galenorn

I want to thank Limecello for asking me to write a blog post on diversity/being a writer of mixed background. The world of media’s been filled with a lot of controversy this year—well, every year, I guess, but this year I’ve noticed it more.

And I’ve been thinking about the concept of diversity in books, movies, etc., a lot because this relates to me directly—as both an author, and as someone who has a mixed heritage background. Maybe I don’t look it…my Irish side seems to comes out a lot stronger than my Cherokee in my looks…but yes, I am mixed blood and honestly, it has never played a big part in how I think about myself. Probably because of that very fact—nobody bothers me about it because hey, I look white, to be blunt. No, I get attacked in other ways.

It hit my mother though, right where it hurts most, with family. With her husband’s family (my stepfather). And I knew it hurt her because when she was alive, she talked to me about it. I’d like to say he stuck up for her, that he put a stop to his mother treating my mother like a second-class citizen, but I can’t, because he, himself, was a racist though he would never have accepted that fact. But honestly, when you marry someone who is part Native American and then refer to NAs as “warhoops” and Hispanics as “wetbacks”…I’m sorry, you’re racist. When you won’t let your wife drink any alcohol because she’s part Native American, you’re racist. And so on.

Anyway, I had a long, long post written with all sorts of examples and I deleted most of it and decided to rewrite…just a blunt post.

I’ve seen so much ugliness in the past few years on the net. I’ve been called a whore/slut because my female characters are unapologetically sexual and lead alternative lifestyles. I’ve been trash-talked as a writer because of my looks—because I’m fat and unapologetic about the way I choose to dress, about the fact that I have a wonderful marriage, and that I’m successful and not ashamed of myself. Apparently, size has something to do with how well the words come out of my brain, according to a subset of trolls. I’ve seen friends get death and rape threats due to speaking out about the nature of being a female who writes science fiction and fantasy.

Enough. Just. Enough.

I no longer care about making my valid arguments and refuting the idiots because: Diversity? Whether it be in gender, color, size, sexuality, it’s not going away, people. The “good old days with family values” only existed for a minor subset of society. Women were struggling for equality. People of color were struggling for equality. L/G/B/T people were struggling for equality. The only ones who weren’t struggling with some form of discrimination were white men.

So here’s the thing: yes, you have less power when you share that power around. You have less power over others. That doesn’t mean you don’t have the power to shape your life into awesome…

What does it mean? This:

  • It means you can’t beat your wife.
  • You can’t rape your date.
  • You can’t terrorize the neighbors because they’re black.
  • You can’t pass over someone for a job simply because he’s Cherokee.
  • You can’t spit on a woman entering the military because you think she can’t handle the training.
  • You can’t deny Jim and George the right to marry.
  • You can’t pass over Linda for a promotion just because she’s fat and you would rather promote the size 4 blond so you can ogle her boobs.
  • You can’t force the local pagans to attend your church or to stop practicing their religion.

IOW: You can’t deny others basic rights simply because you don’t like them, you don’t agree with their religion, or you think they won’t serve you or that they are less than you. And, to be blunt, if you have a problem with this, I suggest you reexamine your ethics because…sorry, you’re wrong.

Anyway…I’ve seen too much online over the years to make me truly ever trust anybody I don’t know personally. Because those anonymous trolls and flame baiters? They aren’t bots. They are real people. Maybe the neighbor next door. Maybe the person you pass on the street. And they’ll smile to your face, and turn around and harass and hound and attack in private when they think nobody’s watching. When they believe they can get away with it. They’re cowards, but they’re dangerous cowards because sometimes, they take their hatred into the streets with guns. Or they beat up their girlfriends. Or they bully a little black girl just because they can.

So ya know…Enough.

Take a deep breath and decide—what do you want people to remember you for when you’re gone? Do you want to make the world a better place? Start by speaking out when you hear someone making a racist joke. Don’t sit by while the guys in the locker room talk about date-rape. Just stop adding fuel to the fire or enabling it by remaining silent.

Maybe I’m preaching to the choir…but if the choir doesn’t keep singing, all of this crap will slide back into acceptability. And it will just go on. And on. We can change things…one person at a time. One family at a time. But it starts with us. With the person in the mirror.

Yasmine

SNAHM = Smithsonian Native American Heritage Month

Hi friends! Remember how I used to try to celebrate each month, line up guests, and do all the things?

Well, my “give a damn” broke a while ago, but I definitely still want to do something. Something that makes me happy though – that is positive, that isn’t a burden. And, allows for interaction.

So from now on, I’m going to start each Smithsonian Heritage Month with a post, a list, and an open call.

What do I mean? I’ll let you know when it is a Heritage Month.

Since this site is heavily romance slated, I also want to celebrate romance authors who are POC according to month. November is Native American Heritage Month. These are the authors *I* know to be [at least in part] Native American. Check out their books! Support these authors! 🙂

In alphabetical order:
Pamela Clare
Isobel Carr
Cynthia Eden
Yasmine Galenorn
T.J. Michaels
Sharon Sala
Dee Tenorio

If you know of any more please let me know! I’d love to add to my list – and be prepared for suggestions for future and other Smithsonian Heritage Month posts! <3

SWHM Guest: Cecilia London

My friends, March is almost over, and I’ve let Smithsonian Women’s History Month pass quietly. There will likely be some changes at ALBTALBS (and ideally a more usual schedule – that’d be a change of pace for sure…) – and some “retroactive” posts… but as you see, we have the fantastic Cecilia London guesting with us, and she’s got a double relevant post – discussing Women’s History Month as well as her books – one of which is currently free. Whee!

My earliest political memory is of drawing a mustache on Walter Mondale while my best friend drew a beard on Ronald Reagan. We had just been handed a special election copy of Weekly Reader. Don’t judge me, or her…we were seven and in parochial school. I hadn’t yet realized that my parents were moderate to liberal independents with rebellious voting tendencies that have only gotten more radical with age. I was convinced I was a Republican.

Flash forward a few years to eighth grade, when I took a highly questionable test on a school computer that declared me a liberal. Liberal? From everything I’d been told, that was a very dirty word. I wasn’t sure I wanted any part of it. But I embraced the results and zoomed head-on into high school.

By the time the 1992 elections came around, I knew the score. I’d watched the Hill-Thomas hearings. I’d gotten sick of seeing all those arrogant men acting like they owned the damn country. And I was ready to dedicate my life to public service. I wanted to be like my idols – Pat Schroeder, Geraldine Ferraro, Bella Abzug, Shirley Chisholm, Barbara Jordan – all the women I’d read about in the paper or seen on TV. I wanted to be a member of Congress.

I love political memorabilia.

Easier said than done, of course. I supported Jerry Brown up until the convention, when I finally admitted that Clinton was going to be the nominee. I had hope in Bill along with Senator-elect Carol Moseley Braun, who had scored a huge upset victory against Alan Dixon in the Democratic primary. I was a fresh faced, idealistic fifteen year old convinced that this so-called Year of the Woman and Clinton’s election could get us going…somewhere. It had to…right?

Hey, an old copy of the Chicago Tribune! I keep EVERYTHING. If I ever drop off the social media map without warning, please send someone to check on me. I’m likely buried in a pile of old newspapers and copies of Entertainment Weekly.

My parents and I visited Washington, D.C. in the summer of 1993. I was so excited. A friend of mine gave me a copy of Pat Schroeder’s first book (Champion of the Great American Family) as a joke since she’d gotten it at a book sale for fifty cents (it was not exactly a commercial success). Pat Schroeder was my idol. The idealist. The feminist. The woman who along with six others marched up the steps to the United States Senate demanding an inquiry into the accusations Anita Hill had made against Clarence Thomas. And I was determined to meet her.

Remember this? That’s then-Congresswoman Barbara Boxer leading the way.

(You can click on the photo for more information.)

Yes, I wanted to meet Pat Schroeder. And Marjorie Margolies-Mezvinsky, and Barbara Mikulski, and Patty Murray, and any other female member of Congress I could find. These women were my superstars, my celebrities, my inspiration. Sadly, Representative Schroeder was not in her office when I visited. Her staffers let me sit at her desk and my parents snapped a photo. They offered to have her call me at my hotel but (being the shy kid I was) I stupidly said that wasn’t necessary. To this day I wish I would have said yes. Who knows what that conversation might have been like?

Pat Schroeder declined to run for re-election in 1996. I was devastated. But I understood. She’d spent 24 years in the House. Progress had been made, but not much. She was one of the trailblazers, making it easier for other female candidates to run and win. But had anything in the promise of the Year of the Woman actually been achieved? Perhaps. But we have miles to go before we sleep.

So what’s the point of this piece? To drop some names, share some personal anecdotes, (eventually) plug my books? Whenever February and March roll around, I always wonder why some folks get up in arms about Black History Month and Women’s History Month. I don’t mean those of us who celebrate it. I mean those who feel such celebrations aren’t necessary.

Hopefully those of you reading this guest post have recognized all the names I’ve mentioned so far. But if you haven’t? That’s why we need Women’s History Month. It’s not just about female politicians and social activists (though they have driven a lot of this country’s political evolution) but inventors, writers, lawyers, architects, astronauts…and not just the ones that show up in mainstream history books. This is about more than Jeannette Rankin and Geraldine Ferraro and Shirley Chisholm…more than Fannie Lou Hamer and Toni Morrison and Sally Ride… it’s about all of those accomplishments that have been buried because the gatekeepers have deemed them to be insignificant.

I took women’s studies and African American history classes in college but never learned all the details of Chisholm’s historic 1972 presidential run until I was well out of law school. I had to seek the story out myself (in a wonderful documentary entitled Chisholm ’72: Unbought and Unbossed, which I highly recommend). And she is (IMHO) a relatively high profile figure in women’s history. This is the kind of information that should be taught in every high school American history class. And it is not.

Anyway…back to my story (and my books!). As I grew older, my political drive lessened but I remained interested in public policy. I went to law school, dedicated to serving the public in some capacity. But I began to realize that the gamesmanship required to gain elected office wasn’t something I was willing to do. I decided to work in the public sector in a non-political capacity. But my creativity was sapped…until October 2013.

I was still a dreamer in law school but those three years force you to process your thoughts in a different way. I stopped writing poetry and short stories to focus on briefs and motions but had a very active imagination. And I created these two vibrant characters in my head – a male and female member of Congress on opposite sides of the aisle. But I had no vehicle for them. They languished in my daydreams for almost ten years until I had a food poisoning-induced dream in which I pictured them as valiant patriots fighting a fascist regime.

The overall plotline of my series has evolved but thanks to that questionable barbecue, The Bellator Saga was born. And despite current events, I assure you I am not writing metafiction (so far as I can tell).

In a way, Caroline Gerard (my heroine) is an idealized version of the public figure I’d hoped to become back in high school. Moderately liberal, fiercely passionate about human and civil rights, genuinely kind and decent. Her romantic lead may at first appear to be a caricature – millionaire, playboy, Republican, silver fox (if you dig the older dudes like I do) – but…

Gratuitous teaser included in guest post at no extra charge!

I wanted to humanize my characters. Make them real. Because we all have foibles. We all have flaws. It doesn’t matter if we’re high profile or not. We’re all just people. Granted, Caroline and Jack are larger than life in any number of ways, but I hope that they’re relatable.

I wanted to explore a few deeper issues in The Bellator Saga – which is best described as It Can’t Happen Here blended with, uh, a lot of sex. What would happen if a fascist were allowed to take office? How easily could it happen? How would Americans react? And more importantly, how would those with money, power, and influence (like Caroline and Jack) respond when dissent is batted down viciously (though clandestinely)?

It would be easy for a person of privilege to flee instead of fighting, but Caroline chooses to throw down the gauntlet. As I developed the plotline it was vitally important that she not only be a badass (in the intellectual, politically active sense) but a compassionate, loyal person who would defend her ideals and her country until the very end. It was also important that she and Jack have an egalitarian relationship grounded in a deep emotional connection and an undying passion for one another.

The series is different; I will grant you that. The first two books, Dissident and Conscience, are told in a non-linear fashion, with parallel present/past timelines converging at the end of book two. The journey continues in Sojourn, as Caroline continues to wrestle with her memories of a beautiful past while struggling in an uncertain present.

The last three books in the series will be released in 2016, and a box set of the first three books was released on February 29. The Bellator Saga has a bit of everything but is at its heart an epic romance. It’s got a meaty plot and parts of it can be difficult to read (I don’t sugarcoat anything – totalitarian regimes don’t play nice), so you’ll likely either love it or hate it.

I hope that if nothing else, Caroline has lived up to the women I admired as a child. Because of them I continue my activist spirit in a different way – through the written word (and sometimes as a lawyer, I suppose!).

Thanks to Lime for having me, and here’s more Shameless Author Stuff!
Website, Facebook, Twitter: @authorclondon

Currently Free is Dissident
Dissident“I will always be with you…”

Rising Democratic star Caroline Gerard hasn’t had an easy year. After losing her husband, she is raising two small children alone while trying to navigate the tricky and sometimes shallow halls on Capitol Hill. A string of nasty speeches has her scrambling to apologize to any number of candidates, including newly elected Republican Jack McIntyre. Falling in love again is the last thing on her mind.

Jack McIntyre might have a reputation as a playboy, but he has his sights set solely on his new colleague. Can he break through Caroline’s grief and capture her heart?

Told mostly in flashback and set against a chilling fascist backdrop, Dissident is a rollercoaster ride of political intrigue, passionate contemporary romance, and undying love.

For readers 18+. Ends on a cliffhanger.

And for The Bellator Saga which includes the first three books…
The Bellator SagaTwo souls intertwined. One epic love story.

Get swept away in the passionate romance between political opposites Caroline Gerard and Jack McIntyre in the first half of The Bellator Saga.

This set contains the first three books in the series, Dissident, Conscience, and Sojourn.

Dissident
Rising Democratic star Caroline Gerard is reluctant to fall in love again after losing her husband. Can Republican playboy Jack McIntyre break through her grief and capture her heart? Told mostly in flashback and set against a chilling fascist backdrop, Dissident is a rollercoaster ride of political intrigue, passionate romance, and undying love.

Conscience
Caroline faces the biggest challenge of her life when confronted with the cruelty and sadism of her captors at The Fed. Hope fades quickly, even as she holds onto her one last bit of sanity and her unshakable belief that her husband will rescue her. But is that faith just a mirage?

Sojourn
Reeling from her experiences at The Fed, Caroline tries to forge ahead and create a new identity. But that’s hard to do with the ghosts of the past constantly whispering in her ear. She is determined to find the rebellion and move on with her life, but what will she find when she arrives there?

Includes bonus material featuring a deleted scene from Sojourn, a sneak peek at Phoenix, and a never before released love scene told in Jack’s first person point of view!

SBHM Guest: Lynn Balabanos on Lesser Known Heroes & Heroines of Black History Month

Hi friends! So we’re doing this! Celebrating Smithsonian Heritage Months again! I’ve been asking anyone and everyone to participate, and today we have a contribution from Lynn Balabanos. 😀 I hope you’ll check out what she has to say!

The numerous contributions the Black community has made to the fabric of our country are inspiring and instrumental. Most of us learn about the heavy hitters in school, individuals like Martin Luther King, Jr., Harriett Tubman and Rosa Parks. Important people, absolutely, but they were not alone in their struggles for equality and freedom. In honor of Black Heritage Month, I’d like to share just few of the lesser known heroes and heroines.

Benjamin Banneker PortraitBenjamin Banneker (1731-1806)

Next time you look at a photograph of Washington, D.C., I hope you think of Benjamin Banneker.

He was born in Maryland a free Black man. He was mostly self-educated and drew a reputation for being an amazing mathematician and astronomer. In 1789, he was part of the surveying team that laid out the plans for Washington D.C. When L’Enfant, the Frenchman hired to build the capital, walked off of the site taking all of the plans with him, it was Benjamin who re-created from memory the layout of the streets, parks and major buildings. Without him, our nation’s capital wouldn’t look the way it does today.

Benjamin’s achievements don’t stop there. At the age of 22, he built a wooden clock that accurately kept time, despite having no formal training regarding clock making. He created a crop irrigation system, producing food which prevented US soldiers during the Revolutionary War from starving. Oh, and the Farmers’ Almanac? You know, the book farmers relied on for generations to predict weather and crop planting.* It was invented by Benjamin Banneker, who did all of the calculations himself for the first six years of its existence.

As if that wasn’t enough, Benjamin, throughout a long correspondence, urged Thomas Jefferson to create racial equality and abolish slavery.

Garrett MorganGarrett Augustus Morgan (1877-1963)

Every time you drive or see a firefighter, you should think of Garrett Augustus Morgan. This man saved countless numbers of lives and the modification of his inventions still exist and are in use today.

Garrett Morgan was a prolific inventor. Born in Kentucky, he only had a grade school education. In 1914, he created a safety device, a canvass hood with two breathing tubes. The device would filter smoke backwards while cooling the air inside. This “safety hood” was used by firefighters, who had at that time had almost no protection from the smoke and gases they encountered while in the line of duty. His invention was also used by the U.S. Army and was the precursor for the gas masks used in WWI.

In 1923, Garrett Morgan invented the first mechanical traffic signal, a rudimentary version of the three way traffic light we use today. While traffic lights existed before, Garrett’s included a warning signal to drivers as well as the standard stop and go.

In addition to his successful inventions, he was also an activist and philanthropist. Garrett was a member of newly formed NAACP, gave money for young Black men to go to college and opened the first Black country club.

Dr. Charles DrewDr. Charles Richard Drew (1904-1950)

Every time you donate blood, especially to the American Red Cross, Dr. Charles Richard Drew is who you should think of.

He was born in segregated Washington D.C. but, although he was very bright, he didn’t have enough money to attend medical school. He worked for a few years as a biology instructor and eventually was accepted to McGill University in Montreal, Canada. He graduated second in his class and earned both a Doctor of Medicine and a Masters of Surgery. In 1938, he received a Rockefeller Fellowship to study at the University of Columbia in New York. It was there he was able to continue his work on blood related matters, and he developed a process for preserving blood plasma thereby making it possible to be stored or “banked” for longer periods of time. His doctoral theses entitled “Banked Blood” earned him a Doctorate Degree from Columbia. He was the first African-American in history to earn this degree from Columbia.

When WWII broke out, he was invited by Britain to head up their special campaign, “Blood for Britain.” In this capacity, he collected blood from New York and shipped it overseas where it was used to treat soldiers. He ran the program so successfully that one report says he was able to collect over 14,000 pints of plasma.

As a result of both his research and his work with Britain, in 1941, Dr. Drew was made Director of the first American Red Cross Blood Bank. He successfully created processes and procedures for blood donation and distribution that saved countless lives. Among his innovations, was the mobile blood donation center, much like the ones still in existence today.

Unfortunately, Dr. Drew didn’t stay as director of the blood bank long. When the program started, African Americans were prohibited from donating, per U.S. military rules. This meant that Dr. Drew couldn’t even donate his own blood to the bank he’d not only created but also ran. He fought to change the rules and the result the military relented – but only a little. African Americans were able to donate but their blood was segregated and only used for African American soldiers. Unable to agree to these terms, Dr. Drew resigned in 1942.

Bessie ColemanElisabeth “Bessie” Coleman (1892-1926)

Whenever you go to an air show, or see a pilot doing stunts, think of Bessie Coleman.

She was born in Texas during segregation. Her parents were uneducated and illiterate and Bessie herself went to school in a one room shack. As a young adult, she moved to Chicago and lived with her older brothers, working as a manicurist. It was during this time, listening to the pilots returning from WWI, that she developed an interest in aviation. In 1918, there were very few women pilots and all of them were white and wealthy. Bessie applied to aviation schools across the country but was turned away, her race and her gender a double strike against her.

So, she taught herself French and, taking all of her life savings, moved to France. As you do. She completed flight training at the best flight school in France, graduating in only seven months. She became the first African American woman to hold to hold an international pilot’s license.

Bessie went on to perform at countless stunt shows and became one of the best known aviators of her time, due in large part because of her skill and daring. She dreamed of opening her own aviation school, and routinely encouraged other African Americans to pursue their pilot’s license. In addition, Bessie refused to participate in an event in which African Americans were not welcome.

Sadly, Bessie never lived long enough to establish her aviation school. She died during a stunt in 1926. However, her life and accomplishments inspired generations, including but not limited to Mae C. Jemison, the first African American woman in space who reported took a photograph of Bessie with her on the mission.

These individuals are only a selected few, but there are so many more. Please, take some time this month and check out the Smithsonian’s website. They have lots of fascinating information on historical figures, as well as music, art and so much more. In addition, if you have any stories or interesting tidbits regarding Black Heritage Month you’d like to share, please do so in the comments.

Thanks so much for this post, Lynn! I actually knew about Dr. Charles Drew because of Archer – but I didn’t know he was Black! The more you know! So cool. 😀 (I’d also like to note that Rosa Parks was born on this day 103 years ago! Her deliberate and brave acts truly facilitated change and momentum for the Civil Rights Movement.)

*So I’m pretty sure he didn’t invent the Farmers’ Almanac, but he did publish six Almanacs, with a lot of impressive information, at a time where a Black author was basically unheard of.

SBHM Guest: Alexa Rowan on Jean M. Auel’s The Mammoth Hunters

Hi friends! We’re kicking off another year of Smithsonian Heritage Month celebrations, and as you might know this year I’ve decided to expand things even further. Our first guest is Alexis Rowan who kindly answered my call to talk about the first book she remembered reading that featured a Black main character. Let’s give her a warm welcome! <3

It’s Hard To Get More Historical Than The Pleistocene

The Mammoth HuntersThanks so much to Limecello for opening up ALBTALBS to guest posters during the Smithsonian National Heritage months—and for celebrating diversity by encouraging the book-loving (and especially, the romance-loving) community to discuss authors and characters of color.

For Black History Month, Lime posed the question, what is the first book you remember reading with a black character? And while I’m sure I must have read something else prior to this, the book with a black character that has stuck in my mind since its publication in the mid-1980s is Jean M. Auel’s The Mammoth Hunterswhich is book 3 in her Pleistocene-era epic series of six massive books. Mammoth Hunters saw the introduction of Ranec, a “dark-skinned, magnetic master ivory carveras the third corner in a love triangle with blond and blue-eyed Ayla at its apex and equally Caucasian Jondalar as her existing love interest.

Ranec’s Caucasian father had travelled far to the South, where he “mated” (married?) a woman whose skin was “almost as black as night” and had a son with her, but she died during their long journey back to his people. Auel portrays Ranec in a positive light (unless one interprets Ranec’s interest in Ayla as creepy/obsessive—teenaged me didn’t). He’s considered to be attractive within his otherwise-Caucasian community, and his unusual skin color is admired. And while he’s got a (stereotypically?) strong sex drive, he’s also got mad skillz beyond the pre-historic bedroom.

Teenaged-me didn’t think twice about Ranec’s skin color, or that Ayla and Ranec became a couple. I’ve done a little research for this blog post, and I didn’t find any contemporaneous discussion of this as an interracial relationship, or that it was considered to be controversial or shocking. Rather, the reviews and commentary I found focused on Auel’s craft (e.g., plot flaws, shallow character arcs, Ayla’s annoying character traits and having invented damn near everything), her penchant for minute detail and lovingly researched scenes, and her purple prose (which, I’m a little embarrassed to admit, teenaged me thought was pretty hot!).

Ultimately, teenaged me felt badly for Ranec, who was ready to be mated with Ayla when she and Jondalar had their long-overdue conversation and resolved their protracted misunderstanding. I suppose it’s hard to compete with a man as well-hung and talented in the sexual arts (and blue-eyed) as Jondalar, the itinerant deflowerer ;-). Is it problematic, that Ayla threw over the character of color for the couldn’t-possibly-be-more-Caucasian guy? Given the context of the book, I’m gonna go out on a limb here and say no, at least from my (privileged) perspective. I’d love to hear from others with differing opinions, though. Auel’s Pleistocene-era setting describes an inter-species divide between the Clan (Neanderthals) and the Others (Cro-Magnons); within the Cro-Magnons, racial differences were ignored as irrelevant or were appreciated, not vilified. So the relationship between Ayla and Ranec was something teenaged me took at face value, yet Ayla’s getting back together with someone she loved and had intense chemistry with (Jondalar) also made sense for reasons unrelated to race. I found only one contemporaneous reviewer who commented on the fact that it was the two “blond, blue-eyed beauties” who end up riding off into the sunset with each other.

That said, if Ayla had chosen to stay with Ranec and sent Jondalar on his merry way, the series would have ended. And when you sell out a million-copy first hardcover printing, as Mammoth Hunters did, you plan as extensive a series as you can write. Right?

Have you read The Mammoth Hunters? What did you think of the love triangle and Ranec’s position in it?

I’m curious too! I’ve actually never even heard of this book until now – but I definitely think there are other things we can speak to – books we loved as children that might not stand up to a re-reading – not because of writing style, but because of the content, yes? Let’s discuss!

Celebrating Diversity through the Smithsonian Heritage Months (+ some Updates)

Hi friends! So, as usual I’m behind and flying by the seat of my pants – which might explain some things because I pretty much don’t wear pants … – anyway! Diversity! We’ve been seeing a lot about it of late in romanceland. Starting in 2015, I’d say especially. I think that’s a good thing. A great thing. Lots of people chiming in, lots of passionate (sometimes angry) voices – and that’s okay too. I think the “wider world out there” is also seeing how much further we – as people – humanity as a whole – need to go.

A little bit of history here – I first got the idea to celebrate the Smithsonian Heritage Months (SHM) in 2012. In 2013 I began reaching out – and gave myself a year to set things up. The thing is, I know there are a number of diverse authors out there … but this is a bit of a snake pit of a topic. (And for some groups, there really aren’t that many.) In 2014 I tried to kick off my SHM celebrations. If you’ve been around a while, you know my life collapsed a bit. The main highlight (low light) would be I had to live with a paranoid schizophrenic that refused medication and treatment. It was awful, and half my hair fell out. (Literally – I donate my hair, so I know.) Things got a little bit better … then 2015 kicked my ass. I think most of you know because I haven’t STFU about this … I’m pretty much broken and will need to undergo a number of yet to be decided medical procedures because literally every specialist I’ve met so far has in summary told me this: ¯\_(ツ)_/¯

All that is to let you know that … I’ve been painfully tardy and just flat out bad at staying on top of the SHM. Some months I had booked entirely, and just never got posts up. (Some months there were not enough authors.) I apologize for that. I really am truly sorry, and know I messed up. I’m not trying to excuse my screw ups … I’m just trying to explain I wasn’t entirely just a flake.

That also needs to be said because … I understand if people don’t want to participate. They sent me a post before… and it never went up. Why should they trust me now? [Hopefully the above mitigates some of my bad actions.] Then also … some people don’t want to participate because they hate all the issues that come with a specific month for “diversity” and such.

At ALBTALBS in 2014, I limited it to [Heritage Month]-Americans. In 2015 I expanded it to [anyone of that particular race/ethnicity]. However, I always gave only an umbrella topic. Authors and readers were welcome to talk about their own experiences, a particular historical person or event … books, anything. Or, the guest poster could talk about nothing relating to race/ethnicity. After all she already is Black/a Woman/Asian-Pacific American/Hispanic/Native American. That’s enough.

In 2016… I’m opening it up to EVERYONE. Any man, woman, child, and dog if s/he can type. 😉 I’ve noticed this year the Smithsonian added one … so February is Black History Month. March is Women’s History Month. May is Asian-Pacific American Heritage Month. June is Caribbean American Heritage Month. September 15-October 15 is Hispanic Heritage Month. November is American Indian [Native American] Heritage Month. This year I’m keeping all the “old” parameters … but adding in – if you’re to use some jargon “whiter than white bread” – you’re also welcome to participate. If you fall into the latter category you would have to talk about something SHM specific. That’s only fair.

I understand some people being leery of participating, feeling they’re not “qualified” or should be silent – but I say if you want to talk about someone or something about the month, please. Join. It’s better to have something than nothing.

In fact, one thing I’d be interested in this year is if you’d share about the first book/TV show/movie you remember that had someone who is Black/Asian/Caribbean/Hispanic/Native American as a main character. Let’s share our experiences, yes?

Also also – if you’re ~scared to participate … know that I’ve got your back. This is one hill I’m willing to die on, and I will defend your choice and my decision to the end. Diversity in the end is about all of us.

So I know February is just two days away – ACK – BUT … I think we can do this, don’t you? 😀 Join me! Diversity! Yay!