Decades: A Journey of African American Romance
The Art of Love is the fourth book in the Decades: A Journey of African American Romance series. This series consists of 12 books, each set in one of 12 decades between 1900 and 2010. Each story focuses on the romance between African American protagonists, but also embraces the African American experience within that decade. Join the journey on our Facebook page, http://bit.ly/2z9sMrd.
Last year while attending an out-of-state book event, my author-sister, Sheryl Lister, sent me a text. She was knee-deep in conversation with fellow author, Wayne Jordan, who was seeking writers for his upcoming compilation project celebrating a century of Black Love. There were slots available for stories covering the early- and mid-twentieth century. Would I be interested?
If text had sound, Sheryl’s eardrums would’ve exploded with my, “GIRL, YES!”
Promising to provide further details, Sheryl and I ended our text-versation with our usual mushy sister love. Sure enough, Sheryl later provided details, as well as connected me with Wayne. The idea of participating in a literary project celebrating a century of African American romance was unbelievably seductive. Obtaining the slot for the 1930s story was ice cream and cake. Hooked, I was! Seeing as how my award-winning historical romance, Taffy, was set in 1935, I was confident I could bring the decade to life.
Now cue the panic! Reality hit and I thought, “Wait, 1930s, I’ve done them; and they’re not exactly ideal.” Conditions in 1930s America did not a love climate make. We’re talking Prohibition, The Great Depression, the systemic degeneration caused by Jim Crow and pervasive racism. Far from an ideal backdrop, the decade suddenly felt, oh so, unromantic. I had to remind myself, you did it before; you better do it again. So, I jumped in.
Thinking on the Harlem Renaissance and how it dwindled and waned in the 1930s, I felt those very elements were part of my plot. Opening my heart to Miss Muse, I heard “sculptor, artist.” Like Augusta Savage and Edmonia Lewis, I wondered? Yes! In a snap, that was that. I had my heroine and her profession. But the hero: what of him? Empty-handed brain-wracking made it clear that research was going to be my new best friend.
Research confirmed what I knew: employment opportunities for African American men during The Great Depression were slim-pickings, nearly nonexistent. Forced to think outside the box, I stumbled upon a delicious pairing for my struggling artist. This was an era of Prohibition. Could my hero possibly be a bootlegger, living life on the opposite side of the law? The resounding answer to that was, “Yes, honey, yes!”
Excited, I spent hours online researching Prohibition and bootlegging only to note that the central figures in the majority of the stories were white men. African Americans, when mentioned, were marginalized as laborers or highly criminalized while their white counterparts were nearly romanticized. That exclusion stirred the renegade writer in me. My hero would be a highly successful bootlegger at the helm of his own dynasty. Now, how ya like that! Thus, the wild seeds for The Art of Love were sown.
Writing Historical Romance through an African American lens, I am reminded that our circumstances since arriving on U.S. soil have never been conducive to romance. Our ancestors’ days were too filled with the sweat of survival to enjoy nights of wine and roses. Yet, here we are: the evidence of a love that survived and thrived. Writing African American Historical Romance, I feel like a naughty child peeking in on “adult business.” It’s a delicious delight, this divine opportunity to imagine the shapes and form of my forbears’ love. It’s my honor to pen The Art of Love and every other Historical Romance I’ll ever write. Welcome to my celebration of us.
Suzette D. Harrison, the award-winning author of Taffy, is a west coast native whose dream life is filled with reading and writing books. A graduate of Le Cordon Bleu where she earned a diploma in Pastry & Baking, Suzette is currently whipping up her next book...in between batches of cupcakes.
SOCIAL MEDIA LINKS: