And the winner of Reneé’s book is…
Thanks for playing, everybody!
Why, hellooooo, dahlings! Today’s treat comes courtesy of Regal Crest author Renée Bess, who shares with us some thoughts about some recent travels.
Phildadelphia-bred Renée is dedicated to writing the experiences of African American lesbians. She is a writer, poet, playwright, and former high school teacher who is also the author of five novels through Regal Crest Enterprises. Her most recent, The Rules, was released in April. It’s a romance, thriller, and full of intrigue.
I was fortunate to interview Renée in 2012 right here at Women and Words. You can check that out to dig a little deeper.
AND Renée is giving away a PRINT copy of her latest, The Rules. To get in on this drawing (make sure you understand it’s PRINT, not ebook), leave a comment below. Please include your email address in the fill-out form so we in the back can contact you if you win. Do NOT put your email address in the comment body. That attracts spam-bots and you don’t want a case of those. The drawing closes on Friday June 13th (LUCKY!) at 9 PM EST at which point we’ll do the drawing. Good luck!
Renée is absolutely one of my favorite people to hang out with (in English; she also speaks French and Spanish), so grab your fave beverages and sit back and let her tell you some stories. Take it away, Reneé!
Coincidentally, during the past few months, four of us African American lesbian writers boarded airplanes and traveled to Europe. Skyy traveled first, then Fiona Zedde left for Paris, Sheree Greer joined her there, and finally my spouse and I flew to Amsterdam.
Via her Facebook posts, Skky kept us on the move from one European capital to the next. Fiona and Sheree entertained us each day with photos of their exploits in Paris, and I pretty much kept mum during my travels. Why? Because I’d fallen for the fear factor in the TV advert about the woman who posted her travel plans online only to have a “break-in and enter” expert post a response. I justified my feelings of intimidation on my age. After all, I was the oldest of the four of us author/travelers and by now I’ve elevated caution and worry to an art form.
I’ve always considered travel a precious gift. I’m the child of parents who firmly believed in exposing their offspring to different cultures, so I’ve been crossing foreign borders since I was nine years old. Learning to speak Spanish and French was simply an expectation I had for myself. That I would continue to travel after I reached adulthood was a given. A recurring nightmare involving a plane crash and my mental replays of the events of September 11, 2001 derailed my travel plans for a time. But my sister’s move to England revived my appetite for visiting foreign places. Fortunately, my life partner Vivian shared that hunger and believed that traveling to other countries was one of the things we’d always do. We liked to think that each trip abroad carved new grooves in our brains.
Now that four of us have returned home and only Fiona remains on foreign soil, I’ve found myself looking forward to reading her daily Facebook posts. I can’t wait to see the newest Parisian locale she’s discovered. I urge her forward as she absorbs the city’s culture and sips beverages in the cafés where Richard Wright, Langston Hughes and James Baldwin hung out; ventures into the clubs/les caves where American born jazz was translated to its French forms; sees the theater where Josephine Baker performed and the church where she was eulogized; finds the address where Leroy Haynes operated his namesake restaurant and fed many a black American ex-pat hungry for soul food.
It’s occurred to me that I’ve responded to several of Fiona’s (and Sheree’s) posts as if I were their older aunt instead of a sister writer. I think I know why I’ve done this. My suggestions that they enjoy every moment of their time in Paris go beyond my natural reflex to be a mentor. I want them to experience a feeling I discovered long ago, that there’s something different and special about being a black American in some places in Europe. There is a poignant irony in feeling more comfortable in one’s skin while you’re in a foreign city than you are while you’re living in your own city of birth.
I suspected I felt the newness of that comfort long ago during my adolescence when I traveled abroad with my mother and sister. After Vivian and I began visiting my sister in the U.K., I had no doubt about the deeper comfort level I felt whenever we were in England. I harbored no naiveté about the existence of racism in the U.K. and believed there was probably no place on earth where it was totally absent.
Yet, both Viv and I always noticed the lack of curious stares from strangers whenever we navigated London’s busy streets or rode the tube or the trains between the city and its suburbs. We never encountered as much as a single skeptical, “Are you two together?” from any check-out clerks manning their tills. No one blinked at our presence. No one gave us a second thought. The two of us, one black and the other white didn’t stand out from any other duo. We seemed to fit the Brits’ expectations of any two women going about their business. We were ordinary, and that felt fine to us. It was a relief from our day-to-day experiences here where curiosity from both black and white people sometimes teeters between ignorance and rudeness.
We’ve just returned from a wonderful river cruise that took us through parts of Holland and Belgium. And of course, we worked in four days visiting my sister in England. We gave ourselves another opportunity to meet stimulating people, see beautiful sights/sites, and hear fascinating histories. We rewarded ourselves with new grooves in our brains and opportunities to feel welcomed by foreigners who seemed to accept us just as we are.
More than likely, I’ll never relocate to another country. My roots are here and my life is full and good. But every once in a while, I’ll jump at the chance to visit a foreign place where I’ll feel more at home in my skin than I do most of the time I am in my native land.
You can find Renée’s latest novel, The Rules, at Bella Books, Amazon, and Barnes & Noble.