At Home While Abroad, by Renée Bess (and giveaway!)

And the winner of Reneé’s book is…

simplepleasures59!

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.Screen Shot 2014-06-01 at 1.53.58 PM

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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.

You can also find out more about her at her website HERE.
At Regal Crest Enterprises
And find her on Facebook

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.

Sheree Greer source (photo by Fiona Zedde)

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.

Skyy source

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.

Fiona Zedde source

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.

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31 comments

  1. Sharing the light with your fellow authors won points right off the bat. I read the interview from 2012 and now I’m anxious to read your work Renee. Layers, difficult issues, characters over 50, and not always needing a happy ending …definitely lengthened my reading list today. Please, enter my name in the drawing for The Rules. Thanks! As to feeling more comfortable abroad than in your own country, I don’t even know what to say. I’ve typed and deleted a bunch of words, all inadequate.

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    • Type those words again, CK. I’m interested in your thoughts. Words that you judge to be inadequate could be quite moving. Thanks for reading the interview and the blog.

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  2. Having never left my native soil except for a one day excursion into Canada which I cannot remember, I was fascinated by your blog. Of course being a woman of white privilege also shapes my experiences..I am looking forward to reading your novel now, especially a print edition. I am not a luddite, I just don’t have an affinity for the ebooks yet and love lugging my print copies around for signatures. Will you be in Portland in a month to sign it if I win?
    Ona

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    • Thank you for reading the blog and writing a comment, Onamarae. Unfortunately, I won’t be in Portland next month. However, I’d be happy to send you a signed bookplate if you contact me (ecrivaine1 AT yahoo DOT com) and tell me your snail-mail address.

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  3. I am a non-LDS, lesbian woman of color living in the shadow of the Salt Lake valley. Some days I feel more than outside the circle. Titles from Ms Bess and other talented authors tell my story when I feel like I have faded away unnoticed here in Happy Valley. Regardless of the outcome of your giveaway, I am stoked to Thank you for your titles and filling in my lines. Regards

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    • StephniLee, I thank you for your kind words. It feels good to know that my work has eased your feelings of otherness/alienation. Some of us began writing because we didn’t see our stories between the covers of previously written LGBT novels. We knew we weren’t invisible, but we needed to prove it. You have my best regards.

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  4. I enjoyed the blog, and I’ve enjoyed all your other novels. I look forward to The Rules. Sorry you won’t be at GCLS.

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    • Thanks for reading the blog, Sharon. And thanks for reading my novels. I’ll miss being at the GCLS conference next month. Enjoy your time there!

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  5. Thanks for sharing your experiences…very enlightening regarding the differences in perceptions abroad! Hopefully the U.S. will continue to make strides towards equality! MI is giving it a go, but no luck thus far 😦

    Do you or any of your travel mates write or have recommendations for middle school girls that have African American lesbians as main characters? The only title I’ve obtained, Touching Snow by M. Sindy Felin, was a bit hard to take…We’ve had about a dozen young ladies, all of color, come out this year and I’m trying to locate literature that represents them. Would your titles work or would they get me fired??? 🙂 Thanks for the blog and continued success to you 🙂

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    • Sandi, I’m glad you enjoyed reading the blog. My books would not be appropriate for middle school aged readers. In fact, I doubt they would be interested in the characters, plot, or themes of my novels. While I’m not well informed about books written for that age group, I do recall reading about two authors whose work may fit the bill, Rosa Guy and Jacqueline Woodson. Their books have been around for a while. I believe Woodson is a prize winning author. Have you done a Google search for books for LGBT youth of color? I did such a search after reading your commentary and I was pleased to see there’s more available now than there used to be. Best of luck to you! Your students are fortunate to have an advocate who cares about them.

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    • After you’ve read The Rules, RJ, don’t hesitate to let me know your reaction to it. You can use the email address on the Contact page of my website.

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  6. What a delightful reminder of how amazing it is to travel. I’ve spent more time in the Far East (business trips) than in Europe (UK – one personal trip in ’11, but hoping for more), and I am so glad that African Americans continue to be treated with respect and near-indifference to their color in Europe. Thank you so much for sharing your travel experiences. We only ever know our home, for better or worse, when we leave it and see the contrast offered by other cultures and people.
    Thank you, Renee Bess!

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    • You’re more than welcome, Sheila. The exposure to other cultures and people has enriched me beyond measure. Your comments indicate that you’ve been the beneficiary of travel related treasures also.

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  7. Thank you for this enlightening post. I’ve never traveled out of the country but have had the good fortune to know people from other cultures. Talking to those people and reading blogs like this along with the conversation that follows gives at least a little info about other cultures.

    I agree with CK in not knowing what to say other than it shines light into a truly dark corner of the so-called “land of the free”. I look forward to reading some of your novels and will also be checking out the others you mentioned.

    cw

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