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In this episode of The Turn On, Erica and Kenrya talk to romance icon Beverly Jenkins about connecting with your life's work, the importance of mentoring and the state of Black literature.
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Kenrya: Come here, get off.
Kenrya: Our guest today is Beverly Jenkins, pronouns she and her. Ms. Jenkins is the nation's premier writer of African American historical romance fiction, and she specializes in 19th century African American life. She's the 2018 Michigan Library Association author of the year, a USA Today bestselling author, an NAACP Image Award nominee and the 2017 recipient of the Romance Writers of America's Nora Roberts Lifetime Achievement Award. She has over 45 published novels and has been named to many best book of the year awards, including the NPR and the American Library Association lists. She speaks widely on romance, writing and African American history. Ms. Bev, thank you so much for joining us today.
Beverly: You're so welcome, thanks for having me. This is an honor.
Kenrya: For you? For us.
Erica: Every time you say that I'm like...
Erica: Ma'am, you have no... you do not understand how much we're freaking out about this. So, thank you, thank you, thank you.
Beverly: You're welcome, welcome, welcome.
Erica: Kenrya just read your amazing bio, and I just want to know, how did you end up here? Did you always want to be a writer when you were growing up?
Beverly: No, never ever.
Beverly: No, I just stumbled into this.
Erica: Oh, wow.
Beverly: All I ever wanted to do in life was work in a library. Or as we used to say on the east side, work in the lie-berry.
Kenrya: That was my very first job, was working in a library. It's an awesome place.
Beverly: It is. Avid reader, so I got a chance to work in a library when I was in college at Michigan State. In fact, my junior year, a full-time job opened up. Because I had been working as a student in various different departments and stuff. A full-time job opened up in circulation and I didn't even take my finals.
Beverly: I was like, "I'm out, I'm done." Yeah, school wasn't really important back then, no way.
Kenrya: There's a lot of things that's more important.
Beverly: Well, I was there in the early '70s, so we weren't doing anything but passing blunts and taking over buildings.
Kenrya: Not much has changed.
Beverly: So I'm hearing. So, I went to work full-time there and then I don't know, daughter born. Husband and I moved up north and then we moved back down this way, and I was working for Parke-Davis Pharmaceuticals, which was one of the big pharm companies. There was a woman who worked with me in the library, her name was Laverne. She had just gotten a sweet romance published, so we're celebrating her, right? I told her about this book that I was working on for myself because back then, romance was basically closed to writers of color.
Beverly: I was working on it just for me and she said, "Bring it in." I did, and she loved it and said, "You need to get this published." I'm like, "Where?" So, I tell her that this is her fault that I'm here where I am now, because she harassed me.
Erica: Thank you, thank you.
Beverly: Her and my momma, I'm going to tell you my momma's story in a minute. But she basically, I tell her she basically harassed me every day. "Have you found an agent? Did you..." Da da da da da da da. So, to make her shut up, and sometimes life gives you things that you hadn't planned on. And I cannot tell you to this day how I found the address for Vivian Stevens.
Beverly: Vivian was a huge editor in New York at the time. Well, right before then, she basically started American romance, especially for women of color. Because she was at Dell, which no longer exists. But she published Sandra Kitt, she published L.C. Washington, the ladies on whose shoulders I'm standing. And she had gotten out of publishing and she was doing agent stuff. I don't know how I found this woman, but I stumbled.
Kenrya: Nothing but God.
Beverly: Yeah, nothing but God.
Erica: Purpose, purpose.
Beverly: I sent her my little raggedy manuscript, right? And I swear she called me within six days at work.
Beverly: And said that she wanted to represent me. So, we're doing a happy dance in the library and all that, right? But it took us probably, I don't know, maybe two years to sell it. I got enough rejection letters to paper my house and both of your houses. Publishers were saying, "It's a great story, but..." And the but had to do with there was no box for it, because this was “Night Song.” It was my first historical. There was nothing, no box for a 19th century African American centered story that was not rooted in slavery.
Beverly: So, I have a story that is after the Civil War. A town on the plains in Kansas, founded by Black folks. New York and most publishing was like, "What? What?" And because I was doing what I wanted in life, which is working in the library, all these rejections didn't bother me. I mean, for somebody who probably was looking to get published, it probably would have devastated them. I didn't care, I was working in the library every day.
Beverly: I had my own gold in my purse. So, June 3rd, 1993, which was my late husband's birthday, I got the call.
Beverly: And then I found out I had to write a story.
Kenrya: You was like, "Oh, great."
Erica: "Now we have to do something with this."
Beverly: Right, right. I tell people I had several hundred pages of nothing but heat. Ellen Edwards, who was the editor at the time, the one who bought the book said, "Bev, the love scenes are great. We need a story." I was like, "I got to write a story? Okay, well..." So, for me, it didn't make much sense to have African American hero and heroine and paint that story against a majority background. I had been an avid, I don't know, reader of African American history all my life. Because I tell people my mother was Black before it was fashionable. So, I grew up with African American history in my home.
Beverly: So, I knew, and then having worked in the graduate library at Michigan State University that had a full set of The Journal of Negro History, because I would take armfuls out at lunchtime just to go through it. Not knowing I was preparing myself for what was going to come.
Erica: You were.
Beverly: 20 years later, right? The universe is a crazy place.
Kenrya: It's a beautiful place.
Beverly: So, I set it in Kansas after the Great Exodus of 1879, which was the first major migration of Black folks. We had the migration, the Great Migration of 1900, people were going north. Well, this was like 20 years before and people went west. They went to Kansas, they went to Iowa, they went to Nebraska, they went to Colorado. Some people went to California. So, I based my little town on Henry Adams, and Henry Adams was a real person, on the famous town Nicodemus, which was in the great Solomon Valley and on the great Solomon River in Kansas. So, that's the beginning of my journey. 25 years, what 26 years? I don't remember very well.
Kenrya: 26 years later.
Beverly: Yeah, I'm here talking to you all.
Beverly: So it's been an awesome journey, awesome journey.
Erica: So, what was the romance industry like as a Black woman telling Black stories?
Beverly: Very white, very white. But I had some people who reached out and showed me the ropes, and I'm very, very grateful to them. And then you had some people that was like, they didn't care. They didn't want me at the table, but that's been the struggle for 200 years.
Beverly: So, it wasn't like it was going to keep me from doing what I wanted to do. I used what those ladies and Vivian, she was very, very instrumental in taking my hand and leading me through the forest and giving me... she was like being with your grandmother. Giving you lessons on how to conduct yourself regardless of what they were doing in relationship to your fans, and how to carry yourself, and all of that. So, it was very white. But I started in 19... “Night Song” was published in 1994. We call that the “summer of Black love” because that was the same year that Arabesque published all of their contemporaries.
Beverly: With Donna Hill and Brenda and Gwynne Forester, and the late Francis Ray. So, they were doing a contemporary thing on their side and I was doing my little historicals.
Kenrya: That was a pivotal year.
Beverly: Yeah, here we are.
Kenrya: Which leads me to ask, how have things changed or not changed in those 26 years?
Beverly: Well, 26 years you have the rise of Indie, where the sisters and those of all identities said, "Well, fuck this. They don't want my story, we'll go independent." Romance is on the cutting edge of that.
Kenrya: That's true.
Beverly: We're on the cutting edge of indie, we're on the cutting edge of e-readers. I mean, we bring $1 billion to the table every year, so we're an industry to be reckoned with and Black women were right there at the beginning of that whole big Indie influx. As a result, really, really opened up romance to all people. So, now you got sisters writing paranormal, you got sisters writing IR. You got sisters writing in every new branch and old branch of the romance tree, which is fabulous because it's now starting to reflect the nation and the people who read it. Yeah, it was real white back then.
Erica: So, we said in your bio that you write in a lot of subgenres, but you primarily pen in historical romance fiction. So, what pushes you to explore the lives of Black folks in the period after the civil war?
Beverly: Because we get so much pain. I think the mainstream media thinks that that's the only lives that we had. Not only do they neglect the everyday struggles of just trying to be a person in America, they neglect the history and all of the contributions that we've made to America's quilt. Our pieces have been snatched out, cut out, burned, just like they've been for most of the people of color here in the country. It's a very, very bittersweet kind of a century, the 19th century. So, I like to set my stories there number one because we don't know the history. Number two, it reflects just how clever and smart and innovative and awesome we were as a race to take all the lemons that America has given us and make the sweetest lemonade we could find.
Kenrya: I love that. So, we read your book “Forbidden” on the show.
Kenrya: Thanks again for letting us do that.
Beverly: You're welcome.
Kenrya: There were just so many awesome details. When you mentioned the Baltimore-based Oblate Sisters of Providence, which is the first order of Black Catholic nuns in the United States. That kept sending me to Google because I kept learning things and wanting to deep dive into them.
Kenrya: I'm really interested in what your research process looks like as you create these books.
Beverly: I call it edutainment, entertainment and education. Our history is so rich that if you know where to look, you'll find stuff that just amazes you. So, my research process now is a lot more refined than it used to be when I started. Because when I started, I was working a regular job, I had a husband, I had two kids, didn't have a whole lot of money. I mean, my husband was making great money, but it wasn't like it was my money. Well, it was my money, but it wasn't my money.
Kenrya: Yeah, I know what you mean.
Beverly: I couldn't tell him, "I need to spend $150 this week on library books and research books." So, that first book, “Night Song,” I did the research at the Ypsilanti Public Library. Ypsilanti is the city right outside of Ann Arbor. They had a fabulous African American history collection, which was really interesting for such a small town. But over the years, now I've got so many books that I've got room for. I've got five stacks. I got one, two, three, four seven-foot bookcases in the office.
Beverly: There are one, two, three, four, five stacks of books that are about knee high that are in the hallway.
Beverly: Those aren't in the room.
Kenrya: That's impressive.
Beverly: I keep telling myself, "What are you going to use this for?" But I see this and I say, "I got to buy this, I got to buy this, I got to buy this." I tell the local library that when I do go to glory, they're going to get all of these books.
Beverly: And they can't circulate because folks stealing my stuff. You have to sit down and read it, but the history is so important. I think one of the joys of the history is that when you educate a woman, you educate a race.
Kenrya: Say that.
Beverly: So, sisters are educating. I'm on grandchildren right now. The women who started with me and their daughters, and the daughters of their daughters, and they're all learning that history. One of the ladies said her grandson did a Black history paper. I don't know what it was, I don't know if it was the Black and brown outlaws of the Indian territory, something like that. And the teacher wanted to know, "Where did you get this information?" He said, "Out of my grandmamma Ms. Bev's books."
Beverly: So, putting the bib list in the backs of the books, like you said for Google, you can learn more about each subject and you don't have to reinvent the wheel. You can just go to the list and look stuff up and teach yourself, and teach those around you.
Kenrya: Sounds fun.
Beverly: And no test on Friday, so it's cool.
Kenrya: That we like.
Erica: No pressure. In “Forbidden,” the leading lady Eddy, we love her.
Erica: She is self-possessed and just laser focused about her goals.
Erica: Even with circumstances that set her back. Why was it so important for you to have such a strong character be so strong in her purpose?
Beverly: All of my women are strong. If they were in a monster movie, they wouldn't be running and falling down. Eddy came out of... I was looking for something else. You run across stuff in history and you go, "What if?" I was reading the diaries from somebody, some brother that was going west. He said he saw this woman walking across the desert with a cookstove on her head, and that's all he said.
Beverly: He didn't know where she was going, but she was just walking. So, when I read that, I was really intrigued. Who was she? Where is she going? Why she got that cookstove on her head? So, since I didn't know, I created a story.
Beverly: Dorothy Sterling in her book "We Are Your Sisters: Black Women in the Nineteenth Century," which both of you should have in your libraries. That's your homework.
Kenrya: Thank you, we'll take it.
Beverly: She said Black women were given... Black women of the 19th century had three gifts. One, we worked. We had a commitment to community and we pushed the enveloped on race and gender. So, I try and give all of my leading ladies and sometimes the secondary women too at least one of those gifts. Some of them have all three, some of them only have one, some of them only have two. But I want them to be focused on who we are and who we were bringing us forward. Because without their shoulders for us to stand on, we wouldn't be here. So, those three gifts. Eddy has maybe all three.
Erica: Yeah, she does.
Beverly: Maybe all three, yeah.
Beverly: So, that's the simple short answer.
Kenrya: So, another thing that we talked about when we were discussing the book was that we love that you really provided a nuanced look at what might drive someone to pass. What made you want to tackle that topic?
Beverly: Part of it was the readers, who for the last 10 years have been asking me, "Where is Rhine Fontaine?"
Erica: Rhine Fontaine.
Beverly: Yeah, and I had no idea where Rhine Fontaine was. But when I ran across the archeological dig that's in the back, in the author's notes, and read about the Boston saloon. They found that hot sauce bottle, and stereotypes, whatever.
Kenrya: We were like, "Hey."
Beverly: Hot sauce bottle, we've evolved, right? So, the short chapter that he is in, "Through the Storm," let us know a little bit about his mindset. If you look at literature through the last 1500 years or whatever, the mulatto was always this tragic mulatto.
Beverly: They don't know who they want to be. Oh my God, the angst. Some of them wind up taking their own lives because they can't handle.
Kenrya: Being in two worlds, yeah.
Beverly: Some of us are different. I think we have a tendency to sort of put them all in one box, and we put them in that tragic mulatto box. But what if they had a different mindset? What if he wanted to pass in order to help his people?
Beverly: Which is what he did. But I always told the sisters, when Rhine disappeared. Like I said, I didn't know where he was for 10 years. I told him, I said, "When we find him, I'm going to give him the darkest woman I can find."
Beverly: So, brother man will have to make a choice, and he did.
Erica: And he did.
Beverly: Shit burned down at the end, but it was okay.
Beverly: And it was real interesting because at the end of that book, before Brussels was written, I had some people saying, "It never would have ended like that, him happy and all that." I said, "You ain't read the second book. The second book is out, it starts out with them being run out of town." People are like, "That's so..." Don't tell me how to write my books.
Kenrya: Don't tell me what I'm...
Kenrya: That's right.
Erica: I'm Beverly Jenkins, you are not.
Beverly: Right, say my name.
Kenrya: That's right.
Beverly: So, Rhine was a very interesting character. I'm hoping that if Sony decides to do whatever it's going to do, because they've optioned it for film, that we get a really, really good rendition and the sister who is the showrunner is fabulous.
Beverly: So, I think when the time comes, because stuff is optioned all the time.
Beverly: So, if it is made, we are in very good hands, in very good hands.
Erica: So excited about this.
Beverly: So am I.
Erica: We were going to ask, can you tell us a little bit about that process? About having the book optioned and...
Beverly: Well, it was optioned through the young ladies who owned The Ripped Bodice, Leah and Bea Koch out in... they were outside of L.A. For those who don't know, they had... well, now there's more than one. But when they started, they had the first bricks and mortar store that was strictly devoted to romance.
Kenrya: That's crazy.
Beverly: They are such dynamic women, young women. In some kind of way, they worked out a deal with Sony where they was able to push book their way. I don't know how that connection started because it wasn't none of my business. But one of the first books that they proposed was “Forbidden.” So, I'm very, very grateful to them. So, then I had no idea what the process was. My agent got someone to shepherd our side of the table forward and we got the showrunner. I'm not going to out her name because that ain't my business either. But she's very, very well known. She's run some pretty powerful shows that we have all watched, and not just all Black shows. She's got a wealth of talent and experience. So, we're just waiting to see what happens.
Kenrya: I'm doing some guessing.
Erica: I am excited. So, I don't know if you can say or if you're willing to share.
Erica: But do you have a dream casting for “Forbidden”?
Beverly: I would like to see Lupita as Eddy and Wentworth Miller as...
Beverly: Because he is a person of color.
Beverly: I think he'd be a perfect Rhine. That's all I've got so far, but when I have my book club meetings with my readers and we do books, that's always the last question of the night, is cast the movie. So, they've got all kinds of ideas and people, some people will be like, "Who is that? I don't know who that is." I'm two generations ahead of some of them, so...
Beverly: But those are my ideal, would be Lupita and Wentworth Miller. So, we'll see.
Erica: I totally see it. Let's make this happen.
Beverly: Yes, yes, yes. Yes, yes, yes.
Kenrya: I guess I should've asked this before we went down the movie rabbit hole, but what do you want people to take away from the book when they finish? Or even from the series, because for those of you who don't know, it's a series of three books.
Kenrya: That follows their story.
Beverly: I've been asked that question since the beginning of my career and I don't know. I want to educate and I want to entertain. So, if you are treated to both of those, then that's all I could ask. I'm also for people who are outside of the culture. If it gives you insight into our history, that's what I want you to take away. We are more than just slaves. So, I just want you to have a good time. I mean, I had a sister one time who told me that, "Ms. Bev, I love your books," she said, "Because at the end of it," she said, "I'm not singing, 'Nobody knows the trouble I've seen.'"
Beverly: Which I think is different. I think there's a spot for every kind of Black story. But so far, all we've been getting is pain and dysfunction and trauma and horror and abuse. Some of those have been outstanding pieces of work, but I want N.K. Jemisin's science fiction books.
Beverly: I want A.C. Arthur's shapeshifters. I want the full gamut because we write the full gamut. We shouldn't be just pigeonholed into one box to represent the African American experience in America. So, I'm just trying to do my part.
Kenrya: You are.
Erica: You are. What are you most proud of so far in your career?
Beverly: That I'm still writing and that I do whatever I can to try and make the path wider for those coming up behind me. To reach back and talk to these young women, and talking them off the roof when they're talking about they're going to quit because things aren't going the way they want it to go. Being proud when somebody names their kid after one of my characters.
Kenrya: Oh, wow.
Beverly: Yeah, there's a lot of Chases running around these days. They're 25 years old now, but they're still running around.
Beverly: Just the fact that, trying to be a good person. I think I'm proud of that. I'm too old for drama, so I just try and keep things even and on course for the young girls coming up behind me.
Kenrya: So, speaking of winding the path and all the folks that you've mentored, what advice do you have for Black women who want to get started writing in this genre?
Beverly: Quit talking about it and write the damn book.
Beverly: When I first started, it took me... like I said, I wouldn't write for publication. So, I worked on "Night Song" for maybe 10 years. It's B.C., before children, right?
Erica: Girl, that's a whole other life.
Beverly: It is, but now I'm A.C. They done moved out and grown and gone. When I talked about it, I got four sisters, four sisters and two brothers. I'm the oldest, and I would talk about the book and my sister is like, "What happened? What's going on with the book?" Everywhere I went, the book.
Kenrya: Slightly shady.
Beverly: Just slightly. Yeah, just a little bit. So, I tell young writers to quit talking about writing and write the book. No matter what it is, there's an audience for it because we read everything. Publishers are just figuring out that oh, they don't just read Black books.
Beverly: I'm like, really? I got to call you all out at a luncheon about this?
Kenrya: Listen, you've been calling folks out left and right. We are quite enjoying it.
Erica: Yes, yes, yes, yes.
Beverly: For 20 years, I was like a prophet in the wilderness just yelling into the wind. But I think they're starting to listen. I mean, we still got a long ass way to go.
Beverly: But at least they're like, "Oh, Ms. Bev, you're right." Duh, yeah. But things are changing slowly. But I think we made more change in the last... but then we had the RWA mess. That took us back a bit, but we won't talk about that. But leading up to the dumpster fire, we made some changes. We made some changes, saw some breakthroughs. So, I'm just sitting back to see what's going to happen next. Really all I can control is what I write.
Beverly: I can call folks out, I can help folks out. I can do what I can, but basically the only thing I can really control is what I write, so I try and stay focused on that also.
Erica: Well, you made it clear that you are an avid reader, an avid book collector. But what are you reading now that has your attention?
Beverly: I'm not supposed to be reading anything because I'm supposed to be finishing this damn book.
Kenrya: That's the perpetual struggle.
Beverly: Girl, the struggle is real. I just finished book two. No, no, no, I just finished G.A. Aiken's "The Blacksmith Queen." Oh my God.
Beverly: Yes, it's got... at the center of the story, and I'm not going to give you no spoilers.
Beverly: But at the center of the story is a woman who is a blacksmith. She is from a long line of female blacksmiths and it's a quest, and it's fantasy. These woman kick ass. It would make a great Netflix movie, oh my God.
Kenrya: Or a series.
Beverly: And it's written by Shelly Laurenston, who is a woman of color. I read book two yesterday. I read this book coming home on the plane Sunday, coming from Boston. While I was in Boston, because that's the only time I get to read now.
Beverly: It makes me just crazy. So, I got a Kindle that should probably go to Weight Watchers because it's got so many books on it. I mean, I open it and it just starts cussing on me. I also finished book two in... I read a lot of fantasy. Jessie Mihalik's queen series, "The Queen's Gambit." This is set in space.
Beverly: It's one of those former mercenary, and she's also a queen. She is bad ass, oh my God. So, yeah, I read a little bit of everything. I'm waiting to start N.K. Jemisin's book about New York City.
Kenrya: That's going to be exciting.
Beverly: I haven't gotten a chance to check that out yet. Yeah, so I got lots of stuff in my TBR and all that, so we'll see.
Kenrya: Thanks for sharing that with us.
Beverly: You're welcome.
Kenrya: Hopefully folks got some good recommendations that they can pick up.
Beverly: Oh, you've got to read “The Blacksmith Queen.”
Kenrya: I am going to read that.
Beverly: It's funny. Very, very, very strong women. Lots of gore, lots of swordplay, lots of heads being chopped off by women.
Beverly: It'd be a great movie, great movie.
Kenrya: So, then the question is, what's next for you? What can we look forward to reading from you?
Beverly: Well, life has been sort of kicking my ass lately, so we had to push back the historical.
Kenrya: I saw that.
Beverly: I know, and I'm so sorry.
Kenrya: It was so sweet that you apologized to all of us.
Beverly: I know, but I do that because...
Erica: You do what you want. We're just happy to get what you throw at us.
Beverly: Well, you got some readers and some writers have posted this on Twitter. People say, "You had to push the book back, I'm not reading any more of your books," blah blah blah. I'm like, "We're human. We got issues, we got family. I got a 91-year-old mother-in-law." I owe you the truth because you guys pay my mortgage.
Kenrya: That's real.
Beverly: You guys bought my car, so... I'm always very cognizant of my role in my readers' lives and their role in my life. So, the apology was just part of what I do and who I am. So, “Spring Rain,” no, “Wild Rain,” I can never get the title right, will be next spring.
Beverly: So, I've got to finish it. I'm going to work on that. Now that the virus is going to be canceling everything from here to the end of April. And then I have book 11 to do for the "Blessing" series.
Beverly: Because we're going to have another one. Book 10 just dropped last Tuesday, so hopefully I might get a chance to maybe catch my breath. I cleaned out my freezer today. I had a little bit of time.
Kenrya: How so? Were you able... see, for those of you who don't follow Ms. Bev on Twitter, you missing out. I saw you post, you were like, "I need to nap now." I'm like, "I hope she can still talk to us."
Beverly: Yeah, I had planned on it because my life has just... I've been on a hamster wheel for six years. I finally got a break. I hit the wall and I had to tell my editor, "Mm-mm (negative), no more."
Kenrya: Good for you.
Beverly: "I need to take a break." So, I was in Boston last week, hoping I didn't catch the virus. We won't know for another two weeks. So, today was just sort of I got my groceries delivered because I don't leave my house. I got my groceries delivered and said, "Okay, I'm going to cook today. It's going to be good. I'm going to do these smoked turkey legs and some collards and some black-eyed peas. I've got these sweet potatoes sitting here in the cupboard."
Kenrya: You're a good cook.
Beverly: I open the freezer and it's like, okay, you've been ignoring this for the last six months. What had happened was, I had a carton of ice cream that had caramel snaking through it. It had been in there so long that the carton tipped over. The caramel oozed out over everything in the freezer. So, for the last three months, four months, all I've been doing is throwing stuff in the freezer and closing the door. So, when I got the groceries today and I had to put one of them big old turkey legs in the freezer, there was no room. So, I was like, okay. It was like being a character in that old racist book “The Tar-Baby,” because everything got touched.
Erica: It became.
Beverly: I was stuck.
Beverly: I ran the catfish in the freezer under hot water and stuff. So, anyway, after I got done I was like...
Kenrya: You was too tired to cook.
Beverly: Ain't no cooking.
Kenrya: Ain't no cooking.
Beverly: No cooking, it's a nap. So, I'll cook tomorrow.
Kenrya: I'm glad you took time for yourself.
Beverly: Well, we as women sometimes don't do that. We're so busy taking care of everybody else, and sometimes being in denial about not really having the strength and the mental ability to just sit your ass down. Sometimes your body will say, "It's time to sit your ass down."
Kenrya: It sure will, yeah.
Beverly: So, I have taken off a week now. I'm going to start back to work tomorrow, try and get this book done. My poor editor.
Kenrya: She'll live.
Beverly: I told her I'm going to start buying her wigs because I know she's bald from pulling her hair out with me. She's so fabulous and so patient, and she's a great editor. So, I'm going to try and get this to her as quickly as possible because the next "Blessings" book is due in a few months from now. So, it's a never ending story, but I love what I do.
Kenrya: That's a blessing.
Erica: We love what you do, so thank you.
Beverly: Sitting in my pajamas, I've been here all day, so I've got to leave my house. Anyway...
Kenrya: No, that's the life.
Beverly: It is.
Kenrya: So, where can people find what you do? Your website is BeverlyJenkins.net?
Beverly: Mm-hmm (affirmative), and we've had issues for a week, but it's up now and running. We are updating it. It's on wherever books are sold online, bricks and mortars, Audible, brail.
Kenrya: Yes, we love accessibility.
Beverly: Whatever mode of vehicle or device you want.
Kenrya: It's there.
Beverly: My books are there, yeah. And that's an honor too.
Kenrya: Yeah, it is.
Beverly: It is.
Kenrya: And you're on Twitter @AuthorMsBev and on Facebook at Author Beverly Jenkins?
Beverly: Yeah, we have... I think I have four Facebook pages.
Beverly: I have one that's... I don't have any personal pages. All of my pages are fan run and based. I have what's supposed to be the personal page, but you can only have 5,000 people. I have that page, I have the Author Beverly Jenkins page. That's the brand page, then I have a spoilers page where... because they read the book so fast and then they want to talk about it the next day.
Beverly: There's people haven't even gotten the book.
Erica: You all go over there and play.
Beverly: Yeah, go over there and play. I gave them a separate room for them to do that, and then we have a page that one of the fans created called The Fans of Beverly Jenkins. That's an open page. I mean, you can just ask to join that. The spoiler page, you have to have an invite because we can't have crazy up in the room.
Erica: Let's protect our space.
Beverly: I had a woman in there who was like, "Well, you all can't talk about the book because everybody hasn't read it." We're like, "Honey."
Kenrya: You're in the wrong place.
Beverly: Did you see the sign on the door? It says spoilers. She ran out, so...
Kenrya: Good, she was wildin’.
Beverly: Reading is fundamental.
Kenrya: It is, you'd think she would know that.
Beverly: I know.
Kenrya: Well, thank you so much for joining us.
Beverly: You are so welcome. I'd love to come back whenever you want me.
Kenrya: Oh, don't tell us that.
Erica: Don't tell us. Well, you know what Ms. Bev? You say that and you going to be at home one day, and we going to show up like, "We're going to do this in person."
Beverly: That's okay.
Kenrya: We heard you had some smoked turkey legs and some collard greens.
Beverly: I know, I have some collard greens and a clean freezer.
Beverly: So, it'll be pie too, you'll get pie.
Kenrya: All right. Listen, this is going to happen.
Erica: Promise us.
Kenrya: We appreciate you.
Beverly: She's looking at me like... yeah, I'm a scratch baker, hun.
Kenrya: Me too.
Beverly: Are you?
Kenrya: I literally baked a cake before I went to the studio.
Erica: Wait, today? Oh, see?
Kenrya: Yeah, but it's for... I'm giving it away. I'll bake you a cake tomorrow but you can't eat... we'll figure it out. I've got to figure out some new recipes for you.
Erica: I don't care.
Kenrya: She's now gluten free, and so now she can't eat anything I make.
Beverly: You're gluten free? Oh no, give me...
Erica: Look, it is only because I'm facing some health challenges that I even care.
Beverly: Well, you deal with your health challenges because we want you here.
Kenrya: Exactly. I'm going to find some recipes of some things that I can bake for you.
Erica: We'll discuss this offline because I'm ready to cuss her out right now. I'm so upset.
Beverly: Play nice, mama says play nice.
Kenrya: Yes, please tell her.
Beverly: Thank you so much for having me. Have me back.
Erica: We will.
Kenrya: We will.
Beverly: Like I said, I don't get to talk to women of color very often, so I had fun.
Kenrya: It's been a pleasure.
Erica: Thank you, thank you, thank you.
Kenrya: And thanks to everyone who is listening. That's it for this week's episode of The Turn On. See you next time.
Beverly: All right.
Erica: This episode was produced by us, Erica and Kenrya, and edited by B'Lystic. The theme song is from Brazy. We want to hear from you all. Send your book recommendations and all the burning sex and related questions you want us to answer to TheTurnOnPodcast@gmail.com. And please subscribe to this show on your favorite podcast app, follow us on Twitter at TheTurnOnPod, and Instagram at TheTurnOnPodcast. Find links to our books, transcripts, guest info, and other fun stuff at TheTurnOnPodcast.com. Remember, The Turn On is now a part of the Frolic Podcast Network. You can find more shows you'll love at Frolic.media/podcast. Thanks for joining us and we'll see you soon, holla.
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In this episode of The Turn On, Erica and Kenrya read an excerpt from "Forbidden" by Beverly Jenkins and talk about finding—and living into—your life's purpose.
The Turn On participates in affiliate programs, which provide a small commission when you purchase products via links on this site. This costs you nothing, but helps support the show. Click here for more information.
Kenrya: Come here. Get off.
Erica: Hey, mark busters.
Erica: Welcome to-
Kenrya: Trying on new accents?
Erica: Welcome to this week's episode of the Turn On. The reason that I'm using my LA mark buster-ass accent is because, we're reading from Beverly Jenkins’ 2016 novel called “Forbidden.” This is a historical romance novel, and the main character is moving out West. So in my mind, this is like the setup for all them Black people going out West.
Kenrya: I love it.
Erica: It makes sense, right?
Kenrya: Yes, it does. It always comes back.
Erica: Okay. So sit back, relax, get your wine, your weed, whatever you need and enjoy.
Kenrya: “Forbidden,” by Beverly Jenkins. "Would you like a bit of champagne?" In for a penny in for a pound, she thought to herself. "Just a little please." He walked over to the sideboard, opened the bottle, and poured some of the golden liquid into a lovely crystal flute and set it beside her cake plate. After pouring himself a portion, he returned to the table. "The way the candlelight is playing over you in that beautiful white blouse makes you look like an angel." She'd never been paid such a compliment before. "My thoughts are hardly angelic, however." "You're being incorrigible again." "A beautiful woman does that to a man. How many buttons are on your blouse?"
Kenrya: She looked down at them and then across the table at him. "Ten, maybe eleven." "Would you undo the first four for me, please?" Fork in hand, Eddy paused and studied him. "This is about the desire you wanted to learn more about." Realizing she'd set her own trap and hoping he didn't see the slight shake in her hands, she put the fork down. Singed by the heat in his eyes, she slowly honored his request, feeling her body bloom with each button she freed. "Thank you," he whispered. "I'm going to place kisses there when you finish your cake." Eddy dissolved. He was way too good at this. She'd expected kisses, not pure seduction.
Kenrya: Although she had enjoyed the angel food cake in the past, she barely tasted it because she was too busy thinking about his stated plans. In need of bolstering, she took a moment to sip her champagne. She then set aside the plate holding the remains of her cake. "Done?" She nodded. He stood. "Bring your champagne." On shaking legs, Eddy did as asked. He took her hand and led her the short distance to a wingback chair upholstered in a beautiful jewel-like dark blue. He sat and coaxed her to sit on his lap. "Hand me your champagne."
Kenrya: Having never sat on a man's lap before in her life, she handed him her flute, and he set it next to his on the small table near the chair. Gathering her in, he eased her close to his chest. The heat of his body melded with hers, and the light scent of his spicy cologne wafted gently to her nose. "I've never sat on a man's lap before. Can you feel me shaking?" "I can, so just relax. We have all evening." He kissed the top of her hair, and after a few moments of being held by him, her tension eased. "Better?" he asked. "Yes." "Good," he whispered. "Now, how about those kisses I promised?"
Kenrya: As his mouth descended to hers, Eddy tried to remain in control and not be swept away as she had been a few days ago in the kitchen of the boardinghouse, but she was still as new to passion as she was to the sweep of his fiery hands and lips. His mouth left hers to blaze a trail over the skin exposed by her opened blouse, and her pleasure-filled moan rose in the silence of the otherwise silent room. The tip of his tongue slipped over the edge of her new lace-edged shift, grazing the tops of her breasts, and for a moment she inanely wondered if he thought less of her for not wearing a corset. When his thumbs teased her already berried nipples and he slid the garment aside just enough to take the bud into his mouth, she was glad she refused to wear the constricting garment. Apparently he was, too.
Kenrya: Rising up, he held her eyes and husked out, "Undo more buttons for me." Eddy felt hot and scandalous, but gave him the boon. He rewarded her by easing the soft cotton down to free her breasts. He feasted in earnest, and a smoldering took root between her thighs. He claimed her lips again, and as his tongue played invitingly with hers, his large hand slid up and down her skirt-shrouded thigh. When that same hand slipped beneath to explore her stocking-encased limb, soft gasps escaped from her lips.
Kenrya: She heard him say, "I want to touch you, Eddy." Her skirt was rucked up high past her garter, and his palm was mapping the bare skin above it. He asked huskily, "Yes? No?" Her world was so hazy and she was so caught up in the storm she had no idea what he was asking. "Open your legs, darling. Let me feel your desire there too." Feeding on his voice she complied, and his bold touch followed. Then she knew what he'd been asking. Bewitching fingers circled, dallied. She arched and panted softly, "Rhine." "You're so wet." The storm gathering in her body grew stronger with each indrawn breath. "Rhine," she cried helplessly.
Kenrya: "Go ahead, darling. Let it come, baby. I have you." Her legs widened, his wicked fingers continued to bestow their enthralling magic. Suddenly, the storm broke, crackling through her body like summer lightning, and she was flung out to the stars, hoarsely screaming his name. Eddy didn't know how much time had passed, but when she opened her eyes he was smiling down. Still breathless, she asked, "What in heaven's name was that?" "An orgasm. When your body can't hold any more pleasure it explodes, sort of like Black powder. Did you enjoy it?"
Kenrya: Embarrassment heated her cheeks and she turned away. He gently turned her chin so she was again looking into his eyes. "There's no shame in anything we do together," he informed her quietly. "Only pleasure. Please don't ever be ashamed of enjoying yourself." She'd never felt anything like the orgasm before. Even now remnants lingered, slowly beating between her thighs in cadence with her heart and breath. "Do men have orgasms too?" "Yes, but doing it properly usually results in babies, and we don't want that right now." "No, we don't." But she wondered what a child made by the two of them might look like.
Kenrya: Turning her mind away from that, she noted how limp yet full she felt. The logical and levelheaded old Eddy was appalled at how free she'd been with him, while the newly awakened woman inside wondered how long she had to wait to experience it again. He repositioned her skirt and righted her shift. She shrugged back into her blouse and redid most of the buttons. "Thank you for the lesson." "You're welcome." He slid a worshipping finger down her cheek and he took on a serious air. "Marry me, Eddy." Hearing that, she sighed. "You know I can't. Please don't spoil our evening." "I'm not trying to, but I'm serious. Marry me."
Kenrya: She looked away for a long moment and wondered why he'd bring up such a subject after what they'd shared. Maybe she understood it but it changed nothing. Yes, she loved him, but that didn't change anything either. Turning back, she picked her words carefully. "You know what we'd be facing. It might look to be an easy road from where you sit, but it isn't. You're not Colored and I'm not White. Us being together is against the law almost everywhere." "But I'm not White either."
Erica: Welcome back you mark busters.
Kenrya: You're committed.
Erica: I know, I am. Hopefully you enjoyed the excerpt as much as we did. First, I am so hyped that we were able to get this story because it is a story by OG Beverly Jenkins.
Kenrya: Thee Beverly Jenkins.
Erica: She is like, I mean, most of you all who listen are familiar with romance but Beverly Jenkins is a big fucking deal, a BFD. I was introduced to her through you Kenrya. I think you sent me a podcast.
Kenrya: Yeah. And that's when I first learned about it.
Erica: I was just like, "Look at this Black woman out here just-
Kenrya: Fucking making history.
Erica: Mm-hmm (affirmative). I mean, I feel like everyone heard about Zane and that kind of thing.
Kenrya: But she was way before that.
Erica: But she was way before that and just made it for us. Because I remember-
Kenrya: Putting Black people on covers when they wouldn't do that before.
Erica: Exactly. I remember when I was a kid, you're in a grocery store and you see the romance novels and that kind of thing, and in your mind it is very much a white woman's thing. And here we are with OG Beverly Jenkins.
Kenrya: I know.
Erica: OG Beverly Jenkins, buster.
Kenrya: It's a theme. We're going to talk to her soon, so it's really exciting. She was just so dope. She was like, "Sure you can use my book." We were like, "Oh, God."
Erica: No. I was like... This was definitely one of those moments where I was like, "Wait, what? She would let us use that shit?" I mean, I we have had some amazing talent and authors, and we've been blessed, but when Beverly Jenkins was like, "Yeah, of course." I was like, "Really? You sure? Are you sure about this?" So, yeah. With that said, Kenrya, give us a little bit of background on the story.
Kenrya: Okay. It's called “Forbidden” and that's for good reason. I don't want to give too much away, but I'll tell you some things that we learn right up front. There's two stars. The male lead is Rhine Fontaine.
Erica: Rhine Fontaine.
Erica: I'm sorry. You all going to have to deal with my fucking accent this entire episode.
Kenrya: But so he's from Georgia.
Erica: Rhine Fontaine.
Kenrya: Yes. And so that sounds like the colonel like.
Erica: Yeah. It's like Andy Bernard.
Kenrya: Oh, God. Yes, it is.
Erica: Hello, my name is Rhine Fontaine. Okay, sorry.
Kenrya: So in the opening pages, we learn that he's formerly enslaved. He was raised on a plantation as a slave. His father was, his sperm donor was the slave owner. And his mom was one of the enslaved people living on a plantation. When the war came, he joined the Confederate Army, left, and then went to the Union side, and he is in the opening pages back at the plantation, where he grew up looking for his sister who he lost track of during the course of the war.
Kenrya: What we find out very quickly is that he looks like a white man. And he resolves that he is going to basically pass as white so that he can use his privilege in order to help Black folks. And that's where we start. Then the next scene, we meet Eddy Carmichael, who is a Black woman who she was born free. Her parents were free just before they got married. And she's getting mugged. She has her purse full of her money and her ticket to California that she has been-
Erica: California, buster.
Kenrya: Yes. ... saving up for the last year, and some nigga robs her. She's already given notice at her boarding house and given notice at her job at the hotel, and she's like, "I got to get out there by hook or by crook. Fuck it, I'm just going to make it." And so she's a cook and her dream is to open her own restaurant in California. And so she sets out with a carpet bag with just a couple of outfits in it, and a stove that she carries on her fucking head like a little cook stove. And she finds someone who's willing to let her cook in exchange to let her ride with him as far west as she can go.
Kenrya: And so in this way, she basically meets up with people and depends on the kindness of others in order to make her way out West. She ends up getting as far as Nevada, and then she trusts the wrong person, this suck ass nigga who claims he's a preacher who's taken a kid to an orphanage and he's going to Sacramento and she can ride with him. So all is going well until she meets this bitch-ass nigga who decides that he's going to fuck with her. He pretends to be a priest and he has this little boy, and he's like, "Yeah, I'm taking him to an orphanage in Sacramento. You can ride with us." And so she's not quite sure, but he's like, "I'm a man of God. I would never hurt you." ’Til they get like two hours outside of town, and he pulls over the horse and buggy and is like, "I'm trying to fuck."
Erica: Fuck, fight, or hitchhike?
Erica: That's fucked up.
Kenrya: And she's like, "No, fuck you." She's a virgin too, and she's like not on that shit. And he's like, "Well, then give me your money." So he robs her and then throws her out into the middle of the fucking desert in the middle of the day. So she's trying to walk but she barely has any water. She ends up passing out and just as she falls to the ground, Rhine Fontaine-
Erica: Rhine Fontaine.
Kenrya: ... sees her across the sand and comes and saves her, and nurses her back to health.
Erica: Okay. All right, so and hijinks ensue.
Kenrya: Hijinks ensue.
Erica: Dot, dot, dot.
Kenrya: Mm-hmm (affirmative).
Erica: I feel like this story is just really about knowing what your purpose is, knowing what you're supposed to do, and doing it. I feel like for me, finding my purpose, I thought that knowing my purpose would be this divine like, "This is your purpose. Your purpose is to do X, Y and Z."
Kenrya: Mm-hmm (affirmative).
Erica: Where as now it's like-
Kenrya: Why did you think that?
Erica: Because I feel like that was one of those things you were just kind of told. I mean, when you listen to Oprah or whoever they're like, "My purpose is to get little Black girls into school." Like, it seems so specific.
Kenrya: Yeah. And there's like this moment when the sky opens up and the Lord speaks down to you.
Erica: Exactly. I feel like it's evident in this story, and I feel like it's been evident in my life that, your purpose doesn't necessarily evolve. It doesn't necessarily come out like that. Yes, I do feel like some people know, "Specifically, this is my purpose." But for me, I feel like my purpose has been more of a feeling, more of a push towards something. I feel like I'm finding my purpose. I feel like I know what my purpose is, but I couldn't specifically articulate it in three sentences. You follow me? I feel like my purpose now in life is to help women, Black women become more in touch with their bodies and their sexuality. Be it through what we're doing here or Black women as they deal with cancer and different traumatic things. But I feel like that's slowly been my purpose.
Kenrya: So it's been evolving. You've been coming into it.
Erica: It's been evolving but it has started out as a, look, I know I like this sex shit and so we going to ride this and see where it takes us. And I feel like that's kind of the situation with Eddy in this story, where she's like, "Look, I got to get out West. I want this. I want a restaurant. This is my purpose." But we just don't-
Kenrya: The how's and the-
Erica: We just going to let this shit happen. Yeah. How about you? How is-
Kenrya: I mean, I will say that it has evolved to a degree in terms of the way that I approach it. But I think in hindsight, it's always pretty much been the same. So I do have a sentence that I use that describes what I do, because it wraps up a lot of different things, and it's to amplify the lived experiences and advocacy of Black folks. And to shift the narrative around who deserves liberty and justice and equity in America. That's what it comes down to. And so all the different things that I do, writing about white supremacy and helping people have babies as a doula to start off strong life families, and doing this podcast. I find that they all kind of fit under this one umbrella, which is really to do those things. But so the way that I've approached it has varied, like when I was in college and shortly after, I wanted to start a magazine for young Black girls, which you just reminded me of the other day. That was my shit.
Erica: My question is, did you, because you have yours in a neat sentence, like you have a... I hear and see all the time people are like, "Write it down, make it plain. Write it down, make it plain." When did you get there? And do you feel like it's helped crystallize where you're going?
Kenrya: Well, I have to have that sentence because of what I do. Right? So being a speaker and all of that shit, and having my bio on all these different places, I had to boil my shit down. So it took a lot of sitting with it and trying to figure out something, a statement that really encompasses all of the things. Like I said, it's evolved over, the wording of it has changed a bit even as the approach to it has changed. But it's kind of just been a necessity because I have to sell myself all the fucking time. It's like having an elevator pitch, you have to have something that you use to sell yourself and your work so that you can get work.
Kenrya: But then there's always these new opportunities to refine it. A couple of weeks ago, I was working on an artist statement for a grant that I was applying to. And I had an artist statement, but when I looked back at it, it was shitty. So I threw it away and started all over again. And I really love what came out of it and it uses some of those elements, but then a lot of it is completely new but still gets at the same thing. It was just another way to approach it, that really honestly made me really excited again about what I'm doing.
Erica: Good. See, I don't have an elevator pitch. On one hand I'm like, "Who needs it?" But on another hand, I feel like as we move into this, as I grow and have a better idea of what I want to do or what this purpose looks like for me, I feel like I need to somehow come up with it.
Kenrya: Crystallize it.
Erica: Like crystallize it.
Kenrya: It's definitely, if you stay ready, you ain't got to get ready situation.
Erica: And it also gives you a guiding point like, "This is what I say I want to do. Does this fit into that?"
Kenrya: Yes. It helps you be more intentional.
Erica: Oh, yeah. Again, me with all the words and Kenrya with one, to help figure it out. But yeah, so Eddy really has, she knows, "This is what I got to do. This is the way I need to make it work." Well not even the way I need to make it work, "This is what I got to do."
Kenrya: Just this is what I'm going to do. Yeah.
Erica: It's interesting because I was talking to, actually I was talking to a girlfriend about divorce the other day, and I was telling her that once... I don't like to talk to people about like, if people are on the fence like, "Should I stay? Should I go?" that kind of thing, I don't like to-
Kenrya: You don't want to be the one.
Erica: Yeah. I know what I did and it worked out for me but I don't want to be the one like, "Girl, it's good over here in the voice land."
Kenrya: It is though.
Erica: It is, but don't let me be the reason that you decide that, and I say all the time.
Kenrya: If you get back with nigga, I ain’t trying to have y'all side eyeing my ass."
Erica: Exactly. Because I still like come to cookouts. But I feel like I hit a point in my marriage where I was like, "I cannot be here anymore. I have to leave. This is untenable. There's no way in the world that this is going to work out with my sanity."
Kenrya: That moment is tantalizing.
Erica: I feel like part of that was I got there also with my purpose. I am currently working in a very corporate America office situation. And then it was on my spirit to be like, "Bitch, gospel of good sex. Sell the gospel of good sex." For me like it is in my spirit to help women become more in touch with who they are sexually and be more comfortable, and have comfortable conversations around sex and sexuality.
Kenrya: Look at what you just did. We going to write that down. It'll be in the transcript.
Erica: We going to have to pull it out from the transcript. But it's amazing because now that I am here and I got it, I'm like, "Oh, shit." And then I tell people and they're like, "Bitch, this been who you've been all along." It's just so great and it's liberating, but at the same time really fucking scary.
Kenrya: Why is it scary?
Erica: Because it's like, I went to school and this is what I did, and you build your entire life based on one thing or what you think you're going to do. And then you have this internal draw, this purpose that's like, "Yo bitch, no. This is what you're going to do, and you just got to do it." I have no idea how this is going to work out, like no idea what it's going to look like, what it's going to be, but I know I got to do this and so I'm just kind of like, "Okay, God. You put this on my spirit, you're going to make this shit happen.”
Kenrya: You know I know what that feels like.
Kenrya: Yeah, yeah.
Erica: Tell me where are you?
Kenrya: I don't even know. I'm just in a place where I realize that certain aspects of my career don't work for me. And so I blew them shits up. I mean, even just looking at personal life, like you started out with talking about when you realized you had to get a divorce. For me, getting a divorce was not a sad situation for me. Once I realized that I was done, I was done, all the sadness and all that shit had already happened. The hard part was that I had invested so much time and energy into the way that I thought my life was supposed to go, and having to really sit down and take stock of that and realize that that shit was done, and I was starting over when I had this plan where I thought my life was going to go. Right?
Kenrya: So it was like, "Oh, okay. I'll finish undergrad, I'll work for two years, I'll go to grad school for two years, I'll meet someone who I love. I'll marry them in a couple of years. We'll be married for two years, and then we'll have a kid after that." That was my plan. Always my plan. And I pretty much did exactly, I did exactly that. And when I had to really look at the fact that I had a plan, and I worked the plan and it was still shitty, it really put me in a tailspin because it was like, "Well then what the fuck am I supposed to be doing?" It really took me sitting and honestly talking to God a lot, and realizing that it was okay that it didn't work out the way that I thought it was supposed to be. Because it was just preparing me for something that was better and that was really and truly for me. But the idea of starting from what felt like square one was frightening to me.
Erica: Yeah. It's interesting, this is a little off topic, but I was talking to my aunt, during I don't know if it was right after I got diagnosed with breast cancer, but we were talking and all of that and she's just like, "This is so unfair. You did everything right. You did everything right. This is so unfair." And I'm just like... I mean, yes, it's fucked up. This has not been an easy road, but at the same time, like-
Kenrya: What are you going to do?
Erica: I can't do shit about it. I can't do shit about it and so as opposed to sitting around, "Woe is me. Why is this?" that kind of thing. Like be in your feelings. I have a friend who says, "Yes, you can be any feelings just don't start getting mail there. Don't move in. Don't start getting mail there."
Kenrya: That's real shit.
Erica: And so I was like, "Okay. Yes, this is definitely not what I thought or where I thought I'd be, but we're here. So now what we going to do about it?" Back to the book, Eddy had this plan, and although her plan kept like getting fucked up and going a million different places... I remember I read the Alchemist. Everybody read “The Alchemist.” The one thing that stood out for me is that the universe conspires for-
Kenrya: For your favor.
Erica: ... for your favor. If you're doing what you're supposed to do, even a fucking mistake is going to work in your favor. I feel like this story is just much more of that. You fail up. Don't I say white men fail up, they do. But I feel like when you're doing what you're supposed to be doing, if you're doing what God has for you, or what your spirits tell you you're supposed to be doing, like even the fuck-ups are going to work in your favor. Eddy ended up getting sexually assaulted, beat up on the side of the road, but for somehow whatever reason, it all led to this situation with Rhine Fontaine. Can you think of a situation where you were like, "This is what is supposed to happen, bam, bam, bam, and then..." I'm the worst with asking questions, but you get what I'm saying. Have you had a situation where, what might have been a fuck-up favored you?
Kenrya: Marriage, fuck. I mean, it should not have happened, but it was obviously supposed to happen. I got my little love out of it, and it was all fucked up. And I am so much better.
Erica: Yeah, you got your lessons from it.
Kenrya: Yeah. And not to say that I think you have to go through trauma in order to be better, because I think this idea that you have to suffer in order to be the best version of yourself is fucked up bullshit.
Erica: No, I'm good. I'll let you all suffer. Send me the Cliffs Notes.
Kenrya: Yeah. I remember at one point when I had gotten pretty far into my sobriety from being codependent and our therapist was like, "So, if you had to do all of this again, would you?" And I was like, "Fuck no." I was like, "If I can get to here and just go to therapy and get healthy, and not have been with abusive men and been with cheating-ass men and all the other things that happened that ended up being traumatic around intimate relationships, I wouldn't do that shit again." There's no part of me that feels that that was what I needed to go through to get here. It just is what my path was. But I don't harbor some delusion that it made me.
Erica: Yeah, yeah. I have gotten a lot more comfortable taking Ls now in life, now that I recognize that sometimes this L, it might not be what you think. This ain't for you right now. I'm a firm believer that, what is for you, is for you and it's going to make its way to you.
Kenrya: That's right.
Erica: And not to say that I sit around just waiting for shit to happen, but at the same time, I firmly recognize that, you know what, sometimes I think this is for me, but it ain't quite.
Kenrya: It's true. I mean, I think that I have that same attitude, and I think it's made me a relentless optimist, which may sometimes seem at odds with other parts of me, but it is true. I am eternally like just going to be fine. It's going to be fine. Which is probably annoying to some people, but-
Erica: Yeah. I mean, I feel like when you've been through some bullshit... I hate... Okay. Let me say it and then I'll go back. I feel like when you've been through some bullshit, you're able to be like, "You know what? It's going to be okay." Now, as I say, I hate hearing that sometimes because I feel like there's these, I think we just touched on this but I think there's these people... I can't think of the word. People romanticize the struggle.
Kenrya: Mm-hmm (affirmative).
Erica: It's like, "No, I don't want to..." It's kind of like when people will be like, "Our kids are punks. We make it too easy on our kids."
Kenrya: Isn't that the goal?
Erica: Aren't we supposed too?
Kenrya: Don't we want them to have it better than we did?
Erica: Even raising my child I think about how I'm like, "When I was his age I could do X, Y, Z." And it's like, "But no, bitch. Just because you could you shouldn't have been doing it."
Kenrya: Exactly. We have those conversations all the time, like having had kind of rough upbringing it's like, "Okay, just because I was staying in the house by myself when I was five don't mean that that's what my child should be doing." I think sometimes we talk about this balance between, giving them tools right to be able to do shit and not making them lazy. So you want to like, right. You want them to know how to do things but you want it to be age appropriate and not overload them in the same ways that we were overloaded. We want to be able to make their lives better than ours were. It's a tough balancing act.
Erica: It totally is. So back to the eternal optimism, I definitely feel like I am that type of person too. I'd just be winging it on some shit. Winging it, and I just feel like if this is for me, then it's going to work. And if it falls apart, then guess what, it just wasn't for me, and the right thing will come along.
Kenrya: Yeah, I agree. That's essentially what Eddy is doing as she makes her way across the country. So she's like, "I'm going to trust this person." That was another thing that came up for me was about trust, and how to know who you can trust and who you can't. She just kind of follows her intuition and it only gets her in trouble once, and it was with a fucking liar and we've all been there.
Erica: And she felt she kind of-
Kenrya: She still knew something wasn't quite right, and she ignored it.
Kenrya: And every time I've ignored my gut I ended up in some trouble.
Erica: Mm-hmm (affirmative).
Kenrya: So that's, not that it's her fault obviously, but it's just one of the things that I've been working to do is to trust my intuition more.
Erica: Yeah, yeah. I mean, I think that we've been taught for so long to ignore our gut, that we do and then... I mean, if you think about like, I think about seedy guys that I've like, or seedy situations. I felt-
Kenrya: You knew something.
Erica: I knew and I couldn't put my finger on it. And so now I am so much more willing to just-
Kenrya: Bye, nigga.
Erica: Like with no rhyme or reason. I had somebody reach out to me this morning on some like, "Hey, I know you should have had your surgery by now. How are you healing?" And he was like, "I've been reaching out to you." And I was like, "Don't talk to me no more." It was literally like, "I'm doing well. Thanks for checking. Don't call me no more."
Erica: There's like a bunch of nuance into why I feel this way. Yes, I could explain it-
Kenrya: But why? You don't owe him anything.
Erica: ... but I don't owe you shit. I don't owe you shit. We had our time, it was great while it lasted. And so now it's not our time anymore." And so, I am learning to lean into that gut a whole lot more. It also takes an amazing amount of faith in God for me. Right before my divorce, I started going to church hard. I really, really renewed my-
Kenrya: We were there constantly. Are we now?
Erica: Yeah, been lately but not... But I'm still there, like still there spiritually. I feel like it was just preparation for what was going to be happening. I mean I didn't even realize it but it was just like, you know what? You've got to get to a point where you ain't going to know what the fuck to do. And it's crazy because like people talk about how you're just like... I've gotten to points, shit, just in this breast cancer journey or like I don't even know what the fuck I'm praying for. I'm literally just like, "My God." That's the only thing that I can say because I don't even know what the fuck I'm praying for. Girl, I'm about to be in this bitch crying, because it's just like, I don't even know. I just know that I need you right now. And as you continue to like, as I move forward in life I'm finding that sometimes I don't even know what i need.
Kenrya: Your will be done is all you got.
Erica: Your will be done. Makes this shit happen.
Kenrya: That was my prayer this morning.
Erica: Yeah, like make some shit happen. You just do whatever you need to do and I am going to be receiving. Actually I was talking to Pam, Pastor Pam who was one of our guests last season.
Kenrya: In the first season, yeah.
Erica: It was the same conversation where I told her I had breast cancer. I was telling her that right now I'm in a season of receiving. I'm just receiving whatever the Lord sends my way. Good, bad, indifferent, whatever, I'm just going to accept it and receive it, and move accordingly.
Kenrya: And you've been doing a great job of it.
Erica: Girl, honey. I've been [inaudible 00:38:26]. I'm thinking I'm tumbled around. Thank you, boo. But yeah, I have hit a point where I am just like, you know what, I have no idea what's happening here. I have a feeling about what I need to be doing, back again to Eddy, I got a feeling about what's supposed to happen, but I'm just going to move forward with pure intentions in my heart, and doing what I feel is best and I promise you, God, Lord, spirits, whoever is going to make away and make sure that things line up properly.
Kenrya: God provides. Jehovah Jireh.
Erica: Jehovah Jireh. So with that said, I mean, we're here to talk about what? Sex.
Erica: So Eddy runs into this gentleman, Rhine Fontaine, who interestingly enough helps her make her way through this, navigate her way through this shitty little world, and further get to what she's supposed to be doing.
Kenrya: Yes, it's true. And we can't tell too much because I don't want to spoil the book, but yeah, a lot of what happens, I mean we can get into their relationship a bit, is that they feel drawn to each other in ways that they can't understand or explain exactly.
Erica: As evidenced in the excerpt we read.
Kenrya: Right. And she's totally unexperienced. She had really given up on the idea of ever being with a man or having kids or anything. And so the idea of being with a man who she believes to be white is totally fucking frightening to her because it's illegal, and she doesn't know what that would do to her life or to his life, and he is wealthy and has all this influence. And he's not sure what he's supposed to do with that, because he doesn't want to give up the work that he's able to do because he is passing as white. It was interesting because I never really thought of passing as being something that can have a positive.
Erica: Yeah. You think of passing as like an easy way out.
Kenrya: Yeah. And in this case-
Erica: He's doing it as an act of resistance.
Kenrya: Exactly that. It's especially in the end, I have more empathy because he had literally been raised as an enslaved person and was just like, "Yo. That shit is for the fucking birds, and my people are going through it. Here is my best way that I can do something about it." It kind of turns some things on their head. I was just talking to my kid about passing, we were just having this conversation.
Erica: Y'all have about the most interesting conversations.
Kenrya: We do. I love it because she can hold so many things at the same time even being so young. I just love that she has the tools to be able to understand a lot of shit. So we were talking about Alexander Hamilton. She was like, "I mean, but he looked white." And I was like, "Well, he does." I was like, "But his mom was Black." I was like, "And he did something that's called passing, where he lived his life as a white person." It allowed him to have all of this power and to do all of these things, some of which are still biting us in the fucking ass like the Electoral College and the system of capitalism in the United States. [crosstalk 00:41:48]. But we talked about that too.
Kenrya: And I was like, "There are people who are able to do that and some of them choose to do it, and some of them choose not to." And then we talked about some people who we know, who could technically pass if they wanted to, but that they identify as Black and they are proud in that, and that is the way that they move through the world. And so it was really interesting to see through a very young person's eyes like what that meant, because she was just baffled. She was like, "I mean, but that nigga look white. I don't understand."
Erica: Well, I think that... Again, this is why Beverly Jenkins is OG Beverly Jenkins. Because she took such a-
Kenrya: What could be a contentious-
Erica: It's so layered, and was able to wrap this shit up in a love story, and a story about a bad bitch being a bad bitch, and surviving. So in the scene that we read, it is very clear that Eddy is a-
Erica: I don't even want to say a virgin like, I mean she looked at the dick, and she probably like-
Kenrya: Oh my God, right.
Erica: "I do declare."
Kenrya: She is not so bad.
Erica: I mean there's something about, Eddy.
Kenrya: It's funny because I kept saying Eddy too, but I'm like, "Well, that shit's spelled Eddy."
Erica: Yeah. Something about Eddy just gives me fiery, just Black, like you know how there's just like grannies that are just like just good stock. I mean, like that cast iron skillet is the best thing that I can think of, just like dependable, going to get some shit done. It's just, "Oh."
Kenrya: Her word is her bond. And also, there's some stuff that happens in the course of the book where you're like, "Yes, bitch."
Erica: Oh, yeah. [crosstalk 00:43:48]. I'm like, "Oh, she's a badass." And so, no, I don't think she would like, "I do declare," but it's very because she's such a, I don't want to say a strong Black woman, but because she's such a strong character-
Kenrya: She's self-possessed.
Erica: She is self-possessed. She knows who the fuck she is and what the fuck she's here for. It's this scene itself is very different from who she is.
Kenrya: It's an unraveling.
Erica: Yeah, because she's like vulnerable as fuck.
Kenrya: Mm-hmm (affirmative). In all the ways.
Erica: But it's so sexy.
Kenrya: Yeah. It was interesting because I don't really tend to do historical anything, it's not really my bag. So this is the first historical romance I think I've ever read maybe. And it was interesting how like, he starts out by telling her to unbutton four buttons on her shirt and I'm like, "Why is this so sexy?" Because my titties be out all the time already.
Erica: I know. But to me it was really hot, just on the like, "So this is what I'm about to do to you."
Kenrya: Mm-hmm (affirmative).
Erica: And because she has no idea, in her head like having a fucking meltdown like, "Whoo." Because it's just like, he's like, "Unbutton your buttons," and she's like, "What the fuck? I'm sitting out here with my titties out."
Kenrya: He's like, "I'm going to put kisses there."
Erica: Yeah, you're completely vulnerable and exposed. And then he's like, "And then this is what I'm going to do to you." So then you're not only thinking about how it's going to feel for him to do this, but then like, "Oh my God, this is so scandalous. I'm out here with my titties." It was just such a great scene because it just, it showed how, yes, she is self-possessed and a woman of strength, but [inaudible 00:45:52].
Kenrya: I know.
Erica: But at the same time, she's still a girl that wants to-
Kenrya: "I'm just a girl standing in front of a boy."
Erica: Okay. Is that from “Love Is Blind”?
Kenrya: Waiting for you to love me or some shit. Asking you to love me, no, it's “Grey's Anatomy” bitch. Meredith says it to Derek.
Erica: I'm fucking rolling my eyes.
Kenrya: But then she says, "Choose me," and then I'm like, "Okay. No, let's not do that."
Erica: I'm thinking about, "I'm just a girl something... in the world."
Kenrya: Is that Gwen Stefani?
Erica: No doubt, yeah. A girl from the Midwest and from the ’90s, we were all into ska music. Anyway-
Kenrya: “Don't Speak” was my shit.
Erica: What was?
Kenrya: “Don't Speak.”
Erica: (Singing). Sorry.
Kenrya: It was before she went off the deep end with the appropriation.
Erica: So side note, her in that video with the Mexican ladies and like, how did that fly?
Kenrya: Did you listen? That and then all the hard you who love or shit. Like she just-
Erica: Oh my God. I forgot about that.
Kenrya: She's like a fucking appropriator [inaudible 00:47:05].
Erica: She brought them out like, "Hey, let's trot out the little Japanese character." Oh my gosh, how did we let this happen?
Kenrya: We were young. I don't know.
Erica: Oh my gosh.
Kenrya: Yeah, it was bad. I mean I stopped fucking with her music around that time, it didn't speak to me anymore. But back when it was her and No Doubt [crosstalk 00:47:25].
Erica: No Doubt was my shit. Actually I might have to listen to No Doubt this afternoon.
Kenrya: I know. It was good.
Erica: Oh my goodness. Okay. Back to all of this. Let's bring it back, bring it back. The scene was just great because for me this scene is like the one scene that's unlike who Eddy has been through the book. Through the book she is a badass but in this scene she's really like truly giving herself up to the, what's about to happen here.
Kenrya: Well in a relationship, because she gave herself up to what was going to happen when she was moving her way across the country, but when it came to dealing with men, it was very much like she's literally buttoned up.
Erica: Because every single, not every single, most of her interactions with Rhine Fontaine have been very like, "I have a wall. It's impenetrable." And finally, she let it down. She unbuttoned them four buttons and said, "Pladow! How you like me now?"
Kenrya: And it was cool too, because like him telling her what he was going to do, it was a seduction, but it was also informative because she legit knew nothing.
Erica: Had no idea. That makes me think, were you surprised by your first orgasm?
Kenrya: With a partner? Because I had been having orgasms for a long time.
Erica: Yeah, I had been masturbating for a while.
Kenrya: I'm trying to remember the first time I came with a partner.
Erica: Yeah, I don't see the thing is here.
Kenrya: I don't even remember.
Erica: I take that question back. Because by the time I was a fucking men, well fucking people, I was making myself come. I was masturbating from, I was tapping that button from early on.
Kenrya: A very young age. Most people do.
Erica: And so I knew that I can feel this way and this is how it's supposed to happen. So okay.
Kenrya: I am legit trying to remember the first time I had an orgasm with a partner and I can't. I mean I've always been able to come with people because I had been masturbating so long that I knew what I needed.
Erica: Yeah. With the exception of maybe like losing my virginity, I have made it. I've always been intentional about the fact that like, "We're having sex, I'm going to have an orgasm. So, are you going to be part of it, or it's going to happen?"
Kenrya: With or without you.
Erica: With or without you. Like the first time it's like, very performative, but I caught on very early on that like, "Oh, this is, if we're going to play, we need to make sure we have the ball."
Kenrya: Exactly. Yeah. I can't even remember, honestly.
Erica: Wow. All right. Well, that wraps up this week's episode-
Kenrya: On Kenrya’s Swiss cheese brain.
Erica: Trauma. All right, well, thank you for joining us this week. This is Erica and Kenrya, two hoes making it clap.
Kenrya: Bitch, we clapped at the same time this time!
Kenrya: This episode was produced by us, Kenrya and Erica, and edited by B'Lystic. The theme music is from Brazy. We want to hear from you all. Send your book recommendations and all the burning sex and related questions that you want us to answer to TheTurnOnPodcast@gmail.com. And please subscribe to the show on your favorite podcast app. Follow us on Twitter @TheTurnOnPod, and Instagram @TheTurnOnPodcast, and find links to books, transcripts, guests info and other fun stuff at TheTurnOnPodcast.com. And remember, The Turn On podcast is part of the Frolic Podcast Network. You can find more podcasts that show love at Frolic.Media/podcast. Thanks for joining us and we'll see you soon. Bye.
The Turn On
The Turn On is a podcast for Black people who want to get off. To open their minds. To learn. To be part of a community. To show that we love and fuck too, and it doesn't have to be political or scandalous or dirty. Unless we want it to be.