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Renita’s Ramblings: Expand Your Horizons

Note: This article was originally published on our sister site, Blush Magazine

When Jennifer Rebecca contacted me about writing a blog for Blush Magazine for Black History Month I was honored, flabbergasted actually. One, because well, who knew? Two, I am totally proud of my heritage!

Here is my chance to talk about blackness/diversity, and highlight books and authors I have been reading for years. To share some of the best-kept secrets in Bookverse!

To show that Black writers have been around long before I knew of AL Jackson, Ruth Cardello, Chelle Bliss or any of the authors I now read and call friends. There was Brenda Jackson, Beverly Jenkins, Eric Jerome Dickey, Zane, and one of my top five authors of all time, E. Lynn Harris.

To explain that Black women/men have been reading romance and falling in love long before there was Colton Donovan, Christian Grey, or Jessie Ward. We fell in love with Basil Henderson, Malcolm Tremell, and Vincent Calvery Browne.

To make evident that one should step outside of your comfort zone to experience something new and exciting. Aren’t books supposed to take you where you have never been before? To open your mind and expand your horizons?

To prove that Black love is strong. That Black men love their women and can be the hero. That Black women stand by their men and can be the heroine. That Black romance has the same ups and downs as any other culture.

 

Invisible Life by E. Lynn Harris

If I had to tell you to start with someone, to read a Black author, to delve into the same genre with perhaps a different perspective, it would be E. Lynn Harris. E. Lynn being male, Black, and openly gay, covers diversity in spades. He did not shy away from any of his persona in his public life, nor in his books. He became a New York Times Bestseller ten consecutive times. E. Lynn was also a friend of mine, having attended the same college with me. Unfortunately, he passed away in 2009 at the age of 54 from a heart attack.

The re-issue of a remarkable first novel by a young, gay, black author who fashioned a deeply moving and compelling coming of age story out of the highly controversial issues of bisexuality and AIDS.

Law school, girlfriends, and career choices were all part of Raymond Tyler’s life, but there were other, more terrifying issues for him to confront. Being black was tough enough, but Raymond was becoming more and more conscious of sexual feelings that he knew weren’t “right.” He was completely committed to Sela, his longtime girlfriend, but his attraction to Kelvin, whom he had met during his last year in law school, had become more than just a friendship.

Fleeing to New York to escape both Sela and Kelvin, Raymond finds himself more confused than ever before. New relationships–both male and female–give him enormous pleasure but keep him from finding the inner peace and lasting love he so desperately desires. The horrible illness and death of a friend eventually force Raymond, at last, to face the truth.

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The Law of Moses by Amy Harmon

When I first heard of the book, The Law of Moses, I had no idea who Amy Harmon was. I was relatively new to Bookverse and was told by a friend that I needed to read it. I delved in with no prerequisite, no expectations, and no clue. Upon my discovery that Moses was Black, I wept. It may not seem like a reason to you, but having grown up when Black characters were always the nanny, the maid, the sarcastic best friend, the driver, or the bodyguard, it was touching to read a hero that was Black written by a White author. I don’t think another author has touched me as she did with the character of Moses. I am now happy to say Amy is one of my favorite people.

If I tell you right up front, right in the beginning that I lost him, it will be easier for you to bear. You will know it’s coming, and it will hurt. But you’ll be able to prepare.

Someone found him in a laundry basket at the Quick Wash, wrapped in a towel, a few hours old and close to death. They called him Baby Moses when they shared his story on the ten o’clock news – the little baby left in a basket at a dingy Laundromat, born to a crack addict and expected to have all sorts of problems. I imagined the crack baby, Moses, having a giant crack that ran down his body, like he’d been broken at birth. I knew that wasn’t what the term meant, but the image stuck in my mind. Maybe the fact that he was broken drew me to him from the start.
It all happened before I was born, and by the time I met Moses and my mom told me all about him, the story was old news and nobody wanted anything to do with him. People love babies, even sick babies. Even crack babies. But babies grow up to be kids, and kids grow up to be teenagers. Nobody wants a messed up teenager.
And Moses was messed up. Moses was a law unto himself. But he was also strange and exotic and beautiful. To be with him would change my life in ways I could never have imagined. Maybe I should have stayed away. Maybe I should have listened. My mother warned me. Even Moses warned me. But I didn’t stay away.

And so begins a story of pain and promise, of heartache and healing, of life and death. A story of before and after, of new beginnings and never-endings. But most of all . . . a love story.

Love just as tender. Romance just as passionate. Desire just as wanton. Black love at its finest. Diversity at its best.

About Renita

Renita McKinney was born in Texas, but raised in Arkansas and Texas. As an only child, she started reading and books became her best friends. The characters became her family and she developed a love and respect for writing, reading, books, and authors. Reading developed into more than a hobby to Renita; it’s a passion, an unquenchable thirst. Not being able to read would seemingly be a slow and tortuous death. 

She has been fortunate to live all over this world due to being the former wife of a military man. So often she would visit foreign countries that would not seem so foreign at all because she had already traveled there within the confines of a book. Her passion for books, desire for writing and love for words have afforded her the opportunity to work with many New York Times, USA Today and Amazon bestselling authors. She thinks there’s nothing more exciting than to be on the inside of a story coming together, nor amazing that her opinion and input is requested by these phenomenal storytellers.

Renita now lives in San Antonio, Texas and is the mother of three amazing kids, Holly, Lamontre, and Brandon. She tries to read at least 500 books a year, and loves to hang out at her own version of Cheers; Lefty’s Draft House, where she truly has made family and friends.

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