045. History in Romance with Katrina Jackson, Rebekah Weatherspoon, Felicia Grossman


Short Description

History in Romance with Rebekah Weatherspoon, Katrina Jackson, and Felicia Grossman. Stay safe, stay mad, and keep reading romance.


Show Notes

History in Romance with Rebekah Weatherspoon, Katrina Jackson, and Felicia Grossman. 

Stay safe, stay mad, and keep reading romance.

Transcript available for this episode (045) at Shelflovepodcast.com

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Full Transcript

045 History in Romance

[00:00:00]Andrea Martucci:   Hi, welcome to Shelf Love. As I record this intro, it's Monday, June 1st, 2020 and I'm thrilled to share this conversation about history in romance with Katrina Jackson, Rebekah Weatherspoon and Felicia Grossman, that was recorded on March 26th, 2020, back when the coronavirus pandemic was still in its early days.

Now, two plus months later, even though we are still in lockdown in many parts of the country, Americans are risking their lives to protest the murder of George Floyd, which occurred while he was being placed under arrest by police officers in Minneapolis. Once you listen to our conversation about history, it may seem like this discussion was prescient.

Unfortunately, it's only reflective that recent violence against Black people in the United States, particularly at the hands of law enforcement, is the daily lived experience of Black Americans.

I hope you enjoy this conversation, which includes many salient points that I think are incredibly important for the romance genre to contend with and really confront.

Black lives matter.

Hello and thanks for listening to Shelf Love. Welcome to the Decameron quarantine romance book club. This is part nine of a 10 episode mini-series of short casual conversations with romance experts who are here to spread the joy of romance novels so that we can all stay home and not spread the Coronavirus.

I'm Andrea Martucci, host of the Shelf Love podcast. And tonight I am joined by Rebekah Weatherspoon, multi award winning romance author; Felicia Grossman, author of historical romance, a musical theater nerd, and eclair enthusiast; and Katrina Jackson, a history professor and author of erotica and erotic romances featuring diverse characters.

Tonight's theme is history. So Katrina, you are my resident history professor and I basically added the theme with you in mind. So let's start with you

Katrina Jackson: Yay

Andrea Martucci: basically, whenever I have a question on history, I'm just like, Katrina,

Katrina Jackson: and I'm like, I actually don't know that. So, I was actually going to choose a different book, but because of various recent  things I've been thinking about the book I chose is Beverly Jenkins' Forbidden, which is a book I love. I loved the first time I read it, maybe like two years ago. But the reason I love it now and the reason I wanted to recommend it is because as I was talking with Steve Amiddown at the BGSU Pop Culture library, one of the things that confuses me about it is that it is actually quite revolutionary in terms of Black literature. It is very clearly a tragic mulatto narrative. I mean, they have existed at least since Nella Larsen's Passing, and they all follow a very sort of "tragic" as the name would suggest, but very formulaic, kind of storytelling.

And, Forbidden upends almost every single plot point of those stories, which exist in literature, but also film and television. I mean, she just deconstructs it and creates this really beautiful narrative about a man who is passing for White in a small - I did not reread it for this episode, but he's passing for White in a town, just after the Civil War that is racially divided to a certain extent. But part of the reason I love it, and I knew I would love it when I started reading it, is that a trope in the passing stories are that like, no one quite knows that the person who's passing is passing. They don't know that they're Black. And yet every White person in this town knows that the hero is Black but they protect the secret because they want him to do well and also he is distinctly connected to the community and he treats everyone well and pays them good wages and all of that. And then at the end, she again, kind of upends the narrative by having him give up that privilege of his white skin and mixed parentage so that he can be with the Black woman he loves.

It's just such a beautiful book and I wish scholars would discuss it, alongside like a Nella Larsen's Passing.

Andrea Martucci: And you know, that reminds me of a similar plot point in An Unconditional Freedom where there's some siblings and one of the siblings passes for White. And, it's really explored in that novel too. Like why there is privilege attached to passing, but also how it's, it's like a -

Katrina Jackson: Well, how it can be used to benefit the larger community. Cause that's how Alyssa uses it in that book. Right. That like the ability to pass. Because I think very often people write about passing narratives and they talk about those narratives as if those people just do not want to be Black.

And historically it's so much more complicated. And in An Unconditional Freedom, but also in Forbidden, both authors sort of pull back the layers to deal with the complication, and they do so in ways that are humanizing, right, that these are decisions [00:05:00] that people make because of the cultural context and that nothing is easy but that you also don't have to villainize people for passing per se, and that that isn't even a thing that necessarily, Black people are doing because they do understand the context and in which they live.

it's just so, so, careful and, and layered and lovely.

Andrea Martucci: And so, Rebekah, which romance novel would you recommend on the theme of history?

Rebekah Weatherspoon: So I had to fist fight myself not to recommend the Beverly Jenkins, because I knew Katrina was going to do it perfectly here. I would recommend Gold Mountain by Sharon Cullars. It takes place in 1865 in Sacramento around the gold rush and the building of the railroad. And the hero is a Chinese immigrant who is working to send money home to his parents and the heroine is a Black woman who runs like a shop and a laundry with her sister, I believe. This book is just so warm and touching. And I think on the same theme as, you know, what Katrina was talking about in terms of the reality and the nuance of what actually happens in not only, interracial relationships, but interracial relationships between people of color.

And how people of color come together in situations where White supremacy is so overwhelming. So you have a situation where you have a Chinese immigrant worker in a time when White people were lynching Chinese people the same way they were lynching Black people. In Breathless, which is the followup to Forbidden, which Katrina mentioned.

No, it's a Tempest. Sorry. The hero in that book is a doctor and he ends up going to help out during the race riots where all of these Chinese immigrants were also attacked by White workers.

Gold Mountain really manages to weave a really tender, loving story in a time where existing as a non-White person, even though that's still kind of the case now, unfortunately.

But existing as a non-White person was a threat to your life where you could be murdered walking outside of your home, or murdered in your home or murdered in your place of business just because you weren't White. And Sharon did a really beautiful job of showing two people with a language barrier coming together and seeing that they were drawn together and were going to make it work no matter what.

I really enjoyed that because when I found that book too it was still kind of in the early days of eBooks for me. And I was also kind of late to romance too. So I don't like to say, you know, books weren't out there. I was super late to romance. So for me it was really great to find this book when I was still kind of hadn't worked my way through, you know, Beverly Jenkins' backlist yet, Alyssa Cole's historicals hadn't come out yet. So finding this book with a Chinese hero and a Black woman, so well written, so warm, I just, it really sucked me in and it was, I don't know, it was, it was really nice to see a romance where there was no White people involved and to see a romance that really did hit the terror, but also, and again, Beverly Jenkins does this really well, shows that people of color, we have lives of our own outside of White supremacy, and those lives can be beautiful and loving. And I mean kind of a spoiler but there's a happy ever after and they have kids and it's like you want this family to succeed and thrive.

So if you have not read Gold Mountain by Sharon Cullars, you should.

Andrea Martucci: I just looked it up on Goodreads and the cover is also really beautiful.

Rebekah Weatherspoon: Yeah.

Andrea Martucci: So Felicia, which romance novel did you bring.

Felicia Grossman: So to talk about the idea of history being used in a romance novels I picked Spellbound by Allie Therin, which is a supernatural historical built in sort of a slightly alt version of post-World War I New York. And it's interesting to me in a couple of ways, but she uses history in a bunch of ways.

One in her world building and what gets kept. And it's always interesting to see when you're sort of adding the fantasy elements, what of reality is kept and what of New York she kept in the book. And, it's a cross-class romance and she talks a lot about class in that era and one of her heroes is an immigrant, and she talks about New York being the diverse, vibrant New York that New York can be and she kept those parts of it. It's a male / male romance. And so one of her heroes, his [00:10:00] magic ability is he can see the history of objects. So she uses history that way. And part of this is all about finding magical objects that might destroy the world and has a dark history and you time slip in different times of that. And then each of our heroes, and it has trauma in their own backstory. So they have to go through the deal of dealing with their own personal histories, to get their HEA.

So I call it like history cubed. So it's history, A historical book with personal history, dealing with historical objects.

Andrea Martucci: Wow. Oh, that's what cubed means. Not square. Yeah. I'm not good at math.

Felicia Grossman: Cubed. Yeah, It's been a while since we all did that.

Andrea Martucci: That's so interesting. So it's, what'd you say? It's New York during which time period?

Felicia Grossman: Early twenties. So just post- World War I.

Katrina Jackson: That's the inter-war period, remember?

Andrea Martucci: Inter-war. Yes. I, I'll never forget interwar. When Kat was on, she was like talking about like interwar and I'm like, what's interwar? And she's like, between wars, I was like, Oh, okay. It makes sense, it's words

So it's interesting that's a male / male cross-class because, I just had an episode with Emma Barry and we read A Seditious Affair by KJ Charles.

That is another male / male cross-class romance, historical. And, one of the things that Emma and I talked about was this idea of we have a certain idea about like, what a Regency novel is and what history looks like. We have these assumptions about what life was like. We have like Jane Austin in our heads. And when you tell a queer romance in history, there's this sense of like, Oh, well it must all be suffering and terrible, and they can't actually end up together.

And there's all these assumptions that we have about that time and like, Oh, well that's not historically accurate for them to actually be able to be together in this situation. Some people make arguments like, Oh, it really messes with my fantasy - I just want to read something fluffy where there isn't all this difficult shit going on.

For example, something that is often mentioned is that in historicals, like, nobody would have teeth and they'd all have STDs and there wouldn't be all these young, handsome Dukes running around. But, I think all of the novels that you've, you've all discussed have, these like confronting some of the less fun fantasy elements of history.

And one of the things Emma said very articulately was basically talking about when you tell this historical story, a fictional representation of history is always going to be...it's fictional . But you get to choose what you want to focus on. And if stories of history only ever focus with one lens, like, Oh no, this is what history is, then we start to create this concept of like, that's what history is or was, but there's so many people and so many different stories that are left out of that.

So my question, Is there a conflict between historical accuracy and fantasy? What do you guys think?

Katrina Jackson: That's complicated. (we all laugh)

Felicia Grossman: I'm just sitting here like...hmmmm.

Rebekah Weatherspoon: I feel like, okay -

Andrea Martucci: We don't have to have answers.

Rebekah Weatherspoon: I think I'm going to approach this from the lens of being a Black woman. Okay. I feel like, a lot of time in reality, I'm confronted with and interacting with people who have no idea how Black people exist in the world, right? So I feel like there's always kind of a conflict between reality and any kind of fiction cross-culturally because there's always some aspect of like not actually understanding the real reality. So if I wrote a super, super hyper-realistic romance about a Black woman finding love in the city, having friends, whatever, a lot of mainstream publishers would be like, this isn't realistic.

And I think what they're saying is this actually doesn't fit the mold of what I think a Black woman's experience is right? So you can say that I guess about any kind of fiction where, if the perspective is this doesn't fit my understanding of reality, then it's going to make it impossible for you or make it more difficult for you to accept the aspects of the fantasy.

There was a really great quote, I wish, wish, wish I could find it. Someone was talking about working at Disney and creating universes for fictional movies and cartoons and that sort of thing. And the act of creating, you actually are [00:15:00] delving into the fantasy utopia in your own mind, right? So if you can't comprehend people of color or queer people whatever, having rights, falling in love, being found attractive by people you don't think should find them attractive, that's because the utopia in your head does not make room for that. So I think a lot of, when we talk about reality and fantasy, it has to do with the individual and what they're looking for and what they want for themselves and what they want for other people.

Katrina Jackson: Yeah. I think I'm of two minds about this, as a reader and as a historian, I think on the one hand, I sort of push back at this sort of idea that we can ever, in any kind of literature or in any kind of, you know, medium, approach reality because we can't, right. And historians learn that very early, right?

Like, we will never know the entire story. What we know is based on the availability of sources, right? And our ability to question them or corroborate them, whatever. So. There were sort of moments where I sort of read that kind of realism as asking for a kind of totality that no historian would necessarily be held to. And so that seems a problem.

But on the other hand, when I see historical romance authors and readers push back at that realism, I think they're doing what Rebekah is talking about. What they're saying is, well, I don't have any information about that. And so why should I have to do that? Like, why should this book have to be real, right in that particular way.

And I think sometimes people choose cheap outs for this where they're like, Oh, it's, you know, why are there so many Dukes? Like, because you know, it's the fantasy and it's like, or are we sort of doing what PBS does every, you know, season, which is, fetishizing the aristocracy, right? And that is a different conversation, right?

You can have the fantasy with all of your Dukes, with nice teeth, and you know, who are not 50, and smelling terribly and have gout, right? You can have that, but the minute you start doing that and you create an entire world that is allegedly well-researched, right, but is as limited as can be, then I think you do have to sort of contend with issues of historical realism if for no other reason, then I'll make this personal plea: my students come to class and they think that that's all there is. Because they watched the movies and they watched PBS, and they've read the books and they're like, of course there were no Black people in England. Yes, there were. Right. But we don't have spaces for that in popular culture.

So I then have to kind of push them through the sources, which they then begin to question because they're like, well, if this existed, why isn't it in the books? And it's like, well, which books? Right? So I think on the one hand, those questions can be unfair. But on the other hand, I think historical romance authors should ask themselves why they keep writing the same kinds of unrealistic romances.

Felicia Grossman: Yeah, the idea of the fantasy shouldn't be a cop out for not interrogating the world because it's not just you're writing a bunch of hot Dukes with nice teeth. It's used as an excuse for not interrogating where everybody got their money and what the world actually looked like, and who else lived in the world and what your characters actually thought about this.

Sometimes when I read it's always a dissonancy when I'm like, and I love me a good Regency, but I'll be reading about these people and then it will suddenly occur to me: they probably all would have disliked me.

Most of these, this aristocracy in parliament voted against bills to give Jews equal rights during this time because none of those bills passed. The idea of a romance, the idea of, I can't remember which critics said that, that there should needs to be an element of justice in the HEA, that it needs to, the characters need to be worthy of an HEA. The fantasy can't be a cop out to give unworthy characters a happily ever after.

Andrea Martucci: Yeah. Yeah. Rebekah, you said earlier when you were talking about Gold Mountain, like how the book talked about both the reality and the nuances and how - I'm making vast generalizations - but some romances, there's not a lot of nuance in how history is presented.

It's like this, cheap facade of like a Disney palace. But you walk up to the wall and you're like, Oh, this is just like a painted piece of plywood. [00:20:00] And in my experience, and I also get the sense generally, that there are a lot of romances that start delving past the well-trodden path of history that, you know, Katrina was referencing, this is the view of history that students have seen in like popular culture or whatever, and anything that kind of falls off that path, it's a lot harder, it's like, wait, what that happened? What, what's going on there?

I mean, basically what that means is anything that's not like White cisgender, heterosexual, you know, Christian, rich, whatever in history. Like, because those are the people who got to tell their stories and are well-documented and, and there's this sense that that's what history is.

And, and there's a lot of books that just like, they just don't tell a lot of nuance of history. It's kind of like this, this cheap facade of history to like have other things happen in, and, I can't remember my original point, but it's like in sort of telling these stories through a marginalized person's lens, it, just necessarily includes more nuance of the history.

Like maybe some of that is because otherwise readers won't believe it's true.

Rebekah Weatherspoon: Well, I, I, I would like to say, we should give a little bit of this responsibility to acquiring editors -

Andrea Martucci: Yeah

Rebekah Weatherspoon: - because acquiring editors do ask for that stuff over and over and over again. Authors are not solely to blame for the sameness.

I don't know. I think Katrina has, she made a good point, I think there is this kind of like fine line of like, we do want an aspect of the fantasy, right? So one of the reasons why I think a lot of readers like Beverly Jenkins books is because she has Black people mostly in very difficult situations, in very not fun periods of time, finding their happily ever after and having usually a really good time while they're at it. Hers books are very funny.

Andrea Martucci: But (mockingly/dripping with sarcasm) how can people have ever had fun in those time periods, Rebekah?

Rebekah Weatherspoon: And that's another element too, just this idea that like, no one was laughing ever. And it's like, well, I don't know if that's okay.

Andrea Martucci: I mean, we're in the midst of the pandemic and we're laughing right.

Rebekah Weatherspoon: Right? And I think people have used humor since the dawn of humor. I love when people post like Victorian photos of people, you know, the outtakes of people laughing and stuff like that. Humor has always been a part of the the reality of human existence.

So I think there is a fine line of the fantasy of just wanting, kind of like a clear cut story where nothing bad is happening and only having that.

And I think you, you can do both. And I do think that Beverly Jenkins, for example, is an author who, in historicals does it very well, where you have a heroine say like in Nighthawk, I believe, who's traveling cross-country and she has to sit in the back with like the animals.

And that part is terrible, but then you have like this great part where she's like having sex with the hero off the back of a train. And that's like pretty cool too. So I think there is a place to include the reality when we talk about, you know, film and PBS-esque film. Bell is a perfect example where you have the clear issue of slavery is like the sub plot of the story and you have a hero who is also confronted with that and makes a stance.

I think it is possible to have something set in a period of time where horrible things are happening. And there's a moral compass in the story where the hero or the heroine can say, you know, and Alyssa Cole also does this. And in her circles, where you have a hero or heroine, say there's horrible things going on, but we're also going to stand up against those horrible things and still have humor, still have sex, still have the happily ever after, because people did fall in love throughout history, you know, against amazing odds. So there's that.

Andrea Martucci: Yeah. And then, so I wanted to touch too, on how, sometimes through repetition of what we've seen in media, and like in romance novels specifically, we can sometimes also get a perverted vision of history, one that is shaped by a particular author, or just kind of like through repetition. one starts to get this sense of the way things were that is not even accurate. And Felicia, you've written on this, specifically with Georgette Heyer.

Felicia Grossman: Yeah. Oh, yeah. Yeah. So the Grand Sophy discussion and the antisemitism in there, that was a whole conversation because she used a lot of. contemporary Jewish stereotypes of the time she actually lived in to write historical Jews, which weren't exactly accurate which is an issue. [00:25:00] So you have have that problem.

And because you set him up as a villain in her story for conforming to the stereotypes that sort of perpetuates them - there are flaws in that, and that's problematic and that repeats stuff that's very, very dangerous to me.

But there's also a flaw in that, as for Heyer as a writer doing that because when she does that in that book, she's not acknowledging that it's unrealistic because Sophy had way more power than he is. She's not overcoming anything. She had all the power in the situation and she's punching down. And in my opinion, it's not a successful romance if your main characters are gonna win by punching down.

But, the more you repeat some of those stereotypes, the more they get ingrained in us. And, the more people start to believe they're true.

And when you're dealing with marginalized communities and non marginalized communities, there needs to be sort of acknowledgement in romance that we can all have the same tropes, but sometimes they look a little bit different and sometimes they have to be explored in different ways.

This is a little off topic, there was a conversation about people being tired of the billionaire trope. Whether in historical or in contemporary, and billionaires look different depending on - It's the lens you're looking through. I had a conversation with Stacy Agdern on this, that as Jews, when we're billionaires, people see us as monsters it's not like such a happy like sexy thing. It's dangerous. We're conforming to certain stereotypes.

You end up with the stuff that happened to people like the mayor Rothschild or what's happens with George Soros today. So it's these tropes work differently. Also, depending on the community that you're looking at, you're always looking at it. It depends what lens you're looking at it. When you look only through that majority lens, you see a very narrow story.

Katrina Jackson: The repetition part is actually the part that matters, right?

So it's called the historiography, right? So, technically, historical romance has a historiography of writing out most people, right? I did, I did actually see Felicia's thread on Georgette Heyer and it was so perfect because I think one of your points, Felicia, if I'm right, was that it's not just that she wrote in that way, it's that other people took her writings as historical fact, right?

Felicia Grossman: Yes.

Katrina Jackson: The historical profession, right? Academically is, it's footnoting, right? So you read everything within reason that you can, written on a subject, and then when you are writing a new thing, you have to, show your sources, right? And you want to do that, especially when you're pushing back at what is bad historiography. And because you need to sort of point out that we created a field that is incorrect and we have perpetuated ideas that are wrong.

And so we can't just sort of say, Hey, I have this new idea that like Black people have souls, right? You have to say, not only do they have souls, but this is how other historians have said they don't and also why they said they didn't. Right?

So the fact that. That sort of historical romance the sort of pushback of historical romance about historical realism isn't actually looking at the scholarship itself is so frustrating, right? It doesn't really matter what historical romance authors are writing per se. Right? Or as Rebekah said, what people are acquiring, what actually matters is the history they are building their, their writing on. And then the other romances they are in conversation with.

Andrea Martucci: Yeah. And I, I was thinking about like, you know, the utopia in your head making room for things and kind of about like the, like through repetition we, we as romance readers get this idea of what certain historical periods might be like. There are omissions. And then there are maybe inaccurate repetitions and maybe repetitions that are accurate but if, if that's all we see, then that also becomes kind of, it's just about the omissions then. Another thing I was thinking about with that, like with the utopia, specifically, the utopic vision was, who mentioned an element of justice in HEA where -

Felicia Grossman: I think it's me but I'm quoting somebody else and I don't know who.

Andrea Martucci: Yeah. I was thinking about like, that element of justice and you were, you were talking about like, you know, the character and the Heyer novel punching down.  Oh yay, I won and I punched down to do it.

Like that's not justice. And, and it's also not historically accurate, but like I've seen some people say like, you know, it wasn't a bunch of like suffragettes running around in the 1800s or whatever. Like that also is [00:30:00] inaccurate.

If there is that element of justice there, I think that it's more forgiving to sort of have those lapses in complete historical inaccuracy. like, maybe 50% of the female population at this time was not suffragettes but who cares?

I mean, if it's part of that sense of justice that that vision of, you know, history that is a little nicer and a little kinder to these characters that we want to love, that we do love. Like maybe that's okay.

Katrina Jackson: I agree with you. I never understand why people are like, there are no, there were no Asian people in all of England in this time period or there were only a small population and I'm like, cool. Write about that.

Andrea Martucci: Yeah. Write about all three of them if there's only three. Who cares,

Katrina Jackson: Right? If there's all three, you have a trilogy, you're set. Like I never seen this idea that because we don't have a lot of something right, that they are somehow not worthy of consideration. Or because people are not - yeah.

I just, I just don't get it. Like it's, and I think it's also a very sort of strange thing that romance does because, this is also why we get women's history quite late. Historians literally say, well, women don't leave any sources. Why do we care? So I find it so interesting that romance authors are essentially saying a version of that.

Right? Well, there are no sources about these, you know, South Asian people in Liverpool. So who cares? Okay.

Rebekah Weatherspoon: I think part of it has to do too with the, okay, so like the dark side of, two things, personal history and personal responsibility. So whenever, like a White person shows a picture of like their grandmother or their great grandmother on Twitter, and they're like, Oh, here's my grandma when she was like 15 I'm like hanging out at the beach. I always think like, was it a segregated beach? Did your great grandmother go to lynchings for fun? What kind of slavery memorabilia do you guys have in your attic? All those kinds of things. And people want to say, Oh, no, no, no, no, no, no.

Like my family is not like that. But then in the next breath will say, Oh, but my dad voted for, you know who. And so I think a lot of times with fiction, people want to escape from their own horrible reality. When I first started reading romance, someone had recommended a bunch of Regency romances to me and I said to them, I didn't really want to read them because I can't pretend that Europe didn't get a bulk of its money from the Trans-Atlantic Slave Trade.

And that person got very upset with me and the fact that they can't comprehend that I live in Southern California because of the Trans-Atlantic Slave Trade? Like if we can't even put those dots together, people then are not going to want to bring that over to their escapism. Right?

You have to get to a point. Alfre Woodard had like this brilliant, brilliant comment during, the press tour for 12 Years A Slave, where she was talking about how slavery is like one of America's great original sins, right? So the way we treated Blacks in America and the way we treated Native Americans in America and First Nations people in America. If you can't even admit to yourself that you are living on stolen land and your family is where they are because millions of Africans were kidnapped then you can't have realistic conversations about American history and about European history. You can't, you cannot have those realistic conversations. So if you can't even get there, having the nuance to weave those things into a happy story, like you're just not there, you're not ready to accept that like, yeah, maybe your great grandfather owned slaves and maybe your grandparents like went to lynchings for fun and like maybe your parents call the cops on black people walking down the street and maybe you told your kid that you like weren't quite sure if you wanted them to hang out with the other black kids in their school.

And I think sometimes people don't understand that White supremacy and racism, and antisemitism, it's so ingrained in Western culture and American culture that to accept it and present it in any kind of way in our fiction is very, very difficult for people.

Felicia Grossman: And the acknowledgment of privilege, I think is, very hard because it makes you feel bad, and it makes you also feel, because I mean, trust me, I know that I'm maybe Jewish, but I have a ton of, I have a ton of white privilege. I know that I can speed and get pulled over and nothing is going to happen to me and the idea that that isn't true for everybody else -  that I am A, benefiting from that and B, that I know that it's not true for everybody else and that. I haven't been able to help fix it in a meaningful way. I think is [00:35:00] very hard, it's a hard dissidence for people to understand, and a lot of people don't want to even try to think about that.

Andrea Martucci: Right.

Katrina Jackson: I'm trying to find, so when Rebecca was talking about. Disney. It just reminded me of that as an undergrad I learned about how historiography works through a book on Disney, and it just seems so perfect because part of what, and I can't remember the title, it's, it's been like 20 years. I don't know I'm old.

Andrea Martucci: Why don't you remember everything?

Katrina Jackson: Right? I am not a Wikipedia basically, but, part of what the author sort of uses, he used Disney films and Disney parks to talk about the way that Walt Disney had purposefully reconstructed American history. And, it's so fascinating. It's horrifying actually, but it's fascinating in the sense that it was the best example that I could have gotten at that moment in my life to sort of think about a thing that I, I sometimes feel like historical romance, readers in particular don't understand, which is that all history is a construction.

Andrea Martucci: Yeah.

Katrina Jackson: So maybe going back to your original question, you can't really get to historical realism because it's always flawed, right? And it's always a construction that, as Felicia has shown with Georgette Heyer is built, is based on, right? Like the moment at which you're writing, and as Rebekah said, like, who you are, right? And what you can and cannot accept. And if we understood that there is room to sort of accept historical romance as it is, right? You know, flawed at all. But then there is also room to understand, one, you know, that we need more diverse authors writing historical romance, but also, that when you change the protagonist, the story itself of something that feels familiar, must change because it's all constructed.

Andrea Martucci: That was extremely well said, and thank you for tying everything together and acting like I actually asked a question. I really appreciate it.

Katrina Jackson: This is what I do in class.

Andrea Martucci: Yes. So Katrina, what is something other than romance that's bringing you joy during the pandemic?

Katrina Jackson: Oh, so I love YouTube. I watch more YouTube than television, and I love the YouTube channel How To Cake It. Which has a baker who makes novelty cakes with various themes each week. And so, each night as I am stressed and anxious and trying to go to sleep, I'll usually fall asleep watching a few episodes of How To Cake it.

So the baker is Yolanda Gampp. And she has this really sort of funny, bubbly personality and she sort of like cracks jokes, but it's instructive as well.

So it's interesting to sort of watch her make these like, you know, novelty cakes, with all this fondant and like all of this artistry and I know I could never do it. But in the end, they look just so pretty.

Andrea Martucci: Oh, that sounds like just pure escapism.

Katrina Jackson: It is. An episode I saw recently was like, a square watermelon, which I didn't quite realize was a thing  and is only funny because she has this running joke about this watermelon that she calls Walter.

It's a whatever. It's kind of ridiculous. but

Rebekah Weatherspoon: I'm obsessed with How to Cake It. It's so good.

Katrina Jackson: It's so good. And she's definitely made like, little baby dolls. I don't know. I just think it is so ridiculous. But the artistry is so interesting and it's just a nice bit of escapism.

Andrea Martucci: Oh, that sounds great.

And that is all for night nine of the Decameron. We are almost at the end of the series. We are recording this weeks before I released this episode. So whatever is happening in the world when this comes out, I hope that this series has been a welcome distraction and has helped you feel a connection to other romance novel lovers during the pandemic.

Make sure you're subscribed to Shelf Love on your favorite podcast app so that you don't miss future full episodes of Shelf Love, and I'd love for you to check out earlier episodes in this series. You can check the show notes for links to the romances we mentioned, plus where to find my guests. I hope that you are well, keep calm and keep reading romance.

 

   Rebekah Weatherspoon: we didn't talk about this during the podcast, but if you guys want another, kind of like weird but fun YouTube channel to watch this, this guy named James H. Janiece and  his channel's called Dead Meat, and he does recaps of like horror movies and he counts like how many people got killed in the movie, but he's really sweet and really funny. So it's like watching the sweet, funny, goofy guy talk about like Halloween. It's really, it's really cool. And his videos are like oddly upbeat and I've just been, I've been watching him nonstop.