Most of the time, people think romance novels are just fluff, or smut, or frivolous. Or all of the above. However, most of the people who think that way fail to notice how romance novels examine and confront social issues. In my novels, I explore power dynamics in relationships (let's face it, they've changed drastically over the last 50 years), moral dilemmas created by romantic situations, and the empowerment of women. In Love or Justice, my first novel, my heroine, Laurie, goes from being a woman who only fights for herself when her survival instincts kick in to a woman who takes charge of her own safety. In Fractal, which will be released on September 17th, my heroine, Anna, spends the entire book trying to find the courage and the wisdom to be the leader her people need. Like all women, Anna has the potential to be a brilliant leader, but she needs to believe in herself first. And yes, there are lots of kisses and steamy scenes along the way, but at their core, the novels that I write are all about social issues and how women struggle with and overcome them.
In other parts of the world, where the treatment of women is far less respectful than it is here in the US, romance novels are part of a growing social movement. This article from NBC explores the reasons behind a growing number of progressive romance novels being written and distributed in Nigeria. These are the early signs of a feminist revolution! These stories by women advocate against conservative Muslim traditions such as child marriage and quick divorce. They're also read on the radio, to make them more accessible to the illiterate. These novels are even inspiring young girls to learn to read in a country where many girls are not allowed to stay in school, or they are pulled out of school at the age of 13 and forced to marry.
Remember, this is the country where Boko Haram kidnaps, rapes, and terrorizes girls. Yet, these romance novelists are risking their lives, with pen in hand, to lead a revolution through inspiring romantic stories.
I admire these writers more than I can say! I wish I could help them publish even more stories and reach even more young girls.
No, I'm not talking about Ryan Locte.
I'm talking about the nominee for this week's Wicked (awesome) Woman, Simone Biles. There were a lot of nominees this week from my lovely readers, but Simone edged out other Olympians to win the spotlight with her fantastic performance in Rio, her historic medal winning, and a life story that shows the power of adoption (if you loved Trudie's story, you'll love Simone's too!).
Simone Arianne Biles is an American artistic gymnast. Simone is the 2016 Olympic individual all-around, vault and floor gold medalist. She was part of the gold medal-winning team dubbed the "Final Five" at the 2016 Summer Olympics in Rio de Janeiro. She is a three-time world all-around champion (2013–15), three-time world floor champion (2013–15), two-time world balance beam champion (2014, 2015), four-time United States national all-around champion (2013–16), and a member of the gold medal-winning American teams at the 2014 and 2015 World Artistic Gymnastics Championships.
Having won a combined total of nineteen Olympic and World Championship medals, Simone is the most decorated American gymnast, taking over from Shannon Miller, who held this record since 1996.
But, Simone's personal life story shows how wicked awesome she really is. Her birth mother was unable to care for Simone or her siblings due to a drug and alcohol addiction, and the children were in and out of foster care. Simone's birth father also struggled with addiction. Simone's grandfather, Ron, and his second wife, Nellie Biles began temporarily caring for Simone in 2000. In 2003, the couple officially adopted her and her sister.
Thanks to the loving support of Ron and Nellie Biles, Simone was able to get out of a terrible situation. She found her passion early on in life, and now she is representing her country at national and international competitions.
I write about love and passion, and it's obvious to me that Simone has a lot of both in her life. And she's taking full advantage of it. Way to go you wickedly awesome woman - way to go!
Across the country, bells are ringing. School bells, that is.
So, I'm celebrating a wicked awesome teacher this week! John wrote to me and nominated his wife Tonia. Tonia has always worked in low income schools in the districts she’s worked in (they live in NY), and she has had kids go to Ivy league schools because she believed in and supported them, even after they left her class.
Way to go Tonia! Cheers to you and your hard work!
And there are more teachers I want to celebrate today. Many members of my family are teachers, including:
and Mom and Dad (Al and Laurie Mannino).
Good luck and happy new year to all of the hard working teachers out there!!
I know, I know. I asked everyone to nominate a female teacher to celebrate this week. While I have some good nominations (and still accepting more!), I just had to share this amazing story.
When I announced a few weeks back that I was getting ready to have my first child, Trudie contacted me and said "Oh...and you'll do just fine with that new baby..I've had 79 of them (in 30 years of being a foster parent, I took 79 drug-affected, special needs, medically fragile newborns) and I survived. Oh..and I had three birth kids too."
(Above, Trudie and her family on a vacation. Trudie is all the way on the far left.)
And I said "Whoa, wait a minute! You've raised over 80 children? Amazing! I have to share your story with my fans." Because, I just love celebrating wicked awesome women. Having spent the last 4 weeks caring for a newborn that does nothing but poop, pee, sleep, eat, and exhaust me, my admiration for Trudie and her husband has only grown.
So, I asked Trudie a couple of questions about being a foster parent:
Why you decided to become a foster parent, particularly to special needs and fragile newborns?
How did I get into fostering..? Sort of by accident. There was this baby we knew that went into foster care..and we didn't realize that between training, inspections,and background checks it would take about four months to get licensed. By the time we had our bright shiny new license, the baby was all settled and there we were with an empty crib , and "Sucker" printed on our foreheads.
We didn't set out to specialize in the drug-affected, special needs, medically fragile newborns...but we got our first baby, and I found out we were very very good at what we were doing. Foster parents often don't get much training for babies with specific needs. It's sort of on the job training. When we get that call from HomeFinders ("Trudieee...we have this Bay-bee....") that usually means I will be spending anywhere from a few days to six weeks up at the NICU every day working with baby and the (great) NICU nurses, the OT, The PT, the docs, the feeding therapists, the respiratory therapists....
Most of our little ones require special handling that is really counter intuitive as far as baby care goes. For instance, many of our babies can't be looked at while they eat. You can look at them, or feed them, but both at once is too much stimulation. Instead of "Suck, Swallow, Breathe", They go, " Suck, Breathe, Choke, Turn Blue, Quit Breathing..."
Did I mention this is what I do for fun?
And what has been the hardest moment to get through while raising these 79 children? How did you persevere?
(It's) Hard when they leave, of course, but we still see many of our babies and some now have babies of their own. Um..dealing with the bureaucracy can make you scream. Sometimes the rules that must sound so good at the State Level can prove (a) disaster when they are actually put into practice. But the very hardest thing for us, I think, was when, after 30 years, we finally let our license go a couple of months ago.
I hope this gave you some useful information. I LOVED being a foster parent, and there are never enough foster homes to go around.
Let's give a big thank you to Trudie and her husband for their hard work raising so many children who needed a good foster home! I hope you are as inspired by her story as I was!
I write about power dynamics in relationships, the empowerment of women, and the ethical and moral dilemmas love can create in our lives. This is a space where I meditate on those themes and share them with the word. Who knows, my next novel may start right here...