#Blogtour By Her Own Design by Piper Huguley

It’s an absolute pleasure to take part in the BlogTour By Her Own Design: A Novel of Ann Lowe, Fashion Designer to the Social Register written by Piper Huguley. I loved this book!

About the Author

Piper Huguley is the author of the Home to Milford College and the Migrations of the Heart series. She is a multiple-time Golden Heart finalist. Piper blogs about the history behind her novels on her website. She lives in Atlanta, Georgia, with her husband and son. Follow @piperhuguley on Twitter, Visit piperhuguley.com

About the book

The incredible untold story of how Ann Lowe, a Black woman and granddaughter of slaves, rose above personal struggles and racial prejudice to design and create one of America’s most famous wedding dresses of all time for Jackie Kennedy.

1953, New York City – Less than a week before the society wedding of the year where Jacqueline Bouvier will marry John F. Kennedy, a pipe bursts at Ann Lowe’s dress shop and ruins eleven dresses, including the expensive wedding dress, a dress that will be judged by thousands. A Black designer who has fought every step of the way, Ann knows this is only one struggle after a lifetime of them. She and her seamstresses will find the way to re-create the dresses. It may take all day and all night for the next week to accomplish the task, but they will do it.

1918, Tampa – Raised in Jim Crow Alabama, Ann learned the art of sewing from her mother and her grandmother, a former slave, who are the most talented seamstresses in the state. After Ann elopes at twelve with an older man who soon proves himself to be an abusive alcoholic, her dreams of becoming a celebrated designer seem to be put on hold. But then a wealthy Tampa socialite sees Ann’s talent and offers her an amazing opportunity—the chance to sew and design clothing for Florida’s society elite. Taking her young son in the middle of the night, Ann escapes her husband and embarks on the adventure of a lifetime.

Based on the true story of one of the most famous designers of the twenties through the sixties who has since been unjustly forgotten, By Her Own Design is an unforgettable novel of determination despite countless obstacles and a triumph celebrated by the world.

Review

Although the story of Ann begins at the end of her life, it perhaps does her more justice, because the battles she fought and the hills she had to climb to achieve her dreams and goals – the reader thinks they know how her journey will progress or at least they think they do. 

The reality of course is that the hardships endured, the racism faced, and the courageous and dangerous decisions made, are the norm for her because she is a black woman. The white privilege she is surrounded by is a pill to be taken daily with a portion of steadily controlled seething anger. And yet at the core is the child, the girl who is plucked from innocence and thrust into the stark reality of womanhood. The girl, who learns to covet and embrace the bonds of sisterhood, maternal strength and the protection of those who endured and survived the same before her.

This is the story of an artist, a woman with an incredible talent for design and fashion, who wrote history and yet has been forgotten by those who wrote it.

I absolutely loved this book and I really hope someone makes a screen version of it – Oscar material right here. The author has fixed an injustice by bringing the important story of Ann to the forefront of our minds, and in doing so ensures that she receives her rightful place in the history of design and fashion. Kudos to the author for the storytelling, the excellent writing and for sharing this story with us all.

It is a travesty that the voices, the achievements, designs, inventions, and their pivotal input and influence on our developments and history in general, of women – especially women who belong to marginalised and oppressed groups – have been erased from historical narratives. Whitewashed from history. This is a perfect example of every detail being known to the world, except the part where a black woman designed the wedding dress of one of the most well-known historical figures of the 20th century, and yet somehow it has become the one detail that is never mentioned. I highly recommend this book – it’s an excellent read.

Buy By Her Own Design at Amazon Uk or go to Goodreads for any other retailer. Publisher : William Morrow PB, pub date 21 July 2022. Buy at Amazon com.

#BlogTour Hidden Wyndham: Life, Love, Letters by Amy Binns

It’s my turn on the BlogTour Hidden Wyndham by Amy Binns.

About the Author

With a decade of experience in news reporting, Dr Amy Binns is now a writer, researcher and journalism lecturer at the University of Central Lancashire.

Her PhD was on solutions to difficult behaviour on social media and other online communities, and she has contributed to a report from the Committee on Standards in Public Life on the intimidation of parliamentary candidates. She regularly speaks on Radio Five Live on social media issues.

Hidden Wyndham: Life, Love, Letters, is Dr Binns’ second book. She has also written about local history in the book “Valley of a Hundred Chapels”, also available on Amazon. She has also published papers and chapters on interwar feminism and social history. Dr Binns lives in Yorkshire with her husband and two children.

About the book

The first biography of the life of science fiction author John Wyndham is now available. It includes the first publication of a collection of love letters to his long-term partner and later wife, Grace Wilson.

Hidden Wyndham: Life, Love, Letters, by Dr Amy Binns, author and senior lecturer in journalism at the University of Central Lancashire (UCLan), explores Wyndham’s wealthy but traumatic childhood. This was transformed by a spell at the first mixed-sex public school Bedales from 1915 to 1918, the source of the strange but fervent feminism of Consider Her Ways and Trouble with Lichen.

The biography covers his formative years as a pulp fiction writer, his experiences as a censor during the Blitz and his part in the Normandy landings. He described his struggles with his conscience in a moving series of letters to Grace, the teacher with whom he had a 36 year love affair.

After the war, he transformed the searing experiences of wartime London, France and Germany into a series of bestselling novels: The Day of the Triffids, The Chrysalids, The Midwich Cuckoos and The Kraken Wakes. But he remained intensely private, shunning fame and finally retiring to live anonymously with Grace in the countryside he loved.Review

Wyndham made a huge mark as a sci-fi writer with The Day of the Triffids, a book and visual experience that remains one of the most memorable works of the last century. This biography gives an insight into the man behind the words. The creative mind that used his stories to cross boundaries and worlds.

Binns doesn’t rely on gossip, Chinese whispers or the myth behind the stories. This is well- researched and also quite intimate at times. For a man who tried to keep himself and his life out of the spotlight I wonder what he would have thought about the invasive nature of not only his story being told, but also readers evaluating the information.

Either way this book gives the kind of intimate glance into a life Wyndham tried very hard to keep away from not only the curious public, but also from everyone else. Sort of begs the question whether we need access to certain information to be able to understand or better enjoy the written or visual work.

Personally I found it gave an interesting perspective to a man taught to keep his emotions tight to the chest. His inner torment and how he questioned the morality of specific things he was a part of, which he wouldn’t have been able to air in public without being perceived a certain way. His emotions and love being hindered by scars of the past – a fear of public commitment and abandonment perhaps.

It’s a well thought thorough open window into the world, emotions and secrets of Wyndham. Binns does an excellent job of introducing us to the soul and heart he kept hidden.

Buy Hidden Wyndham at Amazon Uk or go to Goodreads at any other retailer. Publisher: Grace Judson Press; pub date 1 Oct. 2019. Buy at Amazon com.

#BlogTour Brando’s Bride by Sarah Broughton

It’s my turn on the BlogTour Brando’s Bride by Sarah Broughton.

About the Author

Sarah Broughton was born in London, lives in Cardiff and is the Creative Director of Martha Stone Productions.

She has written a novel, ‘Other Useful Numbers’, and a non-fiction book about the mysterious first wife of Marlon Brando, ‘Brando’s Bride’. Both are published by Parthian Books.

She can be found on twitter @sjbroughton124Buy Brando’s BrideAbout the book

In October 1957 Marlon Brando married a young studio actress called Anna Kashfi. He was thirty-three and at the pinnacle of his beautiful fame having recently won an Oscar for On the Waterfront. The wedding was front-page news around the world. His new bride was twenty-three, claimed to be an Indian princess and was pregnant. The day after the wedding a factory worker living in Wales, William O’Callaghan, revealed that Brando’s bride was in fact his daughter, Joan O’Callaghan and had been a butcher’s assistant from Cardiff. This book sets out to discover who was telling the truth and who was lying – and, perhaps more importantly, why?

Review

I think if this happened in the 21st century there would be a better understanding of why Anna, her parents and Marlon reacted the way they did. In general there is more information and clarification about the stigma and racism, which is why Anna’s story imploded the way it did.

Her parents were eager to hide behind their initial lies, because they didn’t want to be rejected by society. That rejection must have appeared to be a far worse fate than the disowning their daughter. The same could be said for Anna of course, who was left to her own devices after the studio helped her to build a story around her Anna Kashfi Anglo-Indian persona.

Then there is Marlon Brando – a man already convinced and consumed by his massive aura and ego. The fact his feeling of embarrassment was more important than his relationship with Anna frankly says a lot more about him than he probably would like people to know.

I think it is fair to say he was enamoured by the idea that the world knew Brando the great had an exotic woman on his arm. In a way his choices in women were more than just being attracted to a certain type of woman. It was about cementing his image as an activist in the civil rights and for the Native American movements.

Anna came from a world and a time in history when reinventing yourself by becoming bog standard white, English and Anglican was a choice made to protect, as opposed to trying to deceive.

It’s a well-researched biography, which Broughton approaches with empathy and respect. She gives Anna a voice – a voice she needed many decades ago. Not a piece written by those willing to feed the readers hungry for gossip and wanting to disparage someone. A voice speaking for the women who were used by the film industry as examples of exotic beauty, and then cast aside when they became too troublesome or threatened to bring scandals to their doors.

Buy Brando’s Bride at Amazon Uk or go to Goodreads for any other retailer. Publisher: Parthian Books; pub date 1 Jun. 2019. Buy at Amazon comBuy at Parthian Books.

#BlogTour And The Swans Began to Sing by Thora Karitas Arnadottir

Today it is my turn on the BlogTour And The Swans Began to Sing by Thora Karitas Arnadottir. It’s a heartfelt and emotional journey. Kudos to Gudbjorg for sharing it and for looking for help.

About the Author

Thora Karitas Arnadottir studied drama in Britain and is best known for the award winning TV series, Astridur, in her home country and for hosting Unique Iceland, a highly popular travel magazine show about Iceland.

Thora is currently working on her first novel, which will be released in Iceland in 2019.

Thora Karitas is an Icelandic actress and author and this is the English translation of her Icelandic debut. It’s a narrative non-fiction about her mother’s life in Iceland. Throughout her childhood Thora’s mother, Gudjborg was raped on a regular basis by her grandfather.

Follow @ThoraKaritas @Wildpressed on Twitter, Visit thorakaritas.co.uk

Buy And The Swans Began to Sing

About the book

The swans on the pond, quite abruptly began to sing. It was a singing so loud they were almost screaming. The swans were screaming, screaming as if they saw the horror of the world.

Gudbjorg Thorisdottir has been hiding from the ghost of an ugly secret for most of her life. When she finally faces the truth of what happened throughout her childhood, the ghost floats away. Painting an evocative picture of her life in Iceland, this is the story of a little girl who didn’t know how unnatural it was to experience both heaven and hell in the same house.

Thora Karitas Arnadottir (b. 1979) studied drama in the UK, and is a producer as well as appearing on stage and television. And the Swans Began to Sing is her first published book; her mother’s story, and formed the final dissertation for her MA in Creative Writing. The book was nominated for the Icelandic Women’s Literary prize Fjoruverdlaunin in 2016.Review

This is the story of Gudbjorg Thorisdottir, the grandmother of Thora Karitas Arnadottir. In a way it is her way of healing the wounds of the past by telling the world her story in her own words, even if it is through the pen or medium of her granddaughter. She is facing the gossips and the tellers of tales head-on.

I think this is one of the things that seems to hurt her – the fact others have taken it upon themselves to tell her story, her secret. People, and I am thinking of her ex-husband in particular, who believe it is their secret to share just because they think it is their knowledge to control. Gudbjorg is an adult, who has confronted her abuse, has worked through it in therapy and is trying to come to terms with it, so it is her secret to share with others.

It would be entirely different if we were talking about an ongoing situation or someone who needed help to deal with the abuse. If you do suspect a child is being abused, especially if it is a gut reaction, then don’t wave it aside. The majority of sexual abuse is ignored because adults would rather not confront a taboo or label someone by mistake. Believe me you will know, but our instinctive reaction is to ignore what we find impossible to believe. This is definitely the case when the abuser is a family member.

The other element of this tragic story that shines through is the relationship Gudbjorg has with her mother, and the question of whether she knew what was going on. I think Gudbjorg is well aware, after talking to friends and family many years after the fact, that her grandfather was a known abuser, which then leaves her with the difficult truth that her family left her in a vulnerable position. Her mother chose to ignore her instinct, and her family members turned a blind eye, because placing the truth on the table would have broken the family apart. Difficult to acknowledge, but often the case in family abuse and incest.

I think it is incredibly brave of Gudbjorg to speak out, even after all these years. I hope it brings her some peace and lessens the guilt. The guilt that doesn’t belong anywhere on her shoulders by the way. The drink didn’t make him do it, the grief didn’t make him do it, and I can guarantee you he had more victims than Gudbjorg realises.

All of that is irrelevant though, because the most important thing is that she was a child and he stole her childhood, her innocence and many first moments from her. It’s time she stopped letting him steal from her.

It’s a heartfelt and emotional journey. Kudos to Gudbjorg for sharing it and for looking for help.

Buy And The Swans Began to Sing at Amazon Uk or go to Goodreads for an other retailer.

Publisher: Wild Pressed Books (10th January 2019)