Acquired Book By: I am a regular tour hostess for blog tours via Historical Fiction Virtual Book Tours whereupon I am thankful to have been able to host such a diverse breadth of stories, authors and wonderful guest features since I became a hostess! HFVBTs is one of the very first touring companies I started working with as a 1st Year Book Blogger – uniting my love and passion with Historical Fiction and the lovely sub-genres inside which I love devouring. Whether I am reading selections from Indie Authors & publishers to Major Trade and either from mainstream or INSPY markets – I am finding myself happily residing in the Historical past each year I am a blogger.
What I have been thankful for all these years since 2013 is the beautiful blessing of discovering new areas of Historical History to explore through realistically compelling Historical narratives which put me on the front-lines of where History and human interest stories interconnect. It has also allowed me to dive deeper into the historic past and root out new decades, centuries and millenniums to explore. For this and the stories themselves which are part of the memories I cherish most as a book blogger I am grateful to be a part of the #HFVBTBlogTours blogger team.
I received a complimentary copy of “Naked Truth: or Equality, the Forbidden Fruit” direct from the author Carrie Hayes in exchange for an honest review. I did not receive compensation for my opinions or thoughts shared herein.
Why I wanted to read “Naked Truth: or Equality, the Forbidden Fruit”:
Ever since I first started to uncover a hidden niche of Historical Fiction which I refer to as Feminist Historical Fiction – those stories which are redefining our knowledge about the Women’s Rights movement, the histories and lives of the Suffragettes and everything interconnected to Intersectional Feminism as well as the larger breadth of how fighting for Women’s Rights has been an ongoing battle for many generations – those are the stories which have been enriching my readerly life for four years now.
In 2016, I had an organic focus on Feminist Historical Fiction arriving on my blog, which started by my readings of Renegade Queen by Eva Flynn (a biographical historical account of Victoria Woodhull) and Emmy Nation: Undercover Suffragette by L. Davis Munro (outlining history’s hard-won victory for Women’s Rights).
I read a re-telling of the life of Victoria Woodhull in August (Madame Presidentess by Nicole Evelina) which helped heal my heart about the portions of Woodhull’s life I felt so very difficult to read through in Flynn’s edition of the story.
It has led me down some interesting passageways – as I’ve been following in the stead of Victoria Woodhull in different incantations of her her life being told whilst I also found a remarkable trilogy about Genevieve and how her story could be re-told through a Feminist lens by Nicole Evelina (ie. the Genevieve Tales Trilogy archives).
I am encouraged by finding strong female characters that are illuminating the long history of Women’s Equality. This includes a historical mystery novel The Secret Life of Anna Blanc by Jennifer Kincheloe which approached the topic from a unique angle of discussion.
Through my readings I have felt more anchoured to the history of all the women who’ve lived before me, making our lives better for their sacrifice and dedication.
I was reading so many of these stories for quite a long while (over about two years) before they stopped coming through my Inbox in regards to blog tours. I had meant to seek more of these kinds of stories out myself by way of my local libraries or on Scribd (for audiobooks), however, as we all notice life has a way of taking us elsewhere at times when we’re thinking of following another path entirely. Thereby, I have let serendipity help me find new voices in this wonderful scope of Historical Fiction which parlays into Biographical Historical Fiction as well – as most of these stories are straight out of the living persons accounts about what was happening in the world and how women have been fighting for our Equality for far more years than anyone could imagine!
And, this is the latest I’ve found which picks up the threads of what I’ve previously read whilst encouraging all of us to carry onwards – to seek out more stories of our conjoined histories and to peer back into what has been fuelling the fight for our rights through decades and centuries of fierce women who have stood up, resisted and found their voice through protest to seek a better future for us all.
In a small way, I’ve been contributing to their legacy by amplifying voices on Twitter – by retweeting and sharing the content about the #WomensMarch and the continuing quest to have our rights secured in all facets of our lives. I might be an online activist right now but that doesn’t lessen my voice or my hope for a better tomorrow for all women once we no longer have to fight to be heard, respected and treated as equals. For me Feminism is Intersectional – it is about all of us together – including our transgender sisters – as we either all rise together or we all continue to fall.
It is better to understand History than to continuously repeat it and in this regard, it is best to understand the sacrifices of the past which have endevoured us to live as free as we do now in our modern world. Here is to the continuing fight to secure more rights and to finally have true Equality.
What first inspired you to research and eventually write about the History of Women’s Rights and the Suffragette movement?
Hayes responds: As a girl, my upbringing was somehow slipped into that space between privilege and feminine acquiescence…. by which I mean to say that my ignorance of the feminist movement (despite or maybe because of my mother’s personal friendship with Gloria Steinem) was absolute. I understood practically nothing about suffragism.
When Margaret Thatcher was first elected as Prime Minister I was a student at a girls’ school in Britain, but the only reference to feminism on the part of the teachers there was a look. They’d give you a look. No one ever said anything directly about the history of the women’s movement. My own mother was such a maverick, I couldn’t imagine ANYONE dictating to her or denying her ANYTHING… so I was completely oblivious to what women had actually gone through…. Now, when I read my answer, that sounds pretty unlikely, particularly as my mom had been a friend of Gloria’s in the sixties, but their friendship was complicated by my dad’s antipathy towards Gloria… so perhaps that made all things feminist sort of verboten…. In his defence, though, he was not a male chauvinist….So, many decades later, long after both of my parents had died, I came across Other Powers, which was Barbara Goldsmith’s biography of Victoria Woodhull and it just lit a flame inside of me.
And there is so, so, so much about this part of history that people simply know NOTHING about….. which is also really astonishing! For example- who knew that there was a vibrant, respected community of female columnists and publishers in the United States during the nineteenth century? I had no idea. Or that the highest paid syndicated columnist after the Civil War was a woman, who wrote under the name of Fannie Fern… and she was the person who coined the phrase ‘the way to a man’s heart is through his stomach.’ I think that’s fascinating.
I couldn’t agree more – how much History is left unknown and unsaid – whilst I was in school I was remarking about how there are these large gaps in information being shared – about Feminist topics, about the Suffragettes and Women’s Rights, about the Civil Rights era and also about African-American History – so much History was completely ignored and never taught. It wasn’t until I became a book blogger and ‘accidentally’ realised my favourite niche of literature is “historical fiction” did I finally get to soak into compellingly honest and authentically written stories straight out of the historic past which sought to not just educate us on the past through a lens of the person’s who once lived but to give us a proper bit of insight into what shaped their lives and why they choose to live the lives they had.
I oft lament nowadays online – my blog and on #bookTwitter, Historical Fiction is what needs to replace required readings in History and Social Science classes because the writers who are researching these stories and are writing them with such a tenacity of voice to tell the truth of the past ought to be in the hands of today’s students. They’d learn far more through the pursuit of those stories which could offer a springboard into further readings and research than the general route they take in those classes without the stories. At least that is my two pence!
I can relate to what you’re talking about in a few regards – as I hadn’t realised I was raised to be an Intersectional Feminist nor did I realise I was a Feminist until again, I became a book blogger – as those terms re-surfaced and as I sought out their definitions and better understood Intersectional Feminism, I realised this is how I was raised and how I grew up as my Mum was equally dynamic and independent in her own right, too. I think when you come from a background of strong women (such as we have; for me it is generationally shifting back even into my great-great-great grandparents) – it self-motivates you through your own personal histories to become more self-aware of the world and of the history of women’s rights as well. I love fiercely strong women and I am walking the path of being one myself.
What sparked the interest to tell this particular story in this vein of lens?
Hayes responds: Well, the Claflin sisters are pretty irresistible as protagonists. Their legend gives everything about them a wiley, unreliable, and pretty saucy aspect. Some people absolutely loved them, and others were like, ‘Woah! Free love, sexual agency, what???’ And there’s also a part of them that is exactly like the Kardashians are today. Super media savvy, with one version of themselves that the public sees and another that is probably closer to the truth of who they really are – to wit, Kim reading law, etc…
Originally, I had Naked Truth starting when they were much, much younger, because there’s this wild sensationalism of their life with their parents, and Victoria’s time in California and Tennessee’s first marriage – all of it, very hard hitting Victorian melodrama, along with Canning’s alcoholism and drug addiction and various charges of prostitution and all that steamy stuff. But being a debut novelist, I was advised the book could only be so big. Then I couldn’t figure out how to gauge the plotting, so as to break it up into a trilogy and make it a more marketable, manageable product.
Eventually, I worked with a fabulous editor, Nicoke Bokat who really helped me get a handle on the story and the telling of it. Then, co-incidentally, I read The Age of Light, by Whitney Scharer (a novel about photographer Lee Miller), and the way she told the story in the present tense gave me a lot to think about….. Then it began to dawn on me that Tennessee and Victoria’s story is actually about the media and how it is delivered and how it is consumed. It is particularly about women and the media, and how caught up we, as women, are by image and perception- more than we are by fundamental truths…..so the whole thing played out as a sort of decoupage in my mind- or like in old movies where you see newspaper headlines spinning round…
I love when you have too much material rather than feeling as if you’ve short-changed your story by not writing enough! I have a feeling I’ll have this same issue once I start to publish my own stories as I tend to write in length rather than in the shortness of word counts and the structures of industry. (er, my blog is a testament to this!) I felt breaking your story into three installments was a smart choice – as I personally love seeing how a story can evolve and redefine itself through multiple installments of the same narrative. I have read several firsts as a book blogger in the past which I hope to continue reading one day as they were incredibly strong and well founded at their beginnings. Here’s to seeing your fully realised story eventually published and released as a trilogy!
As I have been travelling alongside Woodhull for awhile now, I know there is a dear amount of her history to ‘unpack’ and ruminate over – hers is not an easy story to tell nor is it an easy story to read due to the fixed marks of time and circumstance which affected her history. I’ve lost a lot of sleep over reading about her story and of processing certain moments of her life.
What are you hoping Historical Fiction readers will gain from the perspective you’ve provided?
Hayes responds: That there was so much more going on that we might imagine in the lives of those who now exist now only as footnotes or obscure curiosities. That and also that the female impulse to bury those women who don’t suit us (for whatever reason) is not a good one. That the issue of sexual equality, a woman’s right to privacy and to her own body, even within marriage, has remained controversial in the political discussion because the leaders of the suffragist movement shied away from taking it on, preferring only to deal with the vote – as opposed to actual sexual equality. There were some wonderful discussions around this just before the 19th Amendment’s centennial. Much of what’s plagued women during the fight for equal rights has been due, in large part, to those rights not being addressed in tandem with the right to vote.
I concur with this – in our pursuit to secure the right to vote, we did not secure the right for other ‘civil rights and liberties’ which should have been inherently given at the same time and yet were withheld. Our ongoing pursuit of those freedoms and rights is still playing out today and are still undecided in regards to being a secured right and being merely a temporary one which is constantly besieged of being overturn. By re-tracing the histories of what we’ve been fighting for and what we have accomplished we can better understand the stakes of today.
Whilst at the same time what was more challenging – aligning your story into the timeline of History and/or threading a story of your own vision into History as it unfolded?
Hayes responds: For me, the life of the Claflin sisters was a gift. Their real life adventure moved beautifully apace with the timeline of history. They were products of that time and their story flowed accordingly. Simplifying their narrative was an enormous challenge, because they knew everyone and went everywhere. Choosing how to rein it in was the tricky bit. The running joke in my family was that it was “The Story Too Big To Be Told!”
You gave me a jolly good laugh about the ‘story too big to be told’!! I love how you’ve found characters to write about who were so vividly alive during their lifetimes that their stories simply knitted together as if you were merely writing down their actual histories rather than having to pierce together a history that you hadn’t previously known. Some characters and/or lives we’re created come together in such a way as to give us pause about how we write and how writing fuses us into a creative space where there is something else going on besides the artfulness of telling tales and touching souls with our words.
What was your favourite section of the novel to write?
Hayes responds: I love, love, the big scenes, with crowds of people and tons of food. What one reads now are mere snippets of the original set ups. The dinner party where Victoria decides she will have her own newspaper was a favorite and the scene in Washington after Victoria’s speech at Lincoln Hall. I enjoyed those very much. I also love to write scenes where we think it’s going to go one way and then something happens, so that it goes in a different direction. I do find those great fun.
I loved how you’ve responded to the question and to all the questions I asked of you – it felt like a very organic conversation and one we might have had over tea or lattes. It shows how much you love your topic and subjects of interest whilst also painting the portrait of a writer whose in love with creating the story she was meant to write and cast out into the world. It is a pleasure of joy to be able to share this with my readers and the visitors who are following the blog tour!
From Washington Heights to Washington D.C. comes a true American Herstory. Filled with intrigue, lust, and betrayal, this is the fight for sexual equality.
1868, on the eve of the Gilded Age: Spiritualist TENNESSEE CLAFLIN is smart, sexy, and sometimes clairvoyant. But it’s her sister, VICTORIA WOODHULL, who is going to make history as the first woman to run for President of the United States.
It starts with the seduction of the richest man in America. Next, they’ll take New York City and the suffragist movement by storm, because together, Tennessee and Victoria are a force of nature. Boldly ambitious, they stop at nothing, brushing shoulders with Harriet Beecher Stowe and Susan B. Anthony, using enough chutzpah to make a lady blush.
That is, until their backstabbing family takes them to court, and their carefully spun lives unravel, out in public and in the press.
Places to find the book:
Published by HTPH Press
on 24th February, 2020
Format: Trade Paperback
Converse via: #HistFic or #HistNov as well as #HistoricalFiction and #Equality
+ #NakedTruth, #WomensRights and #HFVBTBlogTours
Available Formats: Trade paperback and Ebook
Reading this book contributed to these challenges: