Thursday, June 04, 2009

Elsie Washington/Rosalind Welles: Entwined Destinies

I've mentioned Elsie Washington very briefly here before, but via the Smart Bitches I came across a sad item of news:
under the pen name Rosalind Welles, journalist Elsie Washington published Entwined Destinies. The book is widely considered the first contemporary black romance, inspiring a new generation of ethnic novelists. Washington died at age 66 in New York City on May 5. [...]

Guided by Vivian Stephens, the first black romance editor, Washington spun a tale with all the traditional romance elements — attraction, longing, obstacles to overcome and, ultimately, commitment — against a glamorous, international backdrop. Suddenly, black wasn't only poor or pathological. It wasn't just victims.

"The important thing about Elsie's work is it established the romance novels that followed in the next 20 years as books about the African-American middle class," said Gwendolyn Osborne, a contributor to The Romance Reader, a popular Web site for online reviews. (Grigsby Bates, NPR)

There's an obituary in the New York Times which gives some more details about the book:
The 575th title in Dell’s Candlelight Romance series, “Entwined Destinies” was published under the pen name Rosalind Welles. It tells the story of a beautiful young black woman, a magazine correspondent, who after many travails finds love with a tall, dashing black man, an oil company executive.

In 2002 Black Issues Book Review said the novel was “the first known romance featuring African-American characters written by an African-American author.”

“Entwined Destinies” was Ms. Washington’s only novel.
The obituary in the Los Angeles Times quotes Washington:
In an interview with the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel some years ago, Washington said she prepared herself to write her novel by reading scores of romances.

"I treated it seriously," she said. "It was the very first ethnic romance. For all I knew, maybe it was going to be the only one. So I wanted to get a whole spectrum of black folks in the book."

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