This past Sunday they did a profile on the actor Robert Duvall, who much like Sam Elliott, screams "cowboy" to me. The reporter asked Duvall why he thought the western held appeal and he simply replied, "Because it's ours." I'd never thought about it in that simple of terms. The English can lay claim to Shakespeare - Americans lay claim to the western. At it's core it is the one truly authentic American ideal. Nobody else can claim it. Nobody else truly understands it. For Americans the Wild West is ingrained into our consciousness, our sense of history, and the very principles that Americans hold dear.
I've always said the western appeals to me because it signifies starting over and second chances. These are both very American concepts - the whole Horatio Alger thing that a man (or woman) can pull themselves up by their boot straps. Wealth and power are not only the domain of old money and the elite. A common man can also make his fortune. It's this idea that led to America being the country that it is - and it also makes this country very unique. Think about it. Think of the sheer volume of ethnicities and races that call themselves Americans. Sure it happens elsewhere in the World - but not on the level that it happens in America. It's what makes our country great - even if there are factions that don't want to admit it.
Now I'm not foolish enough to paint the western as wholly romantic. First, we have the Native Americans - whose way of life was decimated. You also have Chinese - who were singled out because they "looked different," spoke in a "strange tongue," and whose customs were completely and totally foreign to the largely European melting pot of America. Yet the Chinese played a huge part in building our railroads - hence ushering in an age of extreme growth and industrialization.
And then we have African Americans. The West most certainly held appeal for them. Sure slavery was abolished, but mostly in name only in the South where Jim Crow took root and thrived until the Civil Rights Movement of the 1960s. Also with slavery over, these people were left with even less than they had before. Think about it. No home, no money, no food, no education. Absolutely nothing. What option does that leave? Extreme options and dreaming big. The West most certainly would have signified a "second chance" and freedom for these men and women.
Which brings us to Beverly Jenkins - an author known for her westerns featuring black characters and black history. I've never read Jenkins. This is inexcusable on my part. Why?
- She writes westerns! Yippee!
- She's a Michigan girl
- She's still with Avon
After a couple of routine mysteries and a the Secrets Anthology Volume 1 (yawn) - I've decided it's time to read another western. So I've pulled out Something Like Love from my TBR. I got me a signed copy at RWA in Reno last summer, and being the good little monkey that I am, donated the unsigned copy already in my TBR to the library (which has since been stolen - so there you go). I've only read the prologue, but so far it's very promising. I hope to put a large dent in it on my lunch break today.