10 Oct 2023
It's no secret that women and moms have faced many challenges in the past two years. A survey by Pew Research Center highlighted some of the challenges facing mothers during the pandemic. For example, a survey last October found that, among employed parents working from home all or most of the time, mothers were more likely than fathers to say they had a lot of childcare responsibilities while working.
In addition, a National Women's Law Center report showed that women, in particular, have suffered the majority of pandemic job losses, so it's no surprise that women are looking not just to stay sane but to have an occasional escape.
This is one of the many reasons Emmy Award winner and NYTimes best-selling author Sunny Hostin and co-host of "The View" released her first book in her "Summer" trilogy last summer. Summer on the Bluffs quickly became a New York Times best-seller.
"Writing is an escape for me," said Hostin. "And I wanted Summer on the Bluffs to be a delicious escape read for women, especially Black women, given our country's state today."
Representation In Romance
As for what inspired Ms. Hostin to write a book, she shared, “Toni Morrison once said, 'If there's a book you want to read, but it hasn't been written yet, then you must write it.' So I did!”
Ms. Hostin released the paperback version this past May, and the story is based on Martha's Vineyard. The following books will be in two other communities – Sag Harbor (Summer on Sag Harbor coming in 2023) and Highland Beach, Maryland.
"I wanted to create a story with characters with lived experiences similar to mine," she said. "There seems to be a unique void in fiction. I thirsted for stories centering on Black and Latina characters and highlighting our history and excellence. We are educated, buy art, love fashion, watch Sex and The City, and yes, have sex after 60. And we swim and own homes on the beach. Black folks have been vacationing on Martha's Vineyard since the late 1800s and were only 'allowed' to purchase and own beachfront property in a few places in the US, including Oak Bluffs, so it has this rich history that I wanted everyone to know about. The books in my Summer trilogy are based in some places where Black people were allowed to own beachfront property – Oak Bluffs, Sag Harbor, and Highland Beach."
Hostin said that this book is a love letter to Black love in all its forms, and representation is vital. "Growing up, I never saw myself represented in media," said Hostin. "I am so proud that I can now serve as a representative for the Black and Latino communities and write a book centered around those communities. Readers of all ages need to see themselves represented in our stories. I hope Bluffs makes readers aware of our and the struggles we face and helps continue to foster a more inclusive dialogue going forward."
Her process in writing her book was to use her own experiences as a lawyer, journalist, and even as a "Vineyard inhabitant." She loved developing the characters, their arcs, thinking through their motivations, and how their respective paths would change throughout the novel.
"For example, the character Ama's early struggles to be taken seriously in her career and the difficulties that face the younger generation – Perry, Olivia, and Billie – were inspired by many of the struggles I've faced throughout my career,” Hostin states. “Overt racism, sexism, and a combination of the two were prevalent in my career. Exploring that in the novel was important because I know young women will read it and see themselves. Knowing that readers see themselves in these characters and feel inspired by how these women continue rising to the occasion, no matter what obstacles they face, made the whole writing process, including all of its challenges, so worth it.”
Recent projections estimate that employment for women may not recover to pre-pandemic levels until 2024 as per economic scenarios modeled by McKinsey and Oxford Economics. Also, according to a study done by Gender, Work & Organization, mothers, in particular, have had to cut their workweek by about two hours on average during the coronavirus to balance work and their families.
This opens up opportunities for women to pivot their careers or start their own companies in light of the recent setbacks. Ms. Hostin relates to this.
"My career trajectory has certainly not been a straight line," she shared. "In fact, I wasn't even offered my job as co-host on The View after my first-time auditioning, but I kept putting in the work and trying to follow my passion. So, to anyone looking to change their careers, I say, 'Go for it!' Take risks and follow your passion. If you truly love what you're doing with your life, it won't even feel like you're working."
As for what's next for Ms. Hostin, she recently launched her own production company, Sunny Hostin Productions. It is a global, multi-platform media company developing and creating content for film and television, highlighting important social justice issues and meaningful, inclusive stories. The company's first project that is well underway is a deal with Disney to develop Summer on the Bluffs as a dramatic series with ABC Signature and Octavia Spencer's Orit Entertainment.
She is also working on her Bluffs sequel, Summer on Sag Harbor. Sag Harbor is one of the other locations where Black people were allowed to own beachfront property, a theme of the series. “I am hard at work on the sequel, and I'm excited for the world to read it once it's done.”
When asked what advice she has for women who are working to navigate motherhood, career changes, the continued impact of the pandemic, and staying sane, she answered, “Sanity is overrated,” with a laugh. “Listen, being a Mom is my most important gig. I wouldn't trade anything for it. Gabriel and Paloma are my everything. I prioritize them above all else. And because of that, sometimes other things fall to the wayside. That's what keeps me sane. Priorities. They are my priorities. And I'm ok with that. It's a no-judgment zone. As a Mom, you get to decide.”