Guest blog by Denitta Ward
Jean Ball is coming-of-age in the 1920 Midwest when the rules are made to be broken, and the American society in a state of transition. Social norms are changing, and women are venturing out beyond traditional boundaries. The opulent Prohibition Era is rich in social, economic, gender, racial, and social tension, and that is what provides the setting of Somewhere Still.
At the outset, Jean is in a dire financial situation. Her mother is too ill to work and her father died in the Great War. With less than a high school education, she lucks into a job as a hotel elevator operator, considered a “man’s job” at the time. Soon, she starts learning the secrets of the city’s elite and bootleg liquor trade alike. It’s not long before she is dating Elden Whitcomb, the hotel magnate’s handsome son, a controversial free-thinker himself who owns an illegal speakeasy.
Little does she know that dating Elden will raise the ire of Kansas City’s elite, or that it was the pressure from a women’s group known as the Consumer League that paved the way for her hiring, and that their influence has a far reach.
This story is set in Kansas City in 1921 when the Consumer League members were banding together to change the city – and ultimately their entire state. They met regularly in the city’s best hotel and advocated for beautification projects, water cleanliness, quality standards for the state’s dairy industry, and for career opportunities for young women.
Also in 1921, racial divisions within the U.S. were rife. But in Kansas City change was starting to emerge. That year, baseball’s Negro League was founded by a talented visionary, Rube Goldberg. Tenacious and fearless, he fostered the League that would eventually produce players such as Satchel Paige and Hank Aaron.
Elden, one of the Negro League’s biggest supporters, introduces Jean to the game. When they make a public stand for equal treatment, Jean has to deal with the consequences of breaking the rules of a society still rooted in racial division as well as a snobbery that doesn’t condone dating across economic class. Will the support of women who are committed to social change help Jean overcome the challenge?
In Somewhere Still, I strive to show the thin reed upon which many lived in the Roaring Twenties. I wrote it as a gift to my mother to show a society in transition from the staid Victorian era to one where the demand for equal rights finally begins to be voiced.
Accompanying Somewhere Still is a nonfiction book Prohibition Cocktails with a brief history of Prohibition and the origin stories and recipes of 21 of Roaring ’20s most popular drinks.
Somewhere Still is nominated for the Kansas Notable Book Award and was a Finalist for the Wishing Shelf international book award.
Denitta Ward writes historical fiction and companion non-fiction for each novel from the foothills of the Rocky Mountains. After decades of writing legal briefs and contracts, Denitta decided she’d write the stories she really wanted to tell – about young women discovering their own resilience in times of societal transition. Passionate about history and with a lifelong interest in the transformative power of women when they band together, Denitta is a member of the Women’s Fiction Writers Association, the Historical Novel Society, and Rocky Mountain Fiction Writers.