Nobody’s Heroes – Steven Jacob
Today is my stop on the blog tour for ‘Nobody’s Heroes’ by Steven Jacob, organised by Damppebbles Blog Tours. I was delighted to participate in this tour, and to read a fascinating book outside my usual genres, and I hope that you will check out both the author and the book.
*Disclaimer: ‘I was given a copy this book in exchange for an honest review.’*
Reuben Ayers in on the come-up. He makes a deal with Tammany Hall to spy on the African American regiment out of Harlem during World War I. As he works his way into the regiment, befriending Jim Europe, bandleader; and his friend Noble Sissle, he begins to understand the power of altruism. Though too late he realizes that he has sacrificed too much for the wrong thing.
In an effort to repent his betrayal of his people, he sets out on a quest to save the child he did not know he had and to repair the relationships that he sundered during his climb to the political heights. Only through his friendships forged on the battlefield is he able to come to the conclusion that his fight must change if he is to save his soul.
Historical fiction intrigues me because it is a way to access different periods of history that are not always accessible or are restricted to what is taught in schools etc. As with most people, I studied WWI throughout my school years from a variety of viewpoints, and yet not one of those classes covered the fascinating part of history that is presented in ‘Nobody’s Heroes’, nor looked as deeply at the issues of race during this time. Not only does this book shed light on a – to me at least- unknown aspect of something that is ‘well known’, it does so in a way that makes no concessions, and demonstrates a high level of respect and research for the history. It broaches difficult questions, and topics openly and without sugar-coating, and that is what gives it such impact.
I enjoyed the way the narrative switched between the past and the present. Not least because you could see how the character had developed and changed, and the motivations for those past actions – and why he was trying to change. It also helped to place Ayer’s in the broader context of the world, and the war, without being too overbearing, and the switches were clearly defined so that you never lose sight of where you are.
The language throughout the book is hard to read, reflecting both the topic and the linguistic choices of the time. Again harking back to the lack of concessions given to the harshness of this time. However, there were a couple of places where the language choices gave me pause and jolted me out of the scene, and while I understand why the language is being used in such a way and found that it heightened the narrative in most places, I feel that it could have been softened in some of the more emotional scenes for increased impact.
For me personally, what I liked most about ‘Nobody’s Heroes’ beyond the window it gave on a part of history that I was unfortunately unaware of, is the way it presents war – focusing more on its impact, than fast-paced battles – and also how it looks at heroes. As someone who primarily reads fantasy, heroes are something that I have read presented in various ways, and yet even in grimdark where the ‘heroes’ are morally grey, or not even really heroes at all, there remains an underlying concept of heroes and what is expected of them. In this book that is taken and broken into tiny pieces,
‘War was not made of heroes. Yes, it made heroes, but only because soldiers did their duty. Courage had become just that, duty. Duty under fire. And to acknowledge the simplicity of it all depressed me. Wasn’t this all to be for some greater purpose. Weren’t we all here to become heroes?’
It is a book about people, about heroism – that is not the heroism of grand stories and fantasy – but that of duty and situation and is all the more powerful about it. It is about heroism that is not universal and doesn’t reach all areas or change the lives of those who wear that badge or even those they thought for. Ayers’ actions, and that of the people around him, do not solve the issues back home in Harlem, with racist policies and attitudes continuing long after this period of ‘heroism’.
Overall, I enjoyed the book a lot, and I will certainly be finding the time to try and educate myself further on the subject, and I would certainly recommend checking out Steven Jacob’s guest post at @bookslifeandeverything.
About the Author:
Steven Jacob has been writing fiction since he was in the second grade. He earned a B.A. in History from Utah State University and a J.D. in law from Santa Clara University. He has worked as an international corporate attorney for the last ten years.
Earlier this year he independently published a historical fiction novel, Nobody’s Heroes, about the black regiment out of Harlem during World War I, though he has not been given access to sales figures yet. As a gay man with mental illness, he is intensely interested in the stories of minority peoples and their struggles to fight against oppression.
While researching To Save My People he lived in the Raleigh, North Carolina, area where he had access to research and resources related to the history described in the novel. He has also spent thousands of dollars in shipping to get the secondary sources he needed to research his novel to his home in Vietnam.
He is also working on a non-fiction book about the Cherokee’s modern history using online resources. He tries to write some non-fiction based on his fiction projects to get double use from the research. He has published several legal articles and some freelance articles in magazines in Southeast Asia. An article based on events in his previous novel is scheduled to appear in the inaugural issue of Variety Pack, an online journal.
Nobody’s Heroes – Steven Jacob ( Published in digital, hardcover and paperback formats by Austin Macauley Publishers on 30th September 2019) – 4/5 (4 stars)