Nobody's Heroes by Steven Jacob #BookReview #BlogTour

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.

I'm delighted to be hosting the blog tour for Nobody's Heroes today. Many thanks to Steven Jacob, Austin Macauley Publishers and Emma Welton from damppebbles blog tours for inviting me and for my digital copy of the novel.

I have been reading fiction and non-fiction about World War I since I was a child and yet until now I hadn't read about the two thousand African American men from Harlem who volunteered to serve their country. It's a shameful omission and after reading this thoughtfully powerful story, I am determined to further educate myself on the subject.
The central character of the novel, Reuben Ayres is fictional and most of the book is written from his perspective, switching between his memories of the past - his reason for enlisting and his experiences in France - and his guilt-stricken predicament in the years immediately after the war. From the very beginning, Ayres admits that he joined up in order to boost his own career; with the assurance of a political post on his return, he agrees to spy on his own people and worse, to act as a saboteur. He is working for Tammany Hall, the Democratic Party political machine which controlled New York and as one sachem (leader), Asa Bird Gardiner explains,
'Tamany likes the press that comes from helping our fool darky brethren escape the oppressive jungles of San Juan Hill and Harlem town, but to give your kind a chance to fight, a chance to create a genuine war one in their right mind wants a Negro able to rally support because he killed a dozen Germans in the heat of battle.'
The language throughout Nobody's Heroes is necessarily difficult to read because it reflects the speech and attitudes of the era - this was the time, of course when lynchings were commonplace and Jim Crow laws were used to enforce racial segregation in the southern United States but even in the northern states there was still formal segregation, racism and discrimination. It means that although Ayres comes to profoundly regret his choices, readers are at least able to understand why he thought that achieving a political post would mean he could begin to bring about change.
Whilst Ayres is fictional, many of the other characters are based on real people and it's fascinating and humbling to learn more about them. I particularly enjoyed the inclusion of Jim Europe, Noble Sissle and Horace Pippin. These three men are all significant contributors to African American history and I would recommend that you take the time to discover more about their achievements. I must commend Steven Jacob on his research here too, because these aren't men who are just mentioned in passing to add historical flavour to the novel; they all have significant roles to play and as such are vividly brought to life.
Nobody's Heroes isn't a fast-paced war story, even the battle scenes focus on the physical and mental toll, something which is expanded upon further in the chapters set after the war when Ayres is clearly suffering from the emotional cost of his experiences as well as from his overwhelming sense of guilt and regret. At one point, towards the end of the war, Ayres considers heroism, reflecting that,
'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?'
Nobody's Heroes is an important reminder of the actions of the men who set out from Harlem, hoping that they could prove themselves as men and heroes. They served their country even though it refused to recognise their rights and even their lives. With the terrible knowledge that the racist segregationist policies and attitudes would continue for many years after the war - and indeed are still occuring on a de facto basis, it's a painful read but one that I'm very glad to have had the opportunity to discover. Deeply moving and immensely thought-provoking, I thoroughly recommend it.

Nobody's Heroes is published by Austin Macauley Publishers and can be purchased from the following;
Amazon US
Amazon UK
Barnes & Noble

Don't miss the rest of the blog tour, details are below.

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. 
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