Sunny Hostin Calls Her New Book Summer on the Bluffs a 'Love Letter to Black and Latina Women'
"I am exploring Black joy and Latina joy and exploring friendships," The View's Sunny Hostin tells PEOPLE of her new book
Sunny Hostin is kicking off summer with a new beach read for fans.
On Tuesday, the author, 52, released her debut novel Summer on the Bluffs, which she tells PEOPLE is her "love letter to Black people, Black women and Latina women." Set in Oak Bluffs, a town located on the island of Martha's Vineyard and the most exclusive Black beach community in the country, Summer on the Bluffs follows the lives of Amelia Vaux Tanner and her three older godchildren from different backgrounds, whom Amelia considers to be surrogate daughters.
"I love beach reads, but I never see beach reads with people of color. I really wanted to write about characters that have similar lived experiences to my own," Hostin says. "When I would travel, I would run into the little airport bookstores, and I would look for characters of color on the cover — they just didn't exist. I thought that if I was looking that maybe other people were looking as well, and Toni Morrison often said, 'If there's a book that you want to read, but it hasn't been written yet, then you must write it.' "
Below The View co-host shares details about writing her new book and why it was a passion project for her.
PEOPLE: Why did you want to write Summer on the Bluffs?
HOSTIN: I thought, let me write a work of fiction that reflects my world. I wanted to tell a story with Black and Latino characters, front and center, and fill a void because there is such a void in that space. I'm really excited because the few people that I've sent the book to were like, 'Oh my God, I was so thirsty for this.' I think, at this time in our country, especially, people want something fun and sexy with sand and secrets, and I'm just happy to have tapped into it at the right time.
Are any anecdotes or storylines inspired by your own life?
Much of the book is fiction. But I definitely used my own experiences as a frame of reference. And I will say that I used a lot of my friends as prototypes for it. Some of my friends were like, 'Wow, Perry sounds a lot like you, but Olivia sounds a lot like me.' And that part is probably true. In terms of Ama, I find that it seems that, especially after speaking with women like Whoopi [Goldberg] who's in her 60s and just so incredible, and Joy [Behar], who's in her 70s. They often have said, it seems like women just get written off. That's unfortunate because we're here, and we're vibrant. We're alive, and we're having incredible adventures. I also wanted to write those stories as well. Because there's something for every generation in this book, much like The View.
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What lessons did you want to include about the power of family and friendship, or about identity and where you come from?
I wanted to explore sexism. I wanted to explore racism. I wanted to explore colorism, which is something that so many people don't talk about. I just hope that readers really see themselves in the characters. I know that they will, but I hope that they're inspired by how these women just continue to rise to the occasion no matter what they face. And they really, really do. Actually, my dad read this book in two days. My husband listened to the audiobook. I really think that men are going to like it too. I didn't think that at first, but they will. I'm excited about that.
Why did you choose Oak Bluffs as the setting? Does the location have any specific significance for you?
I'm just a kid from the South Bronx projects, and it's surreal that I vacation on Martha's Vineyard at this point. A lot of people actually have been going there since before the Harlem Renaissance, and that's something that I came to learn. It was actually one of the only places that Black people were allowed to buy beachfront property. So it's this incredibly rich history that I wanted everyone to know about. And this is a trilogy. So I'm writing three books, and all of the books are placed in the places where Black people were allowed to buy beachfront property. One is Oak Bluffs in Martha's Vineyard. The second will be in Sag Harbor in the Hamptons. And the third book will be in High Point, Maryland. Those are the only three places, actually, in the United States that African Americans were allowed to purchase a beachfront property. I just thought, why not write this historical fiction so that it can educate people, but also, open up this world that I've had the chance to experience because I've been to all three places. And also make it fun and juicy for everyone. And I'm in the middle of writing Summer on Sag.
In a news cycle in which trauma has been the majority headline for BIPOC communities, how important was it to feature people of color in a lighter, fun fiction narrative instead of one that might be centered on grief?
It was really important because I cover these stories, and because it is traumatic. I've spent my career covering social justice. I spent my career prosecuting child sex crimes, in D.C. no less, talking about these issues. Trayvon Martin was one of the first big cases that I covered. I read about this, I write about this, I talk about it on television. I know that the community needs an escape. I really know that because I need an escape. I know that the escape is there because I go to the Vineyard, I go to Sag Harbor, I go to High Point. There is real Black joy that can be experienced, and that needs to be celebrated as well. When I was writing this, I wrote it because I knew people needed it. But if I'm being honest, I wrote it because I needed it.
You wrote your memoir I Am These Truths. I'm assuming Summer on the Bluffs was a complete 180 in terms of the writing process.
This was so cathartic for me after writing a memoir, which was actually really difficult to write. I think that it's going to be an escape for people. Where do people go on vacation? Do they go to a bleak place? Do they go to places that are dark and cold and desperate? No, they go to the beach. They want to be in the sun, and they want to have light and love. That's what this book is. It's almost my love letter to Black people, Black women and Latina women, and I really think it comes across. I really do.
When I wrote the memoir, you have to be really raw and honest. My life hasn't been this crystal staircase, like you hear about it. It's been challenging. Sometimes more filled with failure than success. When you have a story where you grow up in the projects, and you've seen addiction and violence and failure, that's a heavy, heavy thing to actually put on paper. I wrote about having several miscarriages. I wrote about it all. I wanted it to be completely unvarnished because, in a way, I also wanted it to be aspirational. I wanted people to be able to read it and say, "She went through a lot and is okay on the other side of it. So if she could, I could do it." I also wrote about how Trayvon's murder changed me, how covering cases changed me. How being discriminated against by my employer changed me. How I'm still here, and I'm okay. So writing [I Am These Truths] is very different than writing a beach read where I am exploring Black joy and Latina joy and exploring friendships. It's still complicated because women are complicated. I also think that sometimes with beach reads, you have a gorgeous guy who's walking along the beach, and he's saving someone — that's not this book. This book is women being strong and helping each other, and being self-possessed. They're career women, and they're making difficult choices. It's really beautiful and lovely in terms of their friendships because I have really strong girlfriends and friendships. I have a really strong marriage, and I write about the challenges of that as well. I found it really joyful to explore that. I definitely think people will find a lot of joy in it as well.
Any fun plans for you this summer? Perhaps the beach?
I'm fully vaccinated so I intend to be somewhere this summer [laughs].
This story originally appeared on people.com