BOSSIP Exclusive: Author Devyn Blakewell Details Her HBCU Love Celebrating Novel Inspired By Her How
A romance novelist who believes a Greater Love can lead to a Greater Life is detailing a fictional HBCU-set love story to BOSSIP.
Source: Devyn Bakewell
Howard University grad turned author Devyn Bakewell wants readers to meet Ryan McKnight, a recent high school grad who embarks on a life-changing college journey across the country. Despite wanting a complete change from her beginning in Los Angeles, she discovers that forgetting where you come from isn't as easy-and it's all a particular person's fault.
As fate would have it, Mcknight runs into Devyn Baker, a jock from her old high school that shatters her plans of rediscovery and strict dedication to her studies. He's enrolled at the HBCU they're attending, much to Ryan's chagrin, and he flips her experience upside down.
Below Bakewell details to BOSSIP Ryan and Devyn's burgeoning Black love story and weighs in on trending topics central to her characters' coming of age in her books Greater Love and Greater Life.
How did your Howard University experience inspire Greater Love and Greater Life?
I went to Heward, I graduated in 2021. The book is a Black romance book and it's centered at a fictional HBCU in New York. It's loosely based off of my Howard experience but it's not about me. It's about a different girl who traveled to New York from California and it's very similar to the kind of experience that I went through because I'm from L.A. Since it's a Black romance novel, I really thought that that's the best place to center [the story], about young black people finding love and finding themselves. I felt that there was no better place to do it than at an HBCU.
What part of the HBCU experience are your characters going through in your book?
My books centered around a young woman, Ryan McKnight, and the guy is named Devyn [Baker], actually. She goes to this HBCU to escape her life in Los Angeles. She comes from a kind of struggling background and has a lot of issues with her family and her dad in particular, and she's kind of running away to find herself and start anew. And the guy character, also comes from the same community called Garden Heights, it's a fictional hood. He's a football player, so you get to learn a little bit about his football life.
I think the big thing about the HBCU experience and the cool thing about the book is that you see so many examples of just different types of black people. That's really close to my time at Howard, there were so many different people that I met there and I always say the best part about Howard was the people that I met. So you see that in their friend group, you see a bit of Devyn's sports life and as for Ryan, she's not in any clubs or anything, she's really just finding her way while he's a bit more popular. Also the drive to do whatever you want in this world is in the book also.
Source: Devyn Bakewell / Greater Love
Let's talk about Ryan and Devin's sweet black love story. What ultimately makes Ryan fall for Devyn in these books?
You know, what's kind of crazy is that Ryan wants to escape her life and falls in love with somebody who's from her past. I think that Devyn has this familiarity to her. She actually starts with not liking him at all honestly, and then they get together. She starts tutoring him and that's how they kind of connect. And I don't want to give all the details but she runs into a situation that forces her to look back into her past and she's really struggling and he was really the only person who understood what she's gone through and I think he just understood her and he listened to her. Devyn, he's really a good example of a black man who wants to understand the black woman, and Ryan's kind of the pick of the litter for him, and she really entices him and she really stands out to him. But I think that's what connects both of them that sense of familiarity and being so far away from home.
Since we're talking about dating, let's talk about something that recently went viral. John Boyega said that he only dates black women and he received a ton of backlash. I would love for you to weigh in on that as an author and as a commentator. What were your thoughts about what he said when it comes to your book, would Ryan and Devin only date within their race? Or are they open to dating outside of it?
Personally, I don't see a problem with what John Boyega said. I grew up in a civil rights activist family-my grandfather was a civil rights activist and I came from a black couple and I see nothing wrong with continuing the black race. I think black love is a genuinely, genuinely beautiful thing, I don't think there's anything wrong with interracial dating, but I believe in the specialness of black-on-black love, it's beautiful, and it's historic. And so I don't see a problem with it at all and I honestly agree with him.
And as for Ryan...you know, I became an author to tell black romance and black love stories and Ryan is the same way, she would only date a black person because I'm writing for black people, and about black people. That's what I want to put into the world, healthy stories about black love.
Source: Devyn Bakewell
Something else that recently went viral was his whole cheating scandal with Nia Long's fiancé. If you were in this situation, what would you do? And then let's flip it-what would Ryan do if Devyn did something like that and embarrassed her?
I think I think me and Ryan would react in a very similar way. And I think that is in a very similar way to Nia Long, I think she's very much the right thing and focusing on herself and her kids, and allowing him the responsibility of fixing his own problems, and dealing with the mess that he made. And I feel like she's doing absolutely the right thing. Sometimes there is power in not being loud.
Would Devyn ever find himself in a situation like this, or is he too responsible to let something so silly happen?
You know, that's a hard question because Devyn is young. He's 18 and he's a young jock. I don't think he would cheat because I believe that he knows Ryan is the pick of the litter and he puts her on a pedestal. And I don't think he would do it, but you know, they're young. and I think if Ryan or Devyn were to cheat, I think that they would very, very quickly realize that they have their person and that it's not worth it.
Lastly, what do you want people to learn about your characters and their black love story, in Greater Love and in the sequel, Greater Life?
I want people to know that my characters are young and they're growing. I think that's especially that's what the second book was about-finding yourself. In my first book, I really focused on, finding your partner and finding this healthy love, and finding someone who accepts you as you are. But I think it's also really important to love yourself as well and I think it's actually impossible to actually really love someone without loving yourself, or cherish someone without cherishing yourself. And I want people to know that they are going through things, and I want people to go through things with them and understand and relate like; 'Oh, they're young, and I went through that, identify with it.' I want them to still be accepted despite mistakes, and so know that they are a couple that's trying to work it out and that they love each other.