Nana Dombruso first appeared on the pages of my Firsts and Forever Series in February, 2013. The book was All In, #2 in the series. I wanted a bit of comic relief to balance out some of the heavier elements in Dante and Charlie’s story, so I decided to give Dante a zany, free-spirited grandmother. I knew right from the beginning that I’d created something special in Nana Dombruso.
Nana is a feisty, hilarious senior citizen with no filter and a knack for getting into trouble. I love the fact that she makes people laugh. It means the world to me when my readers tell me they laugh out loud while reading one of Nana’s scenes, and that it brightens their day.
But she’s more than just funny. Nana loves unconditionally. She’s a bold, tireless champion of LGBT+ rights, and she adores her “gay homosexual” grandsons and all the boys she’s taken under her wing over the years. There’s nothing she wouldn’t do for the people she loves.
People often ask me if Nana is based on someone I know. Sadly, no. I wish I did know someone like her, because Nana is the very best of us. She’s bold and brave, and she has a boundless capacity for love. In many ways, she’s a tiny superhero, out trying to right the wrongs of the world by any means necessary. She has no superpowers though, outside of a huge heart and a burning desire to make the world a better place.
Who among us hasn’t wished we could take on the ugliness and hate we see every time we turn on the news or pick up a paper? In that regard, Nana is pure wish fulfillment. She does the things we can’t do, because we fear the repercussions. Nana fears nothing.
Over the past four years, Nana has found her way into a lot of hearts, and I’m so grateful for that. She’s the character I hear about more than any other, and I wouldn’t dare leave her out of a book. She’s been in every one of them since her debut in All In.
Once in a while, I get a worried or even tearful message from a reader seeking reassurance. They tell me they’re concerned, because Nana’s getting older, and they can’t bear the thought of anything happening to her. But that’s the lovely thing about writing fiction, friends. Nana never has to grow old, or slow down in any way. The series is open-ended, so Nana can keep on going forever, and we all get to keep sharing a laugh with her and waiting to see what she’ll do next.
The following is a classic Nana scene from Skye Blue, where she takes matters into her own hands at an anti-LGBT rally (after helping found-object metal sculptor Skye retrieve a treasure from a dumpster):
Between the three of us guys, and with Nana giving instructions and acting as drill sergeant, we managed to get the canister into the limo, though a good four feet or so were sticking out the sun roof, angled toward the front of the vehicle. As we were dusting off our clothes and hands, she stepped back and said, “Well ain’t that a humdinger.”
“What is it, Nana?” I asked.
She tilted her head to the side and said, “Is it just me, or does that thing look an awful lot like a great, big weenie dongle from this angle? I hadn’t noticed it before, but now that it’s jutting up in the air like that, well, it kind of looks like the limo is happy to see us.”
I took a couple steps back and realized she was exactly right, in part because the end of the cylinder had a rounded cap on it. The limo looked like it had popped a huge metal stiffie. Christian chuckled and said, “That’s awesome,” before getting in the back seat.
We finished doing the circuit of my favorite South City manufacturers in the Bonermobile, then returned to San Francisco, where we encountered some kind of road block as we were cutting through the Sunset District. Traffic was a snarled mess, and Freddy got a bit flustered and somehow took a wrong turn into Golden Gate Park. As soon as we rounded the corner, the limo came to an abrupt stop behind a wall of people.
On one side of the street, a crowd of antigay protesters with bullhorns had assembled. A knot formed in my stomach as I read the hate spelled out on their picket signs. On the opposite sidewalk, some people had joined hands and were singing to try to drown out the bile being spewed by those hatemongers. A huge crowd of bystanders was gathered around the two groups, including a contingent of police officers and several camera crews from various TV stations.
“Ah shit,” Freddy muttered as he looked in the rearview mirror at a couple cars that had pulled in behind him. “I shouldn’t have turned onto this street, we’re really stuck now. I think we’re gonna need assistance to get back out of here. Hang on, I’m gonna go ask that cop if he can clear a path for us.”
He hopped out of the limo as Christian glared at the protesters and muttered, “Fucking assholes, trying to hide behind the Bible as an excuse for spreading hate. I’m going to join the chorus. I’ll see you guys later.” He left by the side door and ran to the counter-protesters, linking hands with a little red-haired girl at the edge of the group and singing along loudly. A minute later, a little old African American man who must have been in his nineties took Christian’s other hand, and a moment after that they were joined by a gay couple in their thirties, and a young straight family with a baby, and a middle-aged woman with a determined look in her eyes. All those different people coming together was so beautiful in the face of such ugliness that it made tears prickle at the back of my eyes.
I turned toward Nana to tell her I was going to join Christian and the group on the sidewalk, and was startled by the intense rage on her face. “How come they’re allowed to do that?” she asked, gesturing at the haters. “How come they can get out their bullhorns and condemn people like my grandsons, and you, and everyone that happens to be gay?”
“Well, because it’s a free country, Nana. They can say whatever they want.”
“I know that. But who says they get to speak for God? Look at that sign. It says gay people are going to burn in hell! How dare they sit in judgment like that?”
“I hate it too, Nana. Believe me. But they have a right to assemble.”
“Yeah? Well then, I have a right to disassemble.” Before I could ask her what she meant, she climbed behind the wheel of the limo, hit the automatic door locks, and scooted the driver’s seat so far forward that she was now almost pressed up against the windshield. I was about to ask what she was doing when she put the limo in gear and we started to roll forward.
There were so many people around us that she could only creep ahead an inch at a time. She said, “This is no good. I gotta get people out of the way if this is gonna work, but they don’t even know we’re behind them. Oh hang on, I have an idea.” She grabbed a CD from the glove compartment and stuck it in the player. As shuffle engaged, she flipped a couple switches, then cranked the volume as high as it would go. Apparently, the limo had an external speaker system.
Then I found out what Nana meant by disassemble.
As Elton John’s ‘Don’t Go Breaking My Heart’ filled the air, all the bystanders around the vehicle turned to look at us and then stepped out of the way. Nana rolled forward, headed right for the hatemongers. She was only going a couple miles an hour, which was a relief. But she was definitely going.
The group on the other side of the street sent up a cheer when they realized what was happening, and then they all started singing along to the Elton John song. I climbed up on my seat so I could see what was going on, sticking out of the sunroof from the waist up beside the giant pink dick. Before me, the ‘religious wrong’ was running onto the sloping green lawn behind them. Nana rolled right over their picket signs as they dropped them and I laughed and let out a war cry. Then I decided to add some gay pride to Nana’s one-woman parade, so I peeled off my t-shirt and started dancing to the music with my arms raised over my head.
Nana was only creeping along behind the protesters. They could have easily stepped out of the way, so it was kind of funny how totally freaked out they were. Maybe the giant pink boner had something to do with their panic. Those people must have a real problem with cock.
We rolled slowly down the grassy hill, but when we tried to roll back up and out of the little valley, the long limousine got stuck. Actually, it wedged in so snugly that it would probably take a crane to lift it back out. But that was okay. The ride of Nana Rae had been a total triumph.
The haters, realizing we were stuck, started to run toward us. Fortunately, a huge ring of police officers, reporters and cameramen reached us first. When we got out, we were immediately pushed up against the limo and frisked. “Well damn,” Nana exclaimed as a big, burly cop patted her down, “this is more action than I’ve seen since the Clinton administration.”
Several reporters surged forward, despite the efforts of the police to keep them back, and Nana started giving interviews left and right. When asked why she’d chased the protesters, she said, “I got two gay homosexual grandsons, and one that’s bi-homosexual, and I don’t want nobody sitting in judgment and telling ‘em they’re going to hell for being the way God made ‘em.” Then she added, “Their brother, my grandson Mikey, I don’t know about. I always assumed he was straight, though I did find some giant condoms of his once, and now that I think about it, maybe those belonged to one of his lovers, because they sure as hell wouldn’t fit on his little tootsie roll.”
“What’s your name?” a reporter yelled.
“Mrs. Stana Dombruso, but everyone calls me Nana,” she said as her hands were cuffed behind her.
Someone asked her, “Were you trying to run over the protesters?”
“Of course not,” she exclaimed. “We were just exercising our right to disassemble!”
Nana will be back in All I Ever Wanted, the next book in my Firsts and Forever Series, which has a tentative release date of June 10th.