I’m writing from the treadmill this morning, and the intention is to keep this quick, but we’ll see. What I’m about to express only applies to ME. My views, my opinion, all of that.
There’s this “thing” when it comes to romance, that I’ve seen many of my fellow authors say: “the color of the characters shouldn’t matter”.
I mean, I guess it’s all well and good when you’re trying to get people to open themselves up to more diversity (meaning, trying to get people to read books that aren’t about white people) but for ME, personally, i think that’s bullshit.
Because representation matters.
Now, to ME, if you believe in that statement (that representation matters), you can’t simultaneously feed me the bullshit line that the race of the characters in my romance novel (as a reader and writer) shouldn’t matter. It damned sure does.
As a black woman, unless I carefully cultivate my environment, I will be bombarded with the message that my blackness is undesirable, less attractive. That my full hips and big butt are only cute when “exotic” races and white women have them. That my thick lips are only beautiful when Kylie Jenner does it. That my sexuality is proof of my inhumanity. That my justified anger and emotions are just evidence toward “angry black woman” theory. That my black ass life doesn’t matter.
So, EXCUSE ME, if when I open a romance novel, I want to read about a man not being able to get enough of his woman’s brown skin. Pardon the audacity of me, a black woman, wanting to be seen as emotionally whole and complex, righteously moved to anger while retaining humanity. Sorry –but not– if it steps on your toes to want to see a black woman not only sexually desired, but sexually free, to maybe make mistakes and maybe find the love of her life. And oh yeah, if it can be an emotionally present, gainfully employed, confident, sexy ass black man doing all the loving? Yes, PLEASE.
Oh, and please do put it on a shelf where I don’t have to sift through the reverence of blonde hair and blue eyes to find it.
In short, I’m all the way here for the black/interracial/multicultural section at the book store. Put me right in front of where I need to be in order to find poc represented positively, realistically, as people, not just tokens for the sake of calling a book “diverse”. Show me, directly, to the excellent authors of color ignored by the publishing industry, working to see themselves even get put on the same pedestal as mediocre (Hey Richard Sherman, hey bae) authors who get major publishing details for work that isn’t even half as good. I want to put my money where my big mouth is, and support those otherwise left unseen.
It’s a fallacy, to ME, to believe that shelving is the issue. Readers who want diversity will find it. Readers who don’t… will leave that book with the black people on the cover on the shelf no matter where it. Don’t have black people on the cover? They’ll put it down the first time they hear about your heroine’s brown skin. Because guess what? They “can’t relate”.
I don’t want anything to do with inclusion that’s given grudgingly. Keep it. I write for women like me – undervalued and underrepresented. I whole heartedly believe that diversity is important, but I refuse to beg for a place at the table (on the shelf). I already sit with the cool kids, because people of color rock.
So what’s up Christina? Why the rant?
Answer: I’m frigging tired. I’ll link to it later, but the non POC authors who thought a 50 shades of gray style “romance”, starring Sally Hemmings and her owner Thomas Jefferson was a good idea just took me the heck out. I just can’t deal. Oh, and they, along with many others, thought it was funny. They, among others, thought their bullshit apology, complete with white lady tears and disappointment made it okay, and it doesn’t.
That’s who is at “the” table. People like that dominate publishing.
I’ll stick to the “multicultural” shelves.