Color Matters

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 disagree.
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.
No. Thanks.
I’ll stick to the “multicultural” shelves.

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22 Responses

  1. Mrs. Jones I know you probably stepped on a few toes, but what’s the point in having a mind if you don’t speak it. You get an Amen and Hallelujah from me. I read a lot of books, and yet I gravitate mainly to black authors of substance. I don’t care for cookie cutter. I like seeing works about beautiful black men and gorgeous women. I especially like average, plain and cute. Or better still, ordinary manly, and just plain sexy. You have my vote. Continue to do you.

    Carolyn J.

  2. I could probably write for DAYS on this but ain’t nobody got time for that. I am a voracious reader, have been all my life – Stephen King, Dean Koontz, Bebe Moore Campbell and E. Lynn Harris (miss them both SO much), just to name a few. I started reading romance novels a few years ago and became somewhat addicted. But I reached a point where I just couldn’t….COULDN’T…read about one more blond-haired, blue-eyed chick (only in the romance genre; I still have my favorite Caucasian authors I’m dedicated to). I just couldn’t do it. So I actively sought out Harlequin for Brown folk and have never looked back. I want my happily-ever-after folk to look and sound like me and my peeps. I LOVE your books, the diversity of characters and plots and emotions and I love that they’re brown like me. I have a beautiful five year-old daughter who is already feeling some type of way about her brown skin, no matter how much we uplift her brown skin and beautiful locs in our household and it breaks my heart Every. Single. Day. (Deep breath…woosah). All I can say is, I am all the way WITH YOU on this.

    1. absolutely agree with your sentiments, and thank you for your kind words! We have a five year old little lady as well, and I’m all about affirming her! I expose her NOW to books featuring little brown girls, and my hope is that when she’s an adult reading romance (or lets face it, a teenager reading romance, like most all of us did, lol) she’s able to find books where her beauty is celebrated there as well!

  3. I know you can’t see me but I promise I’m at my desk giving you a standing ovation. For real. I read from a bunch of different genres but when I read romance (love stories, relationship stories, erotica, call it what you will) I want to read about Black people. A Black man and a Black woman. Those are the stories that move and entertain me. I know there is a huge market for IR now but I am sincerely NOT interested in a white man’s/woman’s love story. God bless them but I don’t want to read about it. And a few of my favs have entered that territory -IR- but I promise when I read those books, regardless of the author’s descriptions, I still pictured two Black people in my head. So I love you for knowing that race absolutely DOES matter. There are very few places a Black woman can go to find herself celebrated, very few places where we are the Focus. I applaud you for doing what you do. I’m here for it!

      1. Thank you for saying that! I thought I was the only one doing mental gymnastics to turn the white guy into Jessie Williams from Grays Anatomy!

    1. Wow Jacqui…I am glad to know that I am not the only one who turns hero n IR novels into a light skinned or even Middle Eastern looking man (Omar Sharif was that deal… yes maam).

  4. Well said. I enjoy all of your work. Continue to write and I will continue to read. Speak!!!

  5. PREACH!!!! I completely agree…I’ve been a fan of romance since my Harlequin Romance days, but found myself reading fewer and fewer of them until I discovered authors like YOU. Please keep on turning out fantastic stories with multi-layered characters and I will keep on buying EVERYTHING you write! 🙂

  6. PLEASE SAY THIS!!! I read romance as an escape and the LAST thing I am trying to escape to a world where I and people who look like me do not exist, aren’t front and center in all our glory. Thank you so much for sharing your gift of writing with us.

  7. Wait a minute… who in their right damn mind would think that 50 Shades version of Sally Hemmings and Thomas Jefferson is a good idea?! That’s a hell no on some many levels. It’s definitely important that we have more books with main characters that are people of color and that are written by people of color. I make it a habit to make some noise at my local libraries and bookstores in regards to increasing their offerings. We are just as deserving of prime shelf space as Nicholas Sparks and Nora Roberts are!

  8. Thank you for saying what so many of us are thinking! I love all of your books! Keep up the great work!!

  9. I looooooooove BLACK romance. I was a huge reader as a child, teenager and young adult. I always liked Black fiction but I mostly read inspirational and non-fiction. After marriage and babies I just couldn’t find the time to get into my reading. Around Christmas of 2013 I decided finally use my Kindle App on my Surface Pro. I downloaded a free novel by Farrell Rochon and it was on after that.

    I had no idea that the Black Romance (especially contemporary) industry had exploded. I never read a romance novel before because I have never been interested in reading about White people falling in love. I love stories about us and I am so damn proud of you for sticking up for our rights for HEA. Funny how the race of characters should be ambiguous now that we are in the game. #Miss me with that… #Girl bye… #Bitch please.

    The only IR’s I’ve read are by authors that I consider a fav. (for example) Melanie Schuster included one in her Friends and Lover’s series that was great. Maureen Smith did one that was great as well. A few others too. If an author’s primary genre is IR than I haven’t read their work. Sorry… White boys aren’t my thing.

    Rock in Christina!

  10. Christina, I couldn’t have said it better myself! I am all about black romance, and really, what I love about your books is that they are about black life…which most definitely includes love and romance. I only read black romance novels because I want to see myself and my husband reflected in the characters I read about. You are doing a phenomenal job. It’s a terrible shame that you have to work twice as hard to gain the recognition you deserve, but I see you. Your readers see you and the great work you do. Keep it up girl. As long as you keep writing, I’ll keep reading!

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